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HER Number (PRN):03248
Name:Cleobury Mortimer Castle
Type of Record:Monument
Protected Status:Conservation Area: Cleobury Mortimer

Monument Type(s):


The site of the medieval motte and bailey castle overlooking the medieval town of Cleobury Mortimer. The whole area is now built over or landscaped as gardens, though some traces of the medieval earthworks can still be seen, and limited excavation has shown that archaeological features do still survive underground.

Parish:Cleobury Mortimer, South Shropshire, Shropshire
Map Sheet:SO67NE
Grid Reference:SO 6737 7586

Related records

06228Parent of: Medieval features at Lacon Childe School, Cleobury Mortimer (Monument)
04632Related to: Find Spot in 1993 of flint flakes including an arrowhead and scraper at Lacon Childe School, Cleobru Mortimer (Find Spot)
04633Related to: Possible Roman/Medieval Oven, Lacon Childe School (Monument)

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESA2936 - 1967 field observation by the Ordnance Survey
  • ESA2937 - 1976 field observation by SCC SMR
  • ESA2938 - 1993 evaluation at Lacon Childe School by SCCAS
  • ESA4686 - 1994 Cleobury Mortimer Castle field observation by Central Marches Historic Towns Survey
  • ESA4766 - 2002 Evaluation of 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer by Border Archaeology
  • ESA6120 - 2006 emergency recording on groundworks at 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer by Border Archaeology
  • ESA8448 - 2017 WB on groundworks S of Childe Road, Cleobury Mortimer by Worcestershire Archaeology (Ref: 17/01937/FUL)


In the Domesday Book the manor of Cleobury was held by Ralph de Mortimer. Cleobury Castle is first mentioned in 1154 when it is recorded as being destroyed by Henry II after de Mortimer's rebellion. By 1179 it must have been rebuilt, as Hugh de Mortimer came from overseas to reside at Cleobury. Leland visited the site between 1538 and 1545, and noted that there was a castle at Cleobury, by the church, the plot is yet cawled the Castell Dyke…In 1740 a Mr Childe founded the school that adjoins the site. In 1759 in a lease between Mr Childe and Mr Holland of Castle Ditch, it is noted that the house at Castle Ditch was burnt down and that part has been closed for a bowling green. … The First Ed OS (half inch scale?) map of 1825 indicates a mound on the site, whilst that of 1883 (6in scale?) shows no mound…. Hulbert in 1837 states that the school premises occupy part of the site of the ancient castle and that William Glazett who was forming a bowling green where the school now stands, 70 or 80 yrs ago, found remains of walls and foundations that were dug up-and some coins-passed to Mr Holland a solicitor. The OS 25in scale map of 1902 shows no mound, indicates site of a castle and new buildings to N and S of the site. A note in the TCSVFC in 1909 records that little more than an encircling moat could be seen. In 1911 Auchmuty in 1911 states that stones forming the causeway or bridge across the ditch may still be seen, but he appears to be referring to the Castle Toot site. The site forms part of the topographical feature known as Castle Ditch which has been badly mutilated by C19 and C20 development. The ditch and mound it surrounded are clearly shown on the First edition OS Map. The outer bailey is suggested by topographical features of the surrounding street pattern and perhaps parts of stone retaining walls still to be in the High St <2>

The northern slope of the probable motte is still visible, though only about 1m high and much degraded. There is a house on the top. IB FI 1976 <4>

In September 1993 an archaeological evaluation was carried out in the grounds of Lacon Childe School, which was thought to occupy the site of the bailey of the castle. In the early 18th century, a bowling green was laid out on part of the site. During the course of its construction, walls and foundations were revealed and several coins recovered. Five trenches were excavated, located away from the built up areas of the site. Trenches A and B produced only post medieval features. Trench C contained a double posthole of probable medieval date and a shallow ditch with a fill containing C12 / C13 pottery. In Trench D the remains of an oven or small kiln were found (PRN 04633). Trench E was located adjacent to a footpath separating the school from the site of the motte. It had been suggested that at this point the footpath lay within the ditch around the motte. The trench revealed traces of a wall constructed of thin fragments of sandstone bonded in red clay which contained two sherds of early medieval pottery. The middle of the wall was cut by what may have been the remains of a robbed out wall running south-west. The dating of the oven in Trench D is problematical. The Roman pottery from the layer sealing the oven was highly abraded and is likely to be residual, although conversely the single piece of medieval pottery recovered from the same context might just possibly have been intrusive. Parallels for similar features come from both Roman and medieval contexts. The oven's small size and the lack of associated pottery wasters would suggest that it was not used for pottery production. Both the ditch and the double post hole in trench C were sealed by a layer containing a substantial amount of medieval pottery ..The pottery from the bonding of the wall in Trench E dates its construction to the C12 or later, whilst the layer sealing it dates its destruction to some time before the early C17. The location of this feature immediately adjacent to the supposed line of the ditch separating the motte from its bailey raises the possibility that it might have formed part of the bridge across the ditch. The evaluation showed that significant features of medieval date survive in good condition beneath the present lawns to the north, east, and south of the main block of school buildings. The recommendation was therefore that, although they do not merit preservation in situ, they should be preserved by record, and any development in these areas should be preceded by further full scale archaeological excavation. <5>

Evaluated for MPP in 1990-1, Low score as one of 46 Motte and Bailey castles. <6>

CMHTS Comment: The extent of the component is hard to define, but antiquarian accounts suggest that Childe's school built 1740 [cf PRN 10826] occupies part of the castle, probably an outer bailey to the east, defined by street pattern. By the mid 19th century the castle was "ploughed up and planted with potatoes" [cf PRN 05490] [<7>]. A field visit 1994 showed that the motte survives as an earthwork c3.0m high and defined by a lane on the East which is c1.0m below general ground level and may mark the ditch. The motte slopes to the South and merges with sloping natural topography. Further East it is harder to distinguish the motte, although a distinct steep slope can be observed, with a level area above where houses now stand. The whole extent of the motte and adjacent areas is built over or landscaped as private gardens. <8>

CMHTS Report. <9>

Correspondence relating to a change of ownership and development in mid 1980s. <10>

Consultation response to proposed erection of replacement vicarage in mid 1980s. <11>

An evaluation in 2002 at 4 Castle Hill appeared to confirm the presence of the original bank of the motte, overlain by post medieval garden soils and pits. <12>

[The above information] indicates that little now remains upstanding of this castle which is situated within Cleobury Mortimer (a small medieval market town). A small part of the motte is reported to survive as an earthwork about a metre high. The rest of the site has been built upon and has been landscaped since the late 19th century. An archaeological evaluation conducted in 1993 in relation to a housing development in the area of the bailey encountered medieval structural features and pottery dating to the 12th century. A small oven or kiln was also found associated with sherds of Roman and medieval pottery. Not visited. <13>

A detailed study of the part of the motte at 4 Castle Hill describes a surviving earthwork about 3 metres high, defined by a lane to the east, which is 1 metre below the general ground level and may mark the line of an outer ditch. The report also suggests that the proximity of the motte to the parish church (itself possibly on the site of a pre-Conquest minster - see PRN 05468) may indicate that it sits on an occupation site of pre-Conquest date. The report contains detailed documentary and cartographic research on the castle site (more than given in this summary). It suggests that the defensive circuit of the castle may originally have included the parish church site and an area extending to the High Street, and that some form of proto-urban settlement may have grown up here in the shadow of the castle. Though the castle appears to have been rebuilt after its destruction in 1155, there are virtually no post-12th century documentary references to a castle. The impression given is that the site had developed from a fortress into a manor house by c1300, with the focus of occupation possibly on the northeast side of the motte, on the site of the Lacon Childe School, where the 1993 evaluation (<5>) produced remains of that date. A similar change of function occurred at other Marcher castles, including those owned by the Mortimer family. Early post-medieval references suggest that the castle had been abandoned by the early 16th century. Though the subsequent history of the site is poorly documented, it appears to have been at least partly built up in the 18th century, until affected by fire in 1775-6, after which it appears to have been cleared and used in part for a bowling green and in part for arable. There are references in contemporary documents to the disturbance of medieval remains during the associated landscaping works, and to the transfer of building stone taken from the site to Kinlet Hall. The report traces the subsequent developments on the castle site through the sequence of 19th century maps. ->

-> The archaeological recording with which the documentary research was associated produced similar results to the earlier evaluation at 4 Castle Hill, producing evidence of motte deposits and overlying post medieval soils. <14>

Archaeological evidence of the post medieval landscaping was recovered at 3 Castle Hill during monitoring of foundation trenches by the Cleobruy Mortimer Historical Society. <15>

The extended defensive circuit suggested by source <14> is not currently shown on the SMR mapping. <16>

An archaeological watching brief was undertaken on land south of Childe Road, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (NGR SO 67300 75868) in 2017. The site lay in a concave ditch, which had been highlighted as a moat bounding the northern side of Cleobury Mortimer Castle motte, later used as a medieval hollow way to the rear of medieval burgage plots (PRN 06204) , but had recently been used as a modern dumping ground. Only modern made ground was excavated on site with natural deposits only revealed in the south west corner of site, part of a modern hedgerow bank. Finds recovered from site were thought to be a typical domestic assemblage of 20th century date. No significant archaeological deposits, or features were exposed, nor finds recovered, relating to any medieval or earlier occupation. <17>

<00> Shropshire County Council SMR, Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards, SMR Card for PRN SA 03248 (Card index). SSA20722.

<01> Ordnance Survey, 1967, Ordnance Survey Record Card SO67NE6 (Card index). SSA8390.

<02> Teare M, 1986, Site History (TEXT). SSA8388.

<03> Chapman D J, 1975, Correspondence, 1975 (Correspondence). SSA8389.

<04> Burrow Ian, 1976-Feb-13, Visit Notes, 13/02/1976 (Site visit report). SSA8391.

<05> Hannaford Hugh R, 1993, An Archaeological Evaluation at the Lacon Childe School, Cleobury Mortimer (Excavation report). SSA8387.

<06> Horton Wendy B, 1990/ 1991, MPP Evaluation File, Motte and Bailey Castles (TEXT). SSA20084.

<07> Foxall H D G, Transcript of Cleobury Mortimer Tithe Map (1846) (Map). SSA8925.

<08> Buteux Victoria & Dalwood Hal, 1993/ 1996, CMHTS SMR Records Shropshire: Burford to Clun, Cleobury Mortimer 3248 (Record form). SSA19966.

<09> Dalwood Hal et al, 1996, Archaeological Assessment of Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (CMHTS) (Historic landscape survey report). SSA12068.

<10> Stourport Contract Services, 1986, Correspondence, 1986 (Correspondence). SSA20112.

<11> Shropshire County Council, 1985, Consultation Response, 1985 (Planning archive). SSA20113.

<12> Border Archaeology, 2002, No 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (Excavation report). SSA20769.

<13> Reid Malcolm L, 1999-Sep-08, MPP Non-Scheduling Alternative Action Report [08/09/1999] (Alternative Action Report). SSA21990.

<14> Priestley S, 2006, Documentary survey and emergency archaeological recording: No 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (Excavation report). SSA22939.

<15> Watt S (ed), 2005, Archaeological reports 2003, pp.88-89 (Article in serial). SSA22197.

<16> Gathercole E Clare, 1999/ 2002, Comments by SMR compiler in SMR database, 25/06/2007 (SMR comment). SSA20725.

<17> Arnold G, 2018, Archaeological watching brief on land south of Childe Road, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (Watching brief report). SSA29835.


[00]SSA20722 - Card index: Shropshire County Council SMR. Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards. SMR record cards. SMR Card for PRN SA 03248.
[01]SSA8390 - Card index: Ordnance Survey. 1967. Ordnance Survey Record Card SO67NE6. Ordnance Survey record cards. SO67NE6.
[02]SSA8388 - TEXT: Teare M. 1986. Site History.
[03]SSA8389 - Correspondence: Chapman D J. 1975. Correspondence, 1975.
[04]SSA8391 - Site visit report: Burrow Ian. 1976-Feb-13. Visit Notes, 13/02/1976.
[05]SSA8387 - Excavation report: Hannaford Hugh R. 1993. An Archaeological Evaluation at the Lacon Childe School, Cleobury Mortimer. SCCAS Rep. 39.
[06]SSA20084 - TEXT: Horton Wendy B. 1990/ 1991. MPP Evaluation File. Motte and Bailey Castles.
[07]SSA8925 - Map: Foxall H D G. Transcript of Cleobury Mortimer Tithe Map (1846). Foxall map transcripts. Cleobury Mortimer. 1:10560.
[08]SSA19966 - Record form: Buteux Victoria & Dalwood Hal. 1993/ 1996. CMHTS SMR Records Shropshire: Burford to Clun. Central Marches Historic Towns Survey record form. Vol 3. Cleobury Mortimer 3248.
[09]SSA12068 - Historic landscape survey report: Dalwood Hal et al. 1996. Archaeological Assessment of Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (CMHTS). Hereford & Worcester CAS Rep. Rep 308.
[10]SSA20112 - Correspondence: Stourport Contract Services. 1986. Correspondence, 1986. Shropshire County Council.
[11]SSA20113 - Planning archive: Shropshire County Council. 1985. Consultation Response, 1985. DC proforma PF1.
[12]SSA20769 - Excavation report: Border Archaeology. 2002. No 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire. Border Archaeology Rep. 03/03.
[13]SSA21990 - Alternative Action Report: Reid Malcolm L. 1999-Sep-08. MPP Non-Scheduling Alternative Action Report [08/09/1999].
[14]SSA22939 - Excavation report: Priestley S. 2006. Documentary survey and emergency archaeological recording: No 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire. Border Archaeology Rep. BA0626ICM.
[15]SSA22197 - Article in serial: Watt S (ed). 2005. Archaeological reports 2003. W Midlands Archaeol. 46 (for 2003). p88-96. pp.88-89.
[16]SSA20725 - SMR comment: Gathercole E Clare. 1999/ 2002. Comments by SMR compiler in SMR database. 25/06/2007.
[17]SSA29835 - Watching brief report: Arnold G. 2018. Archaeological watching brief on land south of Childe Road, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire. Worcs Arch Services Rep. 2518.
Date Last Edited:Jan 22 2018 10:24AM