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Motte and bailey castle 100m and 200m south of St Mary's School

A Scheduled Monument in Thistleberry, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 53.0105 / 53°0'37"N

Longitude: -2.2335 / 2°14'0"W

OS Eastings: 384427.4815

OS Northings: 345938.6077

OS Grid: SJ844459

Mapcode National: GBR M6H.3B

Mapcode Global: WHBCS.NLMF

Entry Name: Motte and bailey castle 100m and 200m south of St Mary's School

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 23 April 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020853

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34932

County: Staffordshire

Electoral Ward/Division: Thistleberry

Built-Up Area: Newcastle-under-Lyme

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Newcastle-under-LymeStGiles

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


The monument includes the earthwork, structural and buried remains of a motte
and bailey castle, lying within two separate areas of protection. The extant
structural remains of the castle are a Listed Building Grade II. The castle
was built on low-lying ground and from this location there were extensive
views of the surrounding land. The market centre of Newcastle-under-Lyme,
probably established by the late 12th century, occupies the adjacent higher
ground to the east.

The castle was probably founded in the early 12th century. In 1149 King
Stephen granted the castle and the accompanying lands to Ranulf de Gernon,
Earl of Chester. After Ranulf's death in 1153 the castle appears to have
remained in royal control for many years and was staffed by officials
appointed by the Crown. Numerous documentary references indicate that in the
late 12th and early 13th centuries a considerable amount of work was being
undertaken to strengthen the castle's defences, and to construct and repair
the internal buildings. A major element of the castle's defence, mentioned at
this time, was the large pool that surrounded the castle, which was created by
damming the Lyme Brook and the adjacent streams. A bridge, connecting the
castle to the land to the north east, was repaired in 1191 and two years later
stone embattlements were added. Other buildings mentioned include the stone
tower which stood on top of the motte, a chapel, private apartments, kitchens
and a gaol. There are also references to timber palisades and to bretasches
(or timber platforms) for the defence of the castle walls.

In 1267 Henry III granted the castle and manor of Newcastle to his younger son
Edmund, who was created Earl of Lancaster. The castle was held by the Duchy of
Lancaster throughout the rest of the medieval period. With the accession of
Henry IV in 1399 the importance of the castle as a royal stronghold seems to
have progressively diminished. Its low-lying situation surrounded by higher
ground had rendered it particularly vunerable to the new methods of seige
warfare, made possible by the introduction of gunpowder and the subsequent
development of artillery. During the 14th and 15th centuries the many
documentary references to the castle relate to the continued repair and
refurbishment of the castle buildings. By the second half of the 16th century,
however, expenditure on the castle seems to have ceased. When Leland visited
Newcastle in 1541 he recorded that little was standing of the castle except
for a single great tower, and when the castle was leased to Ralph Sneyd in
1610 it was described as `altogether decayed'.

In 1828 Walter Sneyd of Keele purchased the castle and the surrounding pool
from the Duchy of Lancaster. He had much of the pool drained in order to
create meadows and gardens. In the mid-19th century Silverdale Road was built
across the castle site, resulting in the truncation of the north eastern part
of the motte. The construction of the Castle Hill Iron Foundry in 1855 on the
western side of the motte, also led to the disturbance of the castle site,
including the cutting back of the motte on that side. Lyme Brook was also
redefined by this time. This straight and deeply cut water course runs next to
the south western part of the motte.

A map of 1832 shows the castle as an oval-shaped mound, approximately 75m
east-west by 100m north-south, with a track (later John o' Gaunt's Road)
leading to it from the north east. Archaeological investigations undertaken
between 1933 and 1935 confirmed the size and shape of this artifically raised
platform, which was constructed of layers of clay, sand and stone, with the
remains of a timber palisade around its edge. At the south eastern end of the
platform the earthen motte was constructed. This steep-sided, flat-topped
mound was originally circular or oval-shaped. It is now D-shaped and measures
approximately 26m by 40m at the base, 18m by 26m across the top, and stands to
a maximum height of just over 4m. The lower part of the raised platform served
as the bailey. A ditch, approximately 10m wide, was originally dug to define
the motte and bailey, and to provide material for their construction. This
ditch has been infilled and now survives as a buried feature. Within the
bailey, to the west of the motte, the remains of a large rectangular stone
building, thought to be a hall and kitchen, were found in 1934.

In 1904 and in 1933-34, along the southern part of John o' Gaunt's Road,
well-preserved ashlar walls and large oak timbers were found. Some of this
masonry probably formed part of the curtain wall, which was built around the
bailey in the late 12th century. Other walls may have formed part of a
barbican (outer defences around the entrance to the castle), while other
portions appear to have been directly associated with the large timbers of a
bridge, which provided access to the castle from the higher ground to the
north east. All the structural features found in 1933-34, during the
excavation of a sewage trench along John o' Gaunt's Road, were removed at the
time. This road is not included in the scheduling.

A further archaeological investigation, in 1935, at the southern end of John
o' Gaunt's Road revealed more well-preserved sections of ashlar masonry,
considered to be the remains of part of the gateway to the bailey. A portion
of this wall, nearly 11m long, has been left partially exposed, while a
section of masonry unearthed to the north was covered over again following the
excavation and now survives as a buried feature.

Development of the area to the north and north west of the upstanding remains
of the motte since the mid-19th century is considered to have severely
affected the preservation of archaeological remains, and as a consequence this
area is not included in the scheduling.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: John of
Gaunt's Cottage, all modern boundary walls and railings, all paths and the
kerbs which define them, the gravel surface adjacent to the exposed portion of
medieval masonry, the surface of the bowling green, the park benches, litter
bins, and the wooden posts for information plaques; however, the ground
beneath all 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 100m and 200m south of St Mary's School at
Newcastle-under-Lyme has played a crucial role in the history and development
of the area, and gave its name to the town. Despite its modification since the
mid-19th century, the castle retains significant buried structural remains and
associated deposits. The well-preserved nature of these remains is clearly
demonstrated by the small-scale archaeological investigations undertaken here
during 1904 and the 1930s. The structural timbers recorded during these
investigations indicate the presence of intact waterlogged deposits
containing a range of organic remains, which have the potential to provide
insights into conditions and lifesyles of those who inhabited the castle.
Organic remains preserved under the motte and the raised bailey platform, as
well as in the surrounding ditch and the later pool, will provide important
evidence about the contemporary environment and the use of the surrounding
land. The importance of the site is enhanced by the wealth of documentary
sources relating to the castle's inhabitants and the numerous works to
buildings undertaken thoughout the medieval period. The motte, which is now
situated in the Queen Elizabeth Park, survives as an important local landmark
and public amenity.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Stafford: Volume VIII, (1963), 11-15
Hargreaves, T, Newcastle under Lyme, (1832)
Pape, T, Medieval Newcastle under Lyme, (1928), 18
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Excavations at Newcastle, , Vol. 70, (1936), 71-76
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Discoveries at Newcastle, , Vol. 68, (1934), 169-72
Pape, T, 'Transactions of the North Staffordshire Field Club' in Excavations at the Castle of Newcastle, , Vol. 69, (1935), 65-70
Information about evaluation in 1991, Newcastle under Lyme Castle, (1992)

Source: Historic England

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