Skip to main content

Mottes: A Classification


In 1878, General Pitt Rivers excavated the motte and bailey castle on the downs behind Folkestone and published the results with characteristic promptness and accuracy. Today, over three-quarters of a century later, only four excavations, all in the past ten years, have advanced our knowledge further. While these have solved many problems, they have posed others, for few mottes are adequately documented (Old Aberystwyth is an honourable exception) and the dating of results can only be approximate.

Hide All

1 Archaeologia, XLVII, pp. 429–65.

2 Mr B.K.Hope-Taylor at Abinger (Surrey) and Mote of Urr (Kirkudbright) ; Mr D. M. Waterman at Clough (Co. Down) and Mr C. H. Houlder at Old Aberystwyth (Cards.).

3 A site of type Bd3, recently discovered by aerial photography, is circumstantially dated to 1115–30.

4 Excavated by Mr T. C. Lethbridge (Proc. Combs. A.S., XXXVI, pp. 121–33).

5 The pearshaped enclosure astride the causeway may be the castle of Alrehede, built by William I in 1070 to blockade Hereward (Liber Eliensis ii 245).

6 The cautionary tale of the mounds at Boughton in Kent should be read by every field archaeologist (Arch. Cant., LXIV, pp. 35–8).

7 Two chains have been studied in detail—the vale of Montgomery by Miss L. F. Chitty (Tram. Shropshire A.S. LIII, pp. 83–90) and the Golden Valley by Mr G. Marshall (Trans. Woolhope N.F.C. 1938, pp. 141–58).

8 Close Rolls, 11, 42 (1225).

9 Antiquaries Journal, XXIII, p. 54 (MS. of 1298). A 4-ft. yew bow from the inner east ditch of Berkhamsted Castle (Op. cit. XI, p. 423) is probably a relic of the siege of 1216 (Op. cit. III, pp. 37–42). The archer’s pit at Clough (U.J.A., 17, pp. 107–8), of c. 1200, suggests a bow fired at eye-level.

10 Suger, Gesta Ludovici, 10. A crossbow nut and quarrel, excavated with early 12th-century pottery from Wareham Castle, must belong to the sieges of 1139–42 (William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, 522, 766–88). Crossbow quarrels occur on mid-13th-century sites (London Museum Mediaeval Catalogue, p. 68).

11 Sir James Mann in The Bayeux Tapestry (Phaidon).

12 Proc. Soc. Ant. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 4th series, X, 294–8.

13 Square fort may have been built to defend the works at Beaumaris; both are of local stone, and the analogy of Edward I’s peels in the Scottish lowlands may be quoted, also the remodelling of the mottes at Builth and Caernarvon (ANTIQUITY, XXVI, pp. 25–34).

14 Trans. Newbury D.F.C., VI, pp. 114–26.

15 Mottes near a large enclosure, possibly for cattle occur also at Alderton, Northants., Hailes and Hawkridge, Som., and Topcliffe, Yorks. ‘Guard-point Mounds,’ tiny mottes, have been identified on manorial sites (Surrey Arch. Coll., 53, pp. XXVII-VIII).

16 Proc. Cambs. A.S. XXXVIII, pp. 158–63 ; Proc. Combs. & Hunts A.S. 7, pp. 1–6. One of these sites is mentioned between 1140 and 1153 (B. M. Add. Chart. 11233).

17 Sussex N. & Q., V, pp. 80–2, XIV, pp. 19–23. Pingsdorf-ware jug from ‘Burstow Castle’.

18 Another at Rackham Bank from the same campaign (Sussex Arch. Coll., LXXIII, pp. 162–82).

Mr Renn is by profession an actuary, and is interested among other things in the application of mathematical techniques to archaeological problems. This article is the outcome of ten years spare-time study and field survey of sites in England and Wales.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 13 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 112 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th December 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.