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Motte and bailey castle at English Bicknor

A Scheduled Monument in English Bicknor, Gloucestershire

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Latitude: 51.8388 / 51°50'19"N

Longitude: -2.6092 / 2°36'33"W

OS Eastings: 358121.275013

OS Northings: 215753.931717

OS Grid: SO581157

Mapcode National: GBR FQ.V9DW

Mapcode Global: VH86W.Q1GP

Entry Name: Motte and bailey castle at English Bicknor

Scheduled Date: 14 November 1969

Last Amended: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016761

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28862

County: Gloucestershire

Civil Parish: English Bicknor

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Gloucestershire

Church of England Parish: English Bicknor St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Gloucester


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle on high ground above the River
Wye in the Forest of Dean.
The castle includes a motte and inner and outer bailey; each bailey is
surrounded by a moat, or ditch, with the remnant of a leat adjoining the moat
of the outer bailey which is thought to be part of a water management system
for the moat. The whole castle takes the form of a rough oval oriented north
to south. The motte lies in the south west quadrant of this oval within the
inner bailey which is in turn encircled by a moat. The west and south ditches
of the inner bailey are confluent with the ditch of the outer bailey. The
motte is not a perfectly circular mound, but rather resembles a lozenge shape,
aligned north west-south east. The whole mound measures 40m east-west and 50m
north-south, and its flattened top is 30m east-west by 20m north-south. The
motte stands to 4m high. A berm of maximum width 16m and minimum width 4m
separates the motte from the inner bailey moat. There are traces of an inner
bank at the north and south sides of the inner bailey standing about 0.1m
high. The moat of the inner bailey is `V' shaped and 2m wide at the bottom, 9m
wide at the top and about 4.5m deep.
Alignments of roads around the castle suggest that there was possibly an
entrance directly into the inner bailey on the south side, with perhaps
another entrance into the outer bailey on the east or south east side. The
outer bailey forming a dog-leg around the north and east of the inner bailey
measures approximately 100m east-west and the same north-south. It was
originally surrounded by a moat of which only a small complete portion to the
north still survives, showing that the outer moat was originally about 5m
wide. The inner slope of the moat, however, survives for most of its
circumference up to 1m high, but up to 2m high in places, and gives the
appearance that the bailey is artificially raised above the prevailing ground
level. There is no evidence of an internal bank on the inner side of the moat.
From the north part of the outer bailey moat, a short section of ditch extends
north for about 20m. This is considered to be the remains of a water overspill
system from the outer moat.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the house
known as `Castle House' and its outbuildings, the post and wire fence across
the top of the motte, the wooden steps cut into the motte, the tarmac surface
and make up of the school car park where it impinges on the edges of the bank
of the moat, the tarmac path on top of the bank of the moat, the school
building and mobile classrooms, the school gates, outbuildings and fittings in
the playground, the tarmac surface and make up of the playground and the
playground wall, the garage to the rear of `Lucy Court', the stone wall and
the `Lych Gate', although the ground beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain
by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the
motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey,
adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and
bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their
immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive
monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.
Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally,
with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of
recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for
the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although
many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to
be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they
were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey castle at English Bicknor survives well as an impressive
monument in the village. Their distribution marks the progress of the Norman
campaigns in the years after the Norman Conquest. Proximity to the church of
St Mary the Virgin reflects the close links between temporal and secular power
in the medieval period. The two formed the axis for the subsequent development
of the village. The castle has not been excavated, and the earthworks of the
monument will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence
relating to the way of life of the occupants of the castle, and will also
preserve evidence of changes in the use of the site over

Source: Historic England

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