Ancient Monuments

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Motte castle in Exeter Wood, 780m south east of Wood Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Eastcotts, Bedford

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Latitude: 52.0855 / 52°5'7"N

Longitude: -0.3957 / 0°23'44"W

OS Eastings: 510019.542599

OS Northings: 244229.956942

OS Grid: TL100442

Mapcode National: GBR H45.8R5

Mapcode Global: VHFQH.3V44

Entry Name: Motte castle in Exeter Wood, 780m south east of Wood Farm

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018381

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29402

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Eastcotts

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Cardington

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes a small medieval motte castle located 780m south east of
Wood Farm, on the northern edge of the Greensand Ridge overlooking Cardington,
Bedford and the broad flood plain of the River Ouse.

The castle stands on a broad terrace below the summit of the ridge, and was
formed by the excavation of a wide ditch around a central mound, or motte,
raised from the upcast soil. The motte, which is circular in plan, measures
about 20m in diameter. It stands approximately 1.8m above the level of its
surroundings and the surface, which would originally have supported a timber
tower, has a slightly domed profile. The surrounding ditch measures
approximately 4.5m in width and 1.4m in depth (to the level of the accumulated
silts in the base), and a low counterscarp bank surrounds the outer edge. In
the absence of a causeway spanning the ditch, access to the motte is believed
to have been provided by a timber bridge.

The castle is thought to have been constructed in the late 11th or 12th
century, either as part of the consolidation of the countryside after the
Norman invasion, or as a matter of local defence during the period of sporadic
civil war between Stephen and Matilda (1134-1148). At the time of the Domesday
Book (1086) the site of the castle lay within lands belonging to the manor of
Cardington, and remained the property of the de Beauchamp family (under the
barony of Bedford) until 1265, when the manor was divided following the death
of John de Beauchamp at the battle of Evesham.

All fences and fenceposts are excluded from the scheduling although the ground
beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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
and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from
most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as
motte castles. 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 castle in Exeter Wood is a well preserved example of this class of
monument. The mound will retain buried evidence for the structure which stood
upon it and the silts within the surrounding ditch will contain both artefacts
and environmental evidence from the limited period of occupation. The old
ground surface buried beneath the motte is also of considerable significance
as it may retain evidence of former land use elsewhere degraded by more recent
cultivation and forestry. The commanding position of the castle emphasises its
military purpose and, when this monument is considered alongside other
contemporary fortifications in the area such as at Ampthill, Bedford,
Biggleswade, Renhold and Old Warden, the resulting pattern provides a valuable
insight into the nature of politics, warfare and social order in the period
after the Norman invasion.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Bedfordshire235-6
Dyer, J, 'Bedfordshire Magazine' in Bedfordshire's Earthworks IX, , Vol. 8, (1963), 345
Gazetteer (Beds Arch Soc), Bedfordshire Sites and Monuments - a preliminary survey, (1972)
Site visit notes, Wood, J, Exeter Wood (PRN 9263), (1982)

Source: Historic England

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