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Motte and bailey castle in Wormegay village

A Scheduled Monument in Wormegay, Norfolk

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Latitude: 52.6779 / 52°40'40"N

Longitude: 0.453 / 0°27'10"E

OS Eastings: 565932.169103

OS Northings: 311730.226812

OS Grid: TF659117

Mapcode National: GBR P63.1CJ

Mapcode Global: WHJPF.XYWG

Entry Name: Motte and bailey castle in Wormegay village

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018651

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30557

County: Norfolk

Civil Parish: Wormegay

Traditional County: Norfolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Norfolk

Church of England Parish: Wormegay St Michael and All Angels and Holy Cross

Church of England Diocese: Ely


The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on the western side
of what was once an island in the peat fen to the south of the River Nar,
controlling the causeway between the island and the higher ground to the west
of the fen. The present village is thought to have developed around the castle
after the Norman Conquest, replacing an earlier settlement in the vicinity of
St Michael's Church, which now stands in isolation some 1.4km to the east of
the castle.

The motte is visible as a large, sub-circular earthen mound approximately 5m
high and measuring about 77m north-south by 62m east-west at the base,
surrounded on the north, west and south sides by a ditch 12m to 15m wide which
remains open to a depth of up to 2m. On top of the mound is a slightly uneven
platform with maximum dimensions of 50m north-south by 40m east-west on which
would have stood a tower, probably built of timber. A broad indentation in the
eastern side of the mound, where there is no visible evidence for a
continuation of the ditch around the base, perhaps marks the site of a bridge
or stair giving access to the tower, and on the edge of the platform above
this indentation there is a bank up to 1m in height.

The bailey adjoins the motte on the eastern side and takes the form of an
enclosure measuring approximately 150m NNW-SSE by 88m, raised about 1m above
the external ground level and bounded by a semicircular ditch which runs
outward from the motte ditch and ranges in width from 9m on the south side to
19m on the east. A causeway across the ditch on the eastern side of the bailey
is thought to mark the original entrance and is in line with the eastern part
of the main east-west street through the village, opposite the point where it
bends north westwards to skirt the northern side of the castle. On the
northern side of the bailey, along the inner edge of the ditch, are the
remains of a flat-topped bank about 0.5m high and 8m wide, and adjoining the
inner edge of this is a sub-rectangular platform about 25m long north west-
south east by 8m wide and of similar height which would have supported one or
more of the many buildings ranged around the bailey. Slight traces of two
other, rectangular buildings against the inner edge of the bailey bank,
between the south eastern end of this platform and the entrance causeway, have
been recorded on aerial photographs.

After the Norman Conquest Wormegay was granted, together with extensive
landholdings elsewhere in West Norfolk, to Hermer de Ferrers, and it became
the chief manor and administrative centre of the barony. The castle was
probably built by de Ferrers or one of his immediate descendants, who took the
name of de Wormegay. The manor and other holdings subsequently passed by
marriage into the de Warren and then the Bardolph families.
A garden wall and the surface of a drive on the north western side of the
monument, together with all field fences, gates, service poles and street
signs bordering the road on the north side 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 in Wormegay village is a good example of this
class of monument. The earthworks of both motte and bailey survive well and
they and the buried remains of the tower on the motte, and of buildings within
the bailey, will contain archaeological information concerning the date of
construction and the manner of the subsequent organisation and use of the
castle. The lower deposits in the fill of the ditches are thought to be
waterlogged. Organic materials, including evidence for the local environment
during the medieval period, are therefore also likely to be preserved within
them. Evidence for land use prior to the construction of the castle will be
retained in soils buried beneath the motte and the raised platform of the
bailey. The manor of Wormegay is well documented, and the importance of the
castle as the administrative centre of a barony associated with families
prominent in the medieval history of England gives the monument additional

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Blomefield, F, An Essay towards a Topographical History of Norfolk, (1807), 493-502
Silverster, R J, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project 3: Norfolk Survey, Marshland and Nar Valley, , Vol. 45, (), 146-150

Source: Historic England

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