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Ellesmere Castle: a motte and bailey castle 200m south west of St Mary's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Ellesmere Urban, Shropshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.906 / 52°54'21"N

Longitude: -2.8884 / 2°53'18"W

OS Eastings: 340342.268549

OS Northings: 334656.586097

OS Grid: SJ403346

Mapcode National: GBR 7B.NT12

Mapcode Global: WH89S.L7R0

Entry Name: Ellesmere Castle: a motte and bailey castle 200m south west of St Mary's Church

Scheduled Date: 3 March 1953

Last Amended: 3 July 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019303

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33819

County: Shropshire

Civil Parish: Ellesmere Urban

Built-Up Area: Ellesmere

Traditional County: Shropshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Shropshire

Church of England Parish: Ellesmere St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield

Details

The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte and bailey
castle, on the south eastern outskirts of Ellesmere near to St Mary's Church
which dates from the 12th century. The castle is thought to have been
constructed by Roger de Montgomery, the head of a marcher lordship, soon after
1086. In 1101, following a rebellion by Roger's son and heir, Robert de
Bellesme, the castle and its lands were confiscated by the Crown. In 1138
Henry I granted the manor of Ellesmere, including the castle, to William
Peverel of Dover. After the civil war Henry II confirmed the manor on Dafydd
ab Owain, a north Welsh prince, when he married his sister Emma in 1174.
During the early to middle part of the 13th century the manor of Ellesmere
passed in and out of royal control and throughout much of that century there
are numerous accounts of building or repair works to the castle. In 1263 the
manor, castle and hundred of Ellesmere were granted to Hamo le Strange and
continued to be held by the le Strange family until they passed by desent to
the Stanleys, the Earls of Derby. It is not known when the castle was
abandoned, but it is apparent from Leland's description of the site that by
the mid-16th century little if anything remained visible of the former castle
buildings. By the early 18th century the top of the motte had been levelled in
order to form a bowling green.
The castle occupies a glacial mound that forms part of a pronounced north west
- south east ridge. From this location there are extensive views of the
surrounding area. The flat-topped roughly circular motte has been created by
cutting into and artifically enhancing the slope of the sides of the mound and
dumping the excavated material on top. It is approximately 80m in diameter at
its base, 52m across the top and stands about 11m high. A steep-sided ditch,
about 20m wide and 3m deep, separates the motte from the bailey to the south
east. This ditch continues around the base of the motte to the north east, but
has been largely infilled and is now apparent as a shallow depression. The
ditch surrounding the southern part of the motte has been completely infilled,
but survives as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling.
The sub-rectangular bailey is situated on the eastern end of the prominence.
It consists of a terrace, approximately 34m by 70m (maximum dimensions), and
is bounded on its northern and eastern sides by a ditch that cuts into the
steeply sloping ground and by a counterscarp bank. A causeway crosses the
northern part of the eastern defences and provides access to this enclosure.
The curving scarp which defines the southern side of the bailey is largely the
result of later quarrying for sand and gravel. Slightly raised and levelled
areas within the bailey are believed to be remains of platforms on which
buildings were originally constructed.
Earthworks to the north west of the motte were once thought to be the remains
of a second bailey. Later work has deemed that they are the result of 19th and
20th century landscaping associated with the vicarage. Terraces created to the
north of the motte are also modern. None of these modern landscaping features
are included in the scheduling.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these are; the bowling
green, the club house and the wooden shelters around the green, the flood
lights, the electricity poles, the flag pole, all fences, gate posts, stiles
and handrails, driveways, paths, paved areas and associated steps, and modern
walls; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 200m south west of St Mary's Church is a well-
preserved example of this class of monument, despite later modification to the
top of the motte and the southern side of the bailey. Extensive remains of the
structures that stood on the motte and within the bailey are expected to
survive as buried features, which together with the associated artefacts and
organic remains will provide valuable evidence about the activities and the
lifestyle of the inhabitants of the castle. The wealth of documentary sources
from the medieval period relating to the castle and the adjacent town gives a
clear indication of the military and economic importance of the castle and the
neighbouring settlement to the English and the Welsh. The bailey is accessible
to the public and the monument remains a prominent feature within the
landscape.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Hannaford, H, A Watching Brief at Ellesmere Castle, Ellesmere, Shropshire, (1999)
Nankivell, J W, Chapters from the History of Ellesmere, (1983), 21-22
Buteux, V, 'Report 314' in Archaeological Assessment of Ellesmere, Shropshire, (1996)

Source: Historic England

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