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Motte and bailey castle, moated site and Roman villa immediately east of All Saint's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Great and Little Kimble, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.7501 / 51°45'0"N

Longitude: -0.8022 / 0°48'7"W

OS Eastings: 482782.01

OS Northings: 206387.226231

OS Grid: SP827063

Mapcode National: GBR D3Q.807

Mapcode Global: VHDVK.18RQ

Entry Name: Motte and bailey castle, moated site and Roman villa immediately east of All Saint's Church

Scheduled Date: 27 April 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018007

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29415

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Great and Little Kimble

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Kimble

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes the buried and visible remains of a medieval motte and
bailey castle and an adjacent moated site, located on the lower northern
slopes of the Chiltern escarpment to the south east of the Lower Icknield Way
(B4010) and to the west of the original line of the Icknield Way, a
prehistoric trackway traversing the spur above. The monument also includes the
buried remains of an extensive Romano-British villa, artefacts from which have
been recorded in the area since the mid-19th century.

The motte and bailey castle is visible as a complex of well-preserved
earthworks at the base of a shallow vale immediately to the south east of All
Saint's churchyard. The main stronghold of the castle is situated on the
eastern side of this complex, bordered by a brook which was enlarged in the
19th century to form a series of artificial ponds. The motte, the earthen
mound which would have supported a timber tower or keep, occupies the northern
half of an oval platform measuring some 50m in length and surrounded by a
ditch averaging 12m in width and 1.5m deep. The motte is roughly circular in
plan with the flattened summit raised about 1.5m above the level of the
platform. Two defended enclosures, or baileys, extend across the area between
the motte and the churchyard. The inner bailey is clearly marked by an
extension of the motte ditch, enclosing a small triangular area along the
north western side of the motte platform. A second bailey, perhaps a later
development, surrounds the first. It can be traced as a shallow ditch and low
bank flanking the south eastern boundary of the churchyard and returning
towards the southern end of the motte.

The date of the castle's construction is open to question but it may have been
built as early as the 11th century, following the Norman Conquest and the
acquisition of the manor of Little Kimble (then Chenebelle Parva) by Turstin,
son of Rolf. Alternatively, some indication of the castle's date and function
may be apparent in its proximity to Cymbeline's Mount, a second motte and
bailey castle (the subject of a separate scheduling) located some 500m to the
east, on the far side of a dividing spur. It has been suggested that the
castle near All Saint's Church originated in the civil wars of the mid-12th
century (The Anarchy), and was intended as a siege work from which to harry
the other, more prominently placed, fortification. Whatever the circumstances
of their origin, the castle near All Saint's Church appears to have been
ultimately the more successful, as this less prominent castle clearly evolved
into a manorial centre, while Cymbeline's Mount shows no sign of development
beyond its original design. The siting of All Saint's Church, which dates from
the 12th or 13th century, itself provides another clue to the continuing
importance of the lower-lying castle.

The moated site which lies immediately to the south of the motte, is thought
to represent the subsequent elaboration of the manor of Little Kimble as the
need for fortification diminished. The island is roughly rectangular,
measuring approximately 50m from east to west by 30m transversely. The surface
is slightly raised and the greater part of the interior is overlain by a low
platform, indicating the location of the principal building which is also
represented by quantities of medieval tile and early post-medieval brick and
pottery brought to the surface by erosion and burrowing animals. Except to the
east, where the development of the 19th century pond bay impinged on the
island, and to the south where the island is approached by a broad causeway,
the island is surrounded by a broad ditch measuring up to 10m in width and 2m
deep. The northern arm of the moat runs parallel to the southern section of
the motte ditch, which appears to have been partly infilled around the time of
the moat's construction. A level terrace, similar in size to the island,
extends into the hillside to the south of the moated site, and is defined by a
pronounced scarp on the same alignment as the western arm of the moat. This is
thought to represent a second building platform, possibly a later addition to
the manor.

Although the successive holders of the manor of Little Kimble are well
documented from the early 13th century there is no historical evidence for the
date of the moated site's construction. Two buildings, described as the
`Mansion House Homestead', and possibly representing modified medieval
structures, were depicted in the area of the platforms on the Enclosure Map of
1805. Unfortunately, these were demolished in 1830 without any further record
of their appearance.

The flight of artificial ponds which flanks the eastern side of the medieval
earthworks was first recorded in 1885, and the brick and stone built
causeways, dams and sluices along its length point to a date of construction
no earlier than the mid-19th century - after the demolition of the manor
house. Three of the ponds (from a total of six) follow the stream course
around the eastern side of the medieval earthworks, where the enlargement of
the stream to a channel some 30m in width appears to have removed the outer
banks from the eastern arms of the moat and the motte ditch. However, it is
possible that the castle and the moated site originally utilised a natural
marshy area on one side, or that an earlier flight of ponds existed within the
lifetime of the manor. These three ponds are included in the scheduling,
together with the 19th century structures which controlled the water levels.

Roman occupation in the area of the castle has been suggested by occasional
artefacts reported from the area since the early 19th century, although the
discovery of wall foundations during the construction of the turnpike road
from Little Kimble to Butlers Cross (the B4010) roused further interest and
led to small-scale excavations in the vicinity of the church. Trenches were
laid out in the fields to either side of the new road, and although no precise
records or plans remain from this work, it is known that the excavators
uncovered further wall foundations, tesserae (tile squares from composite
floors), tiles, coloured wall plaster, pottery sherds, glass and coins. A
survey of artefacts brought to the surface by ploughing in 1957 revealed high
concentrations of pottery and tile extending between the motte and the church
and over a distance of about 100m to the north and south of this line - an
area now broadly defined by two denuded field boundaries which run parallel to
the stream and may themselves be medieval in origin. The combination of
evidence from 1957 and the mid-19th century clearly indicates that the
medieval castle readopted the location formerly occupied, between the 2nd to
the 4th century AD, by an extensive Romano-British villa containing
substantial and elaborately constructed buildings. Archaeological observation
of a cable trench immediately to the south of Church Farm in 1993 demonstrated
that the Roman occupation horizon is sealed beneath a considerable depth of
colluvium derived from the slopes above, providing conditions eminently
suitable for the preservation of buried structures and other remains.

All fences and gates are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath 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 to the east of All Saint's Church survives well,
with both the major components clearly visible. The surface of the motte and
the interior of the baileys will retain buried evidence for former structures
which will illustrate the appearance of the castle during the period of
occupation and lifestyle of its inhabitants. Artefacts from the period of
habitation will be preserved both here and in the silts of the surrounding
ditches, the latter also containing sealed environmental evidence illustrating
the appearance of the landscape in which the castle was set. The proximity of
a second motte and bailey castle (Cymbeline's Mount) is of particular interest
since comparison of the two fortifications may provide evidence for the social
or political circumstances under which they were constructed and, perhaps, the
reason for the disparity in their later development.
Although some 6,000 medieval moated sites are known nationally, very few are
found in circumstances such as these, directly adjacent to a preceding
fortification. Moated sites, islands of dry ground partly or wholly surrounded
by wide, sometimes water-filled ditches, generally served as prestigious
aristocratic or seigneurial residences; the ditch intended as a status symbol
rather than a practical means of defence. The peak period for their
construction occurred between the mid-13th and mid-14th centuries, and the
wide distribution of examples across England exhibits a high level of
diversity in terms of form and size. A significant class of monument, moated
sites are particularly important for our understanding of social order in the
medieval period, the economy of the countryside and the lifestyles of a broad
spectrum of English nobility.
Like the castle, the moated site survives well, and there are indications that
the island (and perhaps the platform to the south) will retain valuable
evidence for the buildings which formerly stood there. Again, artefacts dating
the occupation will be found in the area of the former buildings and within
the surrounding ditches, in this case providing important evidence for the
date at which the moated site superseded the castle as the principal
The fact that the castle and moated site overlie the site of a Roman villa
appears to reflect the suitability of the location for settlement and does not
imply any continuity of occupation between the two periods. The term `villa'
is commonly used to describe the highly Romanised farming estates which
developed in England during the period of Roman occupation. At the focus of
these estates were groups of domestic, agricultural and occasionally
industrial buildings, sometimes arranged around courtyards and surrounded by
paddocks, yards and trackways. Villa buildings, particularly the domestic
ranges, vary enormously in size and complexity depending on the wealth and
influence of the settlement. Many also demonstrate remarkable continuity, with
successive alteration and remodelling resulting from occupation over several
hundred years. Between 400 and 1000 examples have been recorded nationally,
and villas therefore serve as a valuable index of the rate, extent and degree
to which native British society became Romanised. They provide a significant
indication of the developing economy of the province which bears comparison
over wide areas within Britain and the rest of the Roman Empire.
The villa near All Saint's Church doubtless benefitted from the communication
links provided by the Icknield Way, from the light soils on the marl shelf at
the foot of the Chilterns and the ready supply of water provided by the
stream. Artefactual evidence clearly indicates that it developed into a
significant settlement, with at least one very substantial building with tiled
roofs, composite floors and decorative plaster walls. Bath houses are commonly
associated with buildings of this character, and the stream would certainly
have allowed such a feature to be constructed. Although the evidence for the
villa is presently rather vague, this is due in no small part to the layers of
slope-washed soil which, although masking the buried remains, denote a high
level of preservation.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Allcroft, A H, Earthworks of England, (1908), 476
Page, W , The Victoria History of the County of Buckinghamshire303-307
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, , Vol. 386, (1996)
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, , Vol. 386, (1996)
'Archaeological Service Report' in Archaeological Survey of the Earthworks at Little Kimble, , Vol. 386, (1996)
Burgess, B, 'Records of Bucks' in Earthworks at Hampden and Little Kimble, , Vol. 1, (1858), 140-41
RCHME, Inventory of Historic Monuments, Buckinghamshire, (1910)
Schedule entry: Inspector's Report, Went, D A, SM:27143 Cymbeline's Castle, (1995)
Title: Copy of Plan of Parishes, Great Kimble
Source Date: 1812
BRO 1R91.B.R
Title: Copy of Plan of Parishes, Great Kimble
Source Date: 1812
BRO: 1R91.B.R.
Title: Copy of Plan of Parishes, Great Kimble
Source Date: 1812
PRO 1R91.B.R
Title: Diversion of Highway (Ellesborough Church to Risborogh Turnpike)
Source Date: 1797
PRO Q/H/14
Title: Enclosure Map of Great and Little Kimble
Source Date: 1805
Title: Inclosure Map of Great and Little Kimble
Source Date: 1805
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Edition, sheets 33 and 37
Source Date: 1885

Unpublished report in Bucks SMR (901), Thomson, RD, The Roman Villa site at Little Kimble, (1957)

Source: Historic England

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