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HER No.:89
Type of Record:Monument


Large circular motte, with slighter traces of rectangular bailey. The remains of buildings on the motte are indicated by a depression 0.3m deep at the east side of this flattened area. The motte was surrounded by an outer bailey, the eastern rampart of which is still visible as a bank and outer ditch running north-south and curving slightly to the south west. The outer ditch seems to have become infilled with material from the bank. The extent of the bailey to the north, south and west is not known but is believed to correspond with the modern field boundary. The earthworks have suffered a good deal of erosion. Medieval pottery was found on the eroded sides of the mound in 1987 and 1988, and donated to Luton Museum.
The castle has been identified as the stronghold of Sir Paulinus Peyvre in the 13th century whilst the name Conger Hill is first recorded in 1597. The name probably derives from the mound's use as a rabbit warren in the 16th century, i.e. it is derived from coneygarth (coning-erth in Middle English). It is a Scheduled Monument.

Grid Reference:TL 011 288
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Full Description

<1> 1937, Bedfordshire Regional Planning Authority Report, p. 188 (Unpublished document). SBD10783.

Conger Hill, Toddington, is a mound & circular fosse which mark position of castle once situated commandingly on ridge of Chilterns.

<2> Daniel & Samuel Lysons, 1806, Magna Britannia, p. 143 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10689.

Near church is mount called Conger Hill which seems to be keep of castellated mansion & there are considerable earthworks near it. This might have been the site of Paulinus Peyvre's mansion.

<3> Fisher, 1812, Collections of the History, Geneaology and Topography of Bedfordshire, Illus 100 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10876.

Illustration 100 - Conger Hill, Toddington "Keep of castellated mansion, supposed ov Sir Paulinus Peyvre, AD 1251"

<4> William Page & H. Arthur Doubleday (Editors), 1904, Victoria County History Vol I, Bedfordshire, Vol. I, 1904, pp. 286-287 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10574.

'Conger Hill', Toddington - This place occupies the highest point of a lofty tableland from which wide views of the country are obtained. A great round moat, 30 to 32 feet wide and 5 to 6 feet deep, entirely encircles the mound, which rises 18 feet above the present bottom of it, with a flat top of 92 feet diameter. There is no trace of a rampart on the summit, but here and there slight sinkings which suggest some sort of small enclosures. There are a few slight entrenches lines to the north-west in the direction of the church, which stands about 100 yards distant, and a considerable length of moat 12 feet wide by 2 feet deep runs past quite close to the great moat edge on the east.
This outer moat has no rampart, and proceeds almost due north and south, dying out before it shows any sign of turning. From this moat the site slopes gradually away to the south, where there are remains of a large bank near a brook, which was probably a dam. No signs of the outermost enclosing lines are now apparent. Fisher publishes a view of Conger Hill in his Collections (1812). The Lysons stated that near it were 'considerable earthworks' in their time.

<5> William Page & H. Arthur Doubleday (Editors), 1912, Victoria County History Vol III, Bedfordshire, Vol. III, 1912, p. 439 (Bibliographic reference). SBD13982.

At back of church is an artificial mound, encircled by moat, known as "Gayer's Hill" [sic]

<6> Beauchamp Wadmore, 1920, Earthworks of Bedfordshire, pp. 135-137 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10706.

Site of castle situated on top of ridge of Chilterns, close to church. Consists of motte of some pretensions, surrounded by circular fosse of slight depth complete in itself. On top of motte are 2 slight traces of a depression, indicating, I conclude, that it was crowned with a stronghold; also smaller circular depression which would indicate site of well.
Traces of fosse on E side indicate this was outer enclosure of no great size or strength.
From size of motte, one would have expected to find castle was of greater strength, but no doubt much has been obliterated.
Plan & drawing.

<7> J. H. Blundell, 1925, Toddington: Its Annals and People, pp. 5-6 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10827.

The form and situation of "Conger Hill", the prominent earthwork at the East end of the town, tend further to support this hypothesis; the origin of this marked fortification, or Hill fort, for such it would seen to be, is at present purely a matter of conjecture; no excavation which might disclose arms or a burying-place after a battle, or over some chief, has, so far as we are aware, ever been attempted.
Mr B. Wadmore, in his "Earthworks of Bedfordshire" describes this as a "Motte of some pretention, surrounded by a fosse" on "the top are slight depressions, indicating a stronghold, and well, much obliterated by time."
Many suggestions have been made as to the origin of the name Conger; Mr Adams, in his history, suggest "congressum" or place of assembly; another writer, "congair" implying tumult or uproar; still another that it is from the German "Koniger"; the last seems fanciful, and, with all respect, the writer believes that an even earlier than Roman origin is to be sought.
It may be premised that in the earliest record we can trace (1597) the name was written "Cunger" or "Cunniger," and in 1621 a conveyance of Conger House gives the spelling as "Cungar".
These spellings point rather forcibly to an Early British origin, and, with every reserve, it is suggested, seem to derive from some such words as "cwnwg caser," which in the language of our Welsh forefathers would indicate a burg or fortified enclosure onteh hill top; "cwn" is given as a head - old Keltic cuno, and "cwnwg" a summit; cwninggaer , a burg, caer, a fort, etc; easily vernacularised to the "Cungar" or "Cunniger" of the seventeenth century, and surely most appropriate to this high mound on the top of the hill, with its magnificent view, commanding the whole of the upper watershed of the Ouse.
It is remarkable also to note that "Wallaud's Bank," at Limbury, is thought by Cobbe to be of British origin, and the inner mound of Totternhoe Castle and Maiden Bower, Dunstable, are ascribed to the same period; these, like Conger Hill, all being circular in form, whereas Saxon and Danish camps were usually rectangular.

<8> Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs (CUCAP), Cambridge AP: Index, HH 46-48, SH14-16 & St Joseph (Aerial Photograph). SBD10593.

Panoramas of Toddington, showing earthwork motte.
Shown on : HH 46-48 (7.6.1952) Toddington TL 010 290
SH 14-16 (8.4.1956) Toddington TL 010 290

<9> Maurice Beresford, 1957, History on the Ground, pp. 181-182 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10878.

Norman castle in Toddington village. Earth mound was warren in 1581.

<10> Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 8, 1961-1963, pp. 269 (Serial). SBD10543.

Conger Hill - "typical Norman motte with surrounding ditch". [Copy of Fisher's drawing].

<11> Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol 8, 1961-1963, 348 (Dyer) (Serial). SBD10543.

Great flat-topped mound at Toddington must have supported hall in Stephen's reign. Today a few slight outworks to E, but likely that most of village E of green is built over Castle yard. Matthew Paris 1251: Lord of manor had deserted castle in favour of Wadelowe. Toddington Castle known as Conger Hill, & is associated with Shrove Tuesday custom.

<12> Nikolaus Pevsner, 1968, The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough, p. 157 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10533.

Motte, 92' diameter at top. Remains of earthworks farther E.

<13> Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Archaeology Record Cards, OS: TL 02 NW 1 (Unpublished document). SBD10879.

This is probably a Castle Mound - see 6" sheet.
A great round moat, 30 to 32 feet wide and 5 to 6 feet deep, entirely encircles the mound, which rises 18 feet above the present bottom of it, with a flat top 92 feet in diameter. There is no trace of a rampart on the summit [Ref (2), (3), & (4)].
This feature is in good condition. 23.11.51
Conger Hill, and earthwork dating from 1100, is the scene of an old custon on Shrove Tuesday each year. The village children assemble at the site and at 12 noon lie down with ears to the ground to "hear the witch frying her pancakes beneath the ground". [Account illustrated by photograph of children observing customs in 1963]. (The Observer, 3.3.1963; W.C.W. 6.3.63)

Conger Hill (name verified), a motte as described, under permanent pasture. The top is mutilated by digging, and the ditch and slopes in the SE are mutilated by a footpath. There is no trace of stonework, and no finds are known to have been made.

The bank and ditch skirting the E and SE side of the motte which was described as an "outer moat", does not connect with the motte, and is unlikely to be associated. It is probably a later field boundary.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. NKB 15/8/1973

<14> Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service Documents, BLARS: X325/53, Notebook, 1913-1914 (F.G. Gurney) (Unpublished document). SBD10551.

Notes from Mr Horley's lecture at National School, Toddington c1855 or between that year & 1860: Thought Conger Hill to be Roman or British & to be a grave.

<15> Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service Documents, BLARS: Map by Ralph Agas, 1581 (Unpublished document). SBD10551.

Mound or hillock shown in close at TL 011 289 called Conger Close

<16> Department of the Environment, Ancient Monuments Record Form (Unpublished document). SBD11883.

Visited sit ewith Mr X (Jnr). He shares my concern about the erosion at the motte. Cattle are normally kept inside during winter months and only graze on the mound very occasionally in bad weather. However with mild conditions they have been out more than usual. The erosion is especially bad around the hawthorn where the cattle tend to congregate. If these were cut some of the slipped earth pushed back and reseeded this might stablilize the sides and repair the damage. Mr X is agreeable to this scheme and would be prepared to fence and keep cattle away from are during reseedind and growth period. This fine site is in a bad state and with a sympathetic owner, I feel a management agreement is applicable and should be concluded before the damage becomes irreparable. The depression on the summit was apparently the work of a Toddington vicar some 40 years ago. <1>
Problems have been encountered with Treasure Hunters they are not allowed on the land. <2>

<17> National Monuments Record, NMR Aerial Photograph, TL 0129/1/403 (Aerial Photograph). SBD10595.

Conger Hill TL 010 290

<18> Bedfordshire County Council, HER Slide Archive, 535, 2210-2216, 5102, 6695 (Slide). SBD10508.

Images of the site from the ground & the air, both in black & white and in colour.

<19> English Heritage, SAM Record Form, Monument No. 20439 (Scheduling record). SBD10803.

Probably Norman. Well presented mound, with surrounding ditch, but no sign of other earthworks under grass. {1}
Conger Hill lies E of St George's Church and occupies a high point commanding fine views of the upper watershed of the Ouse. The dry moat, with a 9m wide encircles the mound which rises 51/2m above the ditch bottom, with a flat top of some 28m, supporting one mature oak to E. Several areas of the ditch and motte sides are covered in brambles and scrubby hawthorn: the summit is uneven in appearance with depression to SE and a raised area to SW. It is grass covered and is suffering from mole disturbance. Two gullies or paths of approx 30-40cms have been worn up N and S sides. The whole of the motte sides are extremely eroded, with large slips of earth occuring. Thi sslippage has been noted by previous FMW over the past 3 years, and is obviously worsening particularly where cattle browse under hawthorn. Contrary to the statement on OW810 that there are no other earthworks, there is a marked moat feature about 8m E of the mound. This runs N/S for about 50m, is approx 3m wide x 0.75m deep and dry. {2}
Cattle poaching still extremely severe with slippage noted in previous report worsening. Slight animal disturbance to SE. {3}

<20> The Bedfordshire Archaeological Council, 1991, Bedfordshire Archaeology, Volume 19, Vol. 19, 1991, p. 80 (Luton Museum, Donations and Enquiries, Robin Holgate) (Article in serial). SBD14103.

Conger Hill TL 011 289
A total of 14 fragments of late Medieval pottery.
LTNMG 1988/42/5 & 1988/79/2 donated by Mr J. Pollard and found by him on the eroded SE side of Conger Hill in 1987 and 1988.

<21> Manshead Archaeological Society of Dunstable, The Manshead Magazine/Journal of the Manshead Archaeological Society of Dunstable, Vol. 32, Vol. 32, 1992, p 10 (Serial). SBD14199.

Conger Hill in Toddington (TL 011 289), A Scheduled Ancient Monument, is a grass-covered motte with surrounding ditch. It shows signs of erosion, and in December 1990 the Society carried out a levelling survey to record its present state. The line of the survey started at a brick wall 6.5m SW of a barn, and ran due east (095 magnetic) across the centre of the motte.

<22> Angela Simco, Comments (Observations and Comments). SBD10509.

Proposed extension to scheduled area depicted on map. Proposal abandonded 1974; information from P Ellis, Ancient Monuments Administrator.

<23> Alan Cox, 1982, Odd & Unusual Bedfordshire, Page 13 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10604.

Up until at least the 17th century there was still a common belief in witchcraft, and anything abnormal tended to be explained in terms of witches. Thus Conger Hill, Toddington (TL011288), a flat-topped mound to the east of the parish church, is probably the remains of a medieval castle, but popular imagination transformed it into the lair of a witch. Every Shrove Tuesday the children of the village assemble on Conger Hill and at the first stroke of twelve noon they put their ears to the ground to hear the witch's pancakes sizzling. As with many other customs, this is an odd mixture of christian and pagan beliefs.

<25> English Heritage, Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling (Scheduling record). SBD12102.

First scheduled 13th Dec 1929. Scheduled area revised 9th Sept 1994.

<31> Ordnance Survey, 1960, Ordnance Survey 6" Map, 1960 Edition (Map). SBD10640.

(TL 01132891) Conger Hill (NR).

<32> A. Mawer & F. M. Stenton, 1926, The Placenames of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, Vol 3, 137 (Bibliographic reference). SBD10941.

A more likely interpretation of the name is as a reference to the use of the site as a rabbit warren (from Middle English 'coneygar' or rabbit warren).

<33> NMR/AMIE, HE NRHE Monument Inventory, 359572 (Index). SBD12367.

Motte and bailey. An irregular 0.3m deep depression on the east side of the summit of the motte, is thought to indicate the site of buildings on the motte summit. The bailey rampart is very slight compared to the size of the motte. The bailey is partially built over in the west and south, and its extent to the north, west and south is not proven. The castle is identified as the stronghold of Sir Paulinus Pegure in the 13th century. The name Conger Hill is recorded from 1597, and probably derives from its use as a rabbit warren in the 16th century.

Protected Status:

  • Archaeological Notification Area (AI) HER89: MOTTE & BAILEY CASTLE, Conger Hill
  • Conservation Area: Toddington Conservation Area
  • Scheduled Monument 1010059: Conger Hill: a motte and bailey castle

Monument Type(s):

Associated Finds

  • FBD5228 - SHERD (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Events: None recorded

Sources and Further Reading

[1]SBD10783 - Unpublished document: 1937. Bedfordshire Regional Planning Authority Report. p. 188.
[2]SBD10689 - Bibliographic reference: Daniel & Samuel Lysons. 1806. Magna Britannia. Bedfordshire. p. 143.
[3]SBD10876 - Bibliographic reference: Fisher. 1812. Collections of the History, Geneaology and Topography of Bedfordshire. Illus 100.
[4]SBD10574 - Bibliographic reference: William Page & H. Arthur Doubleday (Editors). 1904. Victoria County History Vol I, Bedfordshire. Vol. I, 1904, pp. 286-287.
[5]SBD13982 - Bibliographic reference: William Page & H. Arthur Doubleday (Editors). 1912. Victoria County History Vol III, Bedfordshire. Vol III. Vol. III, 1912, p. 439.
[6]SBD10706 - Bibliographic reference: Beauchamp Wadmore. 1920. Earthworks of Bedfordshire. pp. 135-137.
[7]SBD10827 - Bibliographic reference: J. H. Blundell. 1925. Toddington: Its Annals and People. pp. 5-6.
[8]SBD10593 - Aerial Photograph: Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photographs (CUCAP). Cambridge AP: Index. HH 46-48, SH14-16 & St Joseph.
[9]SBD10878 - Bibliographic reference: Maurice Beresford. 1957. History on the Ground. pp. 181-182.
[10]SBD10543 - Serial: Bedfordshire Magazine. Vol. 8, 1961-1963, pp. 269.
[11]SBD10543 - Serial: Bedfordshire Magazine. Vol 8, 1961-1963, 348 (Dyer).
[12]SBD10533 - Bibliographic reference: Nikolaus Pevsner. 1968. The Buildings of England: Bedfordshire and the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough. p. 157.
[13]SBD10879 - Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Record Cards. OS: TL 02 NW 1.
[14]SBD10551 - Unpublished document: Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service Documents. BLARS: X325/53, Notebook, 1913-1914 (F.G. Gurney).
[15]SBD10551 - Unpublished document: Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Records Service Documents. BLARS: Map by Ralph Agas, 1581.
[16]SBD11883 - Unpublished document: Department of the Environment. Ancient Monuments Record Form.
[17]SBD10595 - Aerial Photograph: National Monuments Record. NMR Aerial Photograph. TL 0129/1/403.
[18]SBD10508 - Slide: Bedfordshire County Council. HER Slide Archive. 535, 2210-2216, 5102, 6695.
[19]SBD10803 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. SAM Record Form. Monument No. 20439.
[20]SBD14103 - Article in serial: The Bedfordshire Archaeological Council. 1991. Bedfordshire Archaeology, Volume 19. Vol. 19, 1991, p. 80 (Luton Museum, Donations and Enquiries, Robin Holgate).
[21]SBD14199 - Serial: Manshead Archaeological Society of Dunstable. The Manshead Magazine/Journal of the Manshead Archaeological Society of Dunstable, Vol. 32. Vol. 32, 1992, p 10.
[22]SBD10509 - Observations and Comments: Angela Simco. Comments.
[23]SBD10604 - Bibliographic reference: Alan Cox. 1982. Odd & Unusual Bedfordshire. Page 13.
[25]SBD12102 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. Notification of Scheduling, or an Affirmation or Revision of Scheduling.
[31]SBD10640 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1960. Ordnance Survey 6" Map, 1960 Edition.
[32]SBD10941 - Bibliographic reference: A. Mawer & F. M. Stenton. 1926. The Placenames of Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire. Vol 3, 137.
[33]SBD12367 - Index: NMR/AMIE. HE NRHE Monument Inventory. 359572.