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Name:Hallaton Castle, Castle Hill
HER Ref:MLE1628
Parish:Hallaton, Harborough, Leicestershire
Grid Reference:SP 779 966
Map:Coming soon

Monument Types

  • MOTTE AND BAILEY (Saxo Norman, Late Anglo Saxon to Late Medieval - 850 AD to 1539 AD)

Summary

One of the best examples of a motte and bailey castle in Leicestershire, comprising a large conical motte and a horseshoe shaped bailey with possible entrance. To the north is a rectangular platform and to the south a bank and ditch (possibly to drain the motte ditch).

Additional Information

Scheduled Monument description:
Hallaton Castle is situated in a prominent position on high ground which falls away on the north-east and is 0.5km west of the village of Hallaton. The main elements of the monument are a ditched motte, and an adjoining bailey enclosure to the north-west side. The conical motte is approximately 50m in diameter and 7.5m high from the bottom of the ditch, with a small flat area at the summit only a few metres across. The encircling motte ditch is up to 3m deep and 8m wide, with causeways on the south-west and south-eastern sides and a break in the ditch where the bailey joins it on the south side. The horseshoe shaped bailey encloses an area of about 60 x 30m, and is bounded by a ditch up to 2m deep and 5m wide and an inner bank up to 2m high. A break in both the ditch and bank on the north-west side indicates the position of the entrance. An additional rectangular enclosure on the north side of the motte, measuring 35 x 25m, is defined by a ditch which survives in places to a depth of 0.75m. On the south side of the motte there is a further ditch 5m wide with a bank 8m wide and 0.75m high which projects south for 40m. A series of depressions on the summit of the motte are the result of 19th century excavations when bone, pottery, leather shoes, iron articles and wooden bowls were,found. Evidence was found of iron-working in the bailey and further small scale excavations in the bailey in 1943 produced 'Norman' pottery. It seems likely that the castle formed the administrative centre of an estate owned by Geoffrey Alselin and which is described in the Domesday Book. The earthworks depicted on the 1:10000 map to the immediate east of the monument are natural features.

In 1943 attempts were made to excavate the mound and some small holes were dug in the bailey. In the bailey 4 pottery sherds were found and a curved piece of iron. 2 sherds had light green glaze and FC called them 'Norman'. There were also animal bones. (AR 43/5)

Site scheduled 24/02/92, Hallaton motte and bailey castle. (KW 22/02/94)


<1> Page, William (ed), 1907, The Victoria County History of the County of Leicester, Volume 1, p259-60 (Bibliographic reference). SLE1156.

Large conical mount 630ft in circumference at the base, 118ft diameter at the top, with a slight saucer-shaped depression and an escarpment of 38ft. Cinctured by a fosse with a counterscarp of 12ft, partially bounded by an agger which varies in width. The base-court is on the north-west, with an entrance on the north-west. There is a smaller, rectangular, second court on the north-east.

<2> Pevsner N, 1984, The Buildings of England Leicestershire and Rutland, p173 (Bibliographic reference). SLE4.

<3> Elkin, Kathleen (ed), 2015, Medieval Leicestershire: Recent Research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire, p134, "Medieval fortified sites of Leics & Rutland", Richard Knox (Bibliographic reference). SLE5149.

"A large conical motte with a horseshoe shaped bailey to the north-west. A small ditch and bank to the south may have been dug to drain the motte ditch (Page 1907, 259-60). In 1877, curious railway engineers sunk two shafts into the mound (Dibbin 1878, 316-21). They recorded the original ground surface as being 17 feet 6 inches down, and described a layer of peat and bog earth, containing leather, wood and bone fragments below the natural layer. The mound was made up of layers of clay, gravel and boulders as well as thick layers of burnt material. Metal, bone and ceramic finds were made throughout, although the upper layers were cleaner, with a somewhat gravely, yellow clay, capped with a 15 inch layer of hard chalky material. No sign of a wooden or stone palisade or tower were recorded on the motte. The engineers also sunk numerous pits within the bailey and strong evidence of iron smelting was found - although the dating for this is uncertain. A minor evaluation in 1943 revealed no new information."

<4> Hartley, RF, 2018, The medieval earthworks of south and south-east Leicestershire, p78 (Bibliographic reference). SLE5736.

"About 600m west of Hallaton village, above the confluence of two streams, are the well preserved earthworks of a Norman motte and bailey castle. The conical motte (a) has a summit platform about 20m in diameter and over 7m high. To the north-west lies the sub-circular bailey (b) within a substantial bank and ditch. There are two more enclosures (d, e), possibly used for garden plots, around the eastern side of the motte, taking advantage of space between the defences and the top of the steep, natural banks down to the streams."

<5> Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Vol 7 (1878), p316-21 (Bibliographic reference). SLE5995.

In the summer of 1877 railway engineers 'excavated' the site. They sank 2 shafts into the mound. 'Natural' was 17'6" down. Then a layer of peat and trees and bog earth, including 'heath and hazel, broom and furze, birch and oak', some with axe marks. In this were 'numerous splinters of bone', also pottery, leather shoes, a shoe-lace, charred wood and burnt stones. Above this were layers of clay, gravel and boulders with very abundant remains of wood fires together with burnt and blackened fragments of pots and also burnt and splintered bones. Also layers of ashy refuse up to 4" thick with iron objects, one gilded, bits of shoes, wooden bowls, a wooden shovel, squared stakes, a portion of ladder (?), 2 fragments of Roman pottery and large quantities of pottery, some crude 'British' through to salt glaze. The last 10-12 feet were clean, somewhat gravely yellow clay with many bones, and large pebbles and boulders. On top was a hard chalky stratum 15" thick. In the bailey 'numerous holes were sunk' and 'the abundance of melted iron ore, which with dross and charcoal and refuse showed plainly that it had been worked and wrought in situ'. 'Burnt red stones… surrounded by charcoal' were noted. Horse-shoes, buckles, rude ware, pipestones etc of last 200-300 years were noted. It was thought that it might have been used as a garden.

Sources

<1>Bibliographic reference: Page, William (ed). 1907. The Victoria County History of the County of Leicester, Volume 1. p259-60.
<2>Bibliographic reference: Pevsner N. 1984. The Buildings of England Leicestershire and Rutland. p173.
<3>Bibliographic reference: Elkin, Kathleen (ed). 2015. Medieval Leicestershire: Recent Research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicestershire. p134, "Medieval fortified sites of Leics & Rutland", Richard Knox.
<4>Bibliographic reference: Hartley, RF. 2018. The medieval earthworks of south and south-east Leicestershire. p78.
<5>Bibliographic reference: Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Vol 7 (1878), p316-21.

Associated Finds

  • ANIMAL REMAINS (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BOWL (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)
  • LADDER? (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SHERD (Early Medieval to Late Post-medieval - 1067 AD to 1899 AD)
  • SHOE (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SHOVEL (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SLAG (Medieval - 1067 AD to 1539 AD)

Designations

  • Scheduled Monument 1010487: HALLATON MOTTE AND BAILEY CASTLE

Images

Hallaton Castle, Castle Hill  © Leicestershire County Council

Hallaton Castle, Castle Hill © Leicestershire County Council

Illustration (Nichols) of Hallaton Castle  © Leicestershire County Council

Illustration (Nichols) of Hallaton Castle © Leicestershire County Council

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Hallaton Castle  © LCC

Hallaton Castle © LCC

Motte and bailey castle  © Leicestershire County Council

Motte and bailey castle © Leicestershire County Council

Motte and bailey castle  © Leicestershire County Council

Motte and bailey castle © Leicestershire County Council

Hallaton Castle, Castle Hill  © Leicestershire County Council

Hallaton Castle, Castle Hill © Leicestershire County Council

RFH plan of earthworks at Hallaton  © Leicestershire County Council

RFH plan of earthworks at Hallaton © Leicestershire County Council