Ancient Monuments

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Motte castle adjacent to St Michael's Church

A Scheduled Monument in West Felton, Shropshire

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Latitude: 52.8206 / 52°49'14"N

Longitude: -2.98 / 2°58'47"W

OS Eastings: 334055.119307

OS Northings: 325236.060442

OS Grid: SJ340252

Mapcode National: GBR 76.V8MK

Mapcode Global: WH8B4.6C6H

Entry Name: Motte castle adjacent to St Michael's Church

Scheduled Date: 18 February 1953

Last Amended: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019296

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33811

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: West Felton

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: West Felton St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle
situated next to the 12th century church of St Michael. The castle was
probably built in the late 11th century when the manor of West Felton formed
part of the land held by Roger de Montgomery. The castle mound was constructed
on a gradual west facing slope and is surrounded by gently undulating land
with extensive views of the Oswestry uplands and the Welsh hills to the west.
It is roughly circular, about 46m in diameter at its base and 34m across the
top, and stands 3.2m high. It is surrounded by a ditch, between 12m and 16m
wide, the eastern half of which is filled with water. Archaeological recording
in advance of earthwork repairs to the monument in 1995 demonstrated that the
mound was built of earth, but incorporated layers of turf.

At a later date a smaller circular mound was built on top of the main mound at
its centre. This later feature is about 18m in diameter, has a flat top
approximately 10m across and stands 1.8m high. The investigation of the site
in 1995 revealed that it was constructed in a similar manner to the main
mound. It is surrounded by a ditch, now largely infilled, but which is still
clearly visible as an earthwork on its western side where it is approximately
6m wide and 0.3m deep. The position of the smaller mound and the nature of its
construction suggests that it was probably built as the base for a watchtower,
which was given additional protection by utilising the existing fortification.

The motte, and in particular the smaller mound, may have served as a prospect
mound on which a summerhouse might have been built for the neighbouring manor
house, now Manor Farm. A footbridge across the ditch, with a flight of steps
up the main mound, provided a direct link between the castle site and the

A stone wall of 18th or 19th century date built to revet the eastern half of
the motte and the stone steps are included in the scheduling.

The track that runs alongside the eastern part of the ditch and all fence
posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is

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 adjacent to St Michael's Church is a well-preserved example
of this class of monument, which has been subsequently adapted both to
prolong its military role and as a possible prospect mound. The archaeological
investigation has provided significant information about the monument's
construction. The motte will retain buried evidence relating to the nature of
occupation and the types of structures built upon its summit. Organic remains
preserved within both mounds, in the buried ground surfaces beneath them, and
within the ditches, will provide valuable evidence about the local environment
and the use of the land before and after the motte castle was constructed. The
importance of the monument is further enhanced by its association with the
neighbouring 12th century church.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Rowley, R T, The Shropshire Landscape, (1972), 74
Hannaford, H R, 'Archaeology Service Report' in Motte At West Felton: Archaeol Recording Of Earthwork Repairs, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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