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HHER Number:39
Type of record:Monument
Name:BERKHAMSTED MOTTE AND BAILEY CASTLE

Summary

Norman earthwork castle much developed in the 12th to 14th centuries; abandoned in 1495

Images

No image caption available  © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available  © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available  © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available  © Hertfordshire County Council

No image caption available © Hertfordshire County Council

Grid Reference:SP 995 082
Map Sheet:SP90NE
Parish:Berkhamsted, Dacorum, Hertfordshire
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Monument Types

  • MOTTE AND BAILEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1500 AD)

Associated Events

  • Excavation in the SE corner of Berkhamsted Castle, 1967
  • Excavation at the SE tower of Berkhamsted Castle, 1962

Protected Status

  • Area of Archaeological Significance 27
  • Scheduled Ancient Monument 20626: BERKHAMSTED MOTTE AND BAILEY CASTLE

Full description

One of the best surviving motte and bailey castles in the country, and surrounded by a double ditch, this earthwork castle was probably built soon after 1066 for Robert, Count of Mortain, William's half brother. It was in the king's control by the early 12th century. From 1155 to 1165 it was owned by Thomas a Becket, while he was still Chancellor; he spent large sums on the castle and its rebuilding in masonry may date from this period onwards. Building continued through the 12th and 13th centuries. Those given the castle were all close royal connections, but changed frequently. This was a high-status residence in good hunting country, with a deerpark, and the administrative centre for extensive estates <4>. In 1216 the castle was besieged by King Louis of France. Much new building work was undertaken by Richard earl of Cornwall, who held it in 1243-72. Edward III and the Black Prince both used the castle frequently in the 14th century; in 1360 repairs had to be undertaken to accommodate king John of France. It gradually became outdated and essentially redundant, and was abandoned in 1495 <1>.
The masonry was robbed out for the construction of Berkhamsted Place [6563] in the 1580s, and new buildings in the town; a gatehouse survived until its demolition to make way for the railway line in the 19th century <4>. Only small-scale excavation has taken place, in 1905 <5>, and in the 1960s, revealing 13th century occupation <2>.
The motte is 14m high and 55m in diameter. The bailey measures c.130m north-south by 100m east-west. Enclosing the bailey is a flint-built curtain wall with half-round towers at intervals of approx. 55m. Also two wing-walls on south side of motte, and a wall running across the north end of bailey, forming a forecourt to the motte <1>.


Hunting Survey, Berkhamsted Castle, PNO 3498 (Aerial Photograph). SHT14786.


CUCAP, Berkhamsted Castle, PNO 3566 (Aerial Photograph). SHT14854.


Renn, D F, 1970, A bowstave from Berkhamsted Castle; Herts Archaeology 2, 72-4 (Article in serial). SHT2377.


<1> Scheduled Monument description (Scheduling record). SHT9990.


<2> Curnow, P E, 1970, Berkhamsted Castle: excavations at the south-east tower, 1962 & 1967; Hertfordshire Archaeology 2, 66-71 (Article in serial). SHT4860.


<3> Colvin, H M (ed.), 1963, The history of the King's works; vol II, - p561-3 (Bibliographic reference). SHT4836.


<4> Birtchnell, P C, 1972, A short history of Berkhamsted; rev ed, - p18 (Bibliographic reference). SHT2068.


<5> Page, W (ed.), 1908, VCH Hertfordshire vol.2, - p162-71 (Bibliographic reference). SHT9314.


<6> Renn, Derek, 1971, Medieval castles in Hertfordshire, - p14-16 (Bibliographic reference). SHT9405.

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: Hunting Survey. Berkhamsted Castle. PNO 3498.
---Aerial Photograph: CUCAP. Berkhamsted Castle. PNO 3566.
---Article in serial: Renn, D F. 1970. A bowstave from Berkhamsted Castle; Herts Archaeology 2, 72-4.
<1>Scheduling record: Scheduled Monument description.
<2>Article in serial: Curnow, P E. 1970. Berkhamsted Castle: excavations at the south-east tower, 1962 & 1967; Hertfordshire Archaeology 2, 66-71.
<3>Bibliographic reference: Colvin, H M (ed.). 1963. The history of the King's works; vol II. - p561-3.
<4>Bibliographic reference: Birtchnell, P C. 1972. A short history of Berkhamsted; rev ed. - p18.
<5>Bibliographic reference: Page, W (ed.). 1908. VCH Hertfordshire vol.2. - p162-71.
<6>Bibliographic reference: Renn, Derek. 1971. Medieval castles in Hertfordshire. - p14-16.