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Name:BEDFORD CASTLE (site of)
HER No.:298
Type of Record:Monument

Summary

Bedford Castle originally covered most of the SE quadrant of the northern burh. Truncated motte survives. Partly excavated baileys lie under modern development around Castle Lane, with the Great Hall and a well-preserved lime kiln on display.

Grid Reference:TL 052 496
Parish:BEDFORD, BEDFORD BOROUGH, BEDFORDSHIRE
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Full Description

The site of Bedford Castle, probably founded by the Beauchamp family who held it in 1130. It was taken by Falkes de Breaute in 1215 and refortified, but after a siege in 1224-1225 it was taken by Henry III who ordered the defences to be dismantled and the motte slighted.

The motte and part of the bailey are a Scheduled Monument (No 20412). The motte is an earthen mound c.10m high and 70m diameter at the base, with a flat top c.50m in diameter. The motte was encircled by a ditch approx 15m wide which is now partially infilled; the outer scarp can still be seen to the north east of the motte. A section was excavated in 1972 which showed that the ditch was up to 4m deep with a stone-faced revetment. The ditch was partly open in the 19th century and is known to have drained into the river to the south of the motte. The motte was the central stronghold for the castle; there were additional quarters in the fortified bailey, which was subdivided into two separate defended areas. Parts of the bailey were excavated in 1969-1973 and again in 2007. A large building thought to be the Great Hall is now visible as part of an archaeology park to the north of the Swan Hotel, and a lime kiln (HER7336) is also preserved in situ.

The bailey defences comprised an earthen rampart and outer ditch. The ditch is now infilled but its outer edge is thought to run along Newnham Road and then to turn westwards to run along Castle Lane. In this corner is a second mound, c.3m high, which represents the remains of the north east angle of the rampart. To the north of the motte, an area approx 80m square is thought to contain the remains of further buildings. Part of the area lies under the Bedford Museum and the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery; part of the art gallery is a Grade II listed building.

Documentary and topographical evidence indicates that the bailey was originally rectangular and extended west as far as the rear of properties fronting the High Street, and north to Ram Yard. Excavations in the 1970s revealed Saxon and medieval timber and stone buildings. The excavations also clarified the construction sequence of the defences and identified deposits relating the to the siege and destruction of the castle in 1224-1225.

Excavations at 29-41 High Street in 1995 recovered evidence of Late Saxon industrial activity and occupation prior to the construction of the outer bailey ditch and rampart of Bedford castle. The line of the outer bailey ditch was established during piling for foundations (EBB605)

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument 1010366: Bedford Castle motte and bailey

Monument Types

  • BUILDING (12th Century to 13th Century - 1100 AD to 1224 AD)
  • CASTLE (12th Century to 13th Century - 1100 AD to 1224 AD)
  • WALL (12th Century to 13th Century - 1100 AD to 1224 AD)

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • EBB598 - BEDFORD CASTLE MOUND AND GARDENS: Regeneration (Works) (Ref: 2004/127)
  • EBB605 - 29-41 HIGH STREET, Bedford: Archaeological Watching Brief
  • EBB596 - 2a CASTLE LANE, Bedford: Desk Based Assessment and Field Evaluation (Ref: 2009/117)

Sources and Further Reading

---SBD10507 - Unpublished document: BCC Photographic Unit. F1143/13-16.
---SBD10508 - Slide: HER Slide Archive. 2796-2799.
---SBD10551 - Unpublished document: Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service Documents. BLARS: "Bedford Old & New", p 93.
---SBD10569 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal. Vol 13, 1979, pp 7-64.
---SBD10576 - Article in monograph: South Midlands Archaeology. Vol 33, 2003, p 1.
---SBD10777 - Unpublished document: BCAS. Watching Briefs: Nos 13, 105, 115, 237.
---SBD10783 - Unpublished document: 1937. Bedfordshire Regional Planning Authority Report. p 187.
---SBD10803 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. SAM record form. No 20412.
---SBD10807 - Unpublished document: Bedford Museum. OS 6" Corr Sheet, annotated by Kuhlicke.
---SBD10809 - Bibliographic reference: Bedfordshire Archaeology. Vol 23, 1999, pp 135-163.
---SBD10881 - Plan: HER plans. Survey, Drawing No 108.76, Dec 1976.
---SBD10949 - Unpublished document: OS: TL 04. TL 04 NE 16.
---SBD11594 - Verbal communication: J Hassell. J Hassell. n.d..