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Historic England Research Records

Boley Hill

Hob Uid: 416275
Location :
Medway
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : TQ7406068480
Summary : Possible site of a William I's original motte and bailey at Rochester of 1067-1089.
More information : [Name TQ 74066848] Motte and Bailey. [NR] (site of) [NAT] (1)

As argued by Armitage (2) and Wheatley (3-4) there is strong reason to think that Boley Hill is the site of William I's castle at Rochester.(5)
Wheatley's case rests mainly on disproving a Danish attribution for the site, and in comparing it with an 11th c. work at Le Mans, where the juxtaposition of motte, Roman fort and Cathedral is closely paralleled (see plan(4)).
Henry III included Boley Hill in his new defences of the town (A.D. 1225-6) when the hill was ditched, the motte probably reduced, and the east end raised to provide an additional bailey for the adjacent castle, built c.1089 by Bishop Gundulf. Armitage regards the size and position of Boley Hill as strongly characteristic of the first castles of the Conquest. The earliest form of the name is Bullie Hill (Edw.IV), when it enjoyed a special jurisdiction under a `Baron of the Bully' - an office Norman in origin. Other forms are `Bailey Hill' and `Beaulieu' - indicating a castle or residence.

Dulley (6) put a section across the summit of Boley Hill, at the west end, where Wheatley's highly conjectural plan shows the motte. At this point the hill was some 17ft. high, with extensive stone revetment on the south side, suggestive of 18th c. landscape gardening; the summit had also been pared off. Spoil from the revetment had been dumped on the north side of the hill, where it overlay a 13th-14th c. occupation layer. Dully concluded that there was no evidence of a motte at the west end of Boley Hill. Topographically, the broader, east end was a more likely site, where it would command the south gate of the town and its approach road. (2-6)

Boley Hill is a natural elevation some 100.0m in length, oriented NW - SE. The NW end overlooks the River Medway, and here must, originally, have terminated in a 40ft. cliff down to the east bank. The eminence, artificially heightened at this end, and at present some 7.0m. above the surrounding ground, broadens and descends to ground level at the SE end.
Tudor and late 18th c. terracing and cutting back on the SW side have reduced the hill to a narrow ridge and its former extent cannot now be judged. The SE half has been overbuilt with houses and gardens. Dulley does not discount the possibility of a motte and bailey here, but his excavations found no evidence of pre - 12th c work. However, he dug only to within five feet of the original ground surface of the hill.

If indeed there was a motte and bailey here, the higher NW end with its natural defences would seem to be the obvious site for the motte, with the bailey occupying the lower, broader, SE end. Dulley's suggestion that the motte occupied the lower end is quite untenable.
(See Rochester Map Diagram - TQ 76 NW 10) (7)

Listed by Cathcart King. (8)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 25" 1955
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Early Norman Castles 1912 49 196 (ES Armitage)
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Source Number : 3
Source : Archaeologia Cantiana : being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent
Source details : Canon SW Wheatley
Page(s) : 159-164
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 39, 1927
Source Number : 4
Source : Archaeologia Cantiana : being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent
Source details : Canon SW Wheatley
Page(s) : 127-141
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Vol(s) : 41, 1929
Source Number : 5
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 806-8
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Source Number : 6
Source : Archaeologia Cantiana : being contributions to the history and archaeology of Kent
Source details : AJF Dulley
Page(s) : 197-8
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Vol(s) : 74, 1960
Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASP 07-JUL-65
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Source Number : 7a
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : MS Report Excavations on Boley Hill Rochester July 1960 (AJF Dulley) Poss KAS Library Maidstone Mus
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Source Number : 8
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 233
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : 1067-1089
Monument End Date : 1089
Monument Start Date : 1067
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TQ 76 NW 95
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TQ 76 NW 94
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1965-07-07
End Date : 1965-07-07