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HER No.:313
Type of Record:Monument


Motte & bailey castle, with oval stepped motte set within large triangular bailey with fishponds.

Grid Reference:TL 051 583
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Full Description

The site consists of a motte and bailey castle and three ponds, situated to the south east of Thurleigh parish church. The motte lies at the north of the bailey, adjacent to the churchyard, and comprises an oval earthen mound 60m long by 40m wide at its base and 40m by 20m at the top. The top is divided into two levels, being higher at its north eastern end, which is thought to have held the stronghold. At its highest point the motte is 7m above the base of the surrounding ditch; the ditch varies in width from 7m to 30m and is up to 2.5m deep at the north, but shallower at the south. On the outer edge of the ditch at the north west are the remains of a bank 5m wide and up to 1m high. To the south of the motte is the bailey, which is irregular in shape and measures 270m by 200m. The northern perimeter is thought to have been damaged by properties fronting on to the High Street, and the remainder has been altered by its incorporation into field boundaries, but the location and form of the defences were recorded in 1904 (VCH). Part of the ditch now remains as a field drain which carries the Ravensden Brook. Two large ponds, thought to have been created by enlarging an original inner ditch, lie within the outer ditch or stream bed.Three ponds shown on the 1904 survey have been filled in but a fourth survives. In 1904 the earthworks continued into the grounds of the Old Vicarage but this was built over in the late 1970s; excavations in advance of development showed that little of the castle remained in this area but there was evidence of Iron Age, Roman and Saxon activity. There are reports of inhumation burials found beneath the mound, probably of Saxon date.

The site is thought to be the easternmost of a line of defensive sites, extending to Odell, possibly built by King Stephen (1135-1154).

The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument (No 20443)

Material created for Historic England's National Mapping Program:

TL 052584 Castle Mound (NR) (1)

Bury Hill is a moated, conical mound, with its summit in two levels, the higher having a small circular hold with low banked edge. There is no other bank on the mound, which rises some 23 feet above the bottom of the ditch on the east, where the work is best preserved. The ditch is 8-10 feet in depth on the east, north and west, where there are fine remains of a great bank on the outer edge of the scarp. To the south these features are almost worked out and in recent years the mound itself has been dug for levelling, though this has now been stopped; many skeletons were found in the side of the mound, but no signs of masonry. Farm buildings have obscured much detail, but the outer enceinte, well defined by bank and ditch, remains almost entire, enclosing an area including practically the whole of the old village. Strong earthworks at the north east angle suggest a well-guarded entrance. The ponds at the bottom of the valley were used for water storage: Westminster Pond, scooped out of the hillside to a depth of 12 feet on its steeply cut north bank, being supplied from the slightly higher Black Pond. (See illustration) (2)

Bury Hill - name confirmed. An oval shaped motte and surrounding ditch situated under pasture and scrub on a prominent high ground position.
There are two distinct levels to the motte summit. The lower area is conspicuously even, and although scrub cover prevents full inspection, this does appear an original feature. On the higher level is the remains of a shallow circular depression, about 12.0m in diameter, with a low banked edge about 0.2-0.3m high. Possibly contemporary,its purpose is uncertain. There are no definite traces of a structure on either summit level, and no further information on the skeletons found (authority 2).

The south east slopes of the motte have been reduced by digging, and the southern area of the now dry ditch has been destroyed by farm detail. There are counterscarp remains on the north side of the ditch.

No indications of a bailey(s) enclosure is visible. The linear bank and ditch shown by Goddard (plan) to the east and south east has been largely obliterated and overlaid by modern detail, but the course of the ditch depression is still visible. In area TL 05345840, where best preserved, the work does not form an independent surveyable feature, and consists of a ditch about 5.0m wide and about 1.2m deep. The purpose and age of the work is uncertain, but together with Westminster and Black Ponds (ref. Goddard's plan) it forms an enclosed area which possibly represents an original boundary of the village.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. (3)

Westminster pond has recently been dredged and re-cut for irrigation. Black pond, although slightly marshy, is generally dry and has a maximum depth of 1.8m. A slight retaining bank along the east side of the stream is probably upcast, while the bank published on OS 25" 1900 to the west has been completely levelled. Both features have the appearance of being fishponds and are probably contemporary with the castle. (4)

TL 051583. A small area of earthworks at the north-eastern corner of the outer bailey was examined in advance of housing development. A possible entrance across the outer bailey bank and ditch was shown to be post-Medieval in date. No evidence of stone or timber fortification was seen on the castle earthworks, which contained quantities of Romano-British pottery. Two areas sealed by the castle earthworks were examined. Roman features were cut into the old ground surface, together with gullies, pits and post-holes containing coarse local pottery showing both Saxon and Iron Age characteristics. (5-6)

The earthwork of the motte and surrounding ditch was visible on historical aerial photographs taken in 1945 and was mapped as part of the Bedford Borough NMP project. The motte, is obscured by dense vegetation on later aerial photographs and there was no lidar imagery available, so an assessment of its current state was not possible. (7)

Protected Status: None recorded

Monument Type(s):

  • FINDSPOT (Late Bronze Age to Saxon - 800 BC to 1065 AD)
  • PIT (Late Iron Age to Saxon - 100 BC to 1065 AD)
  • POST HOLE (Late Iron Age to Saxon - 100 BC to 1065 AD)
  • INHUMATION (Saxon - 410 AD? to 1065 AD?)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOVECOTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ENCLOSURE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MANOR HOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOAT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOTTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events: None recorded