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HER Number (PRN):01100
Name:Little Ness Castle
Type of Record:Monument
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1013556: Motte

Monument Types


Scheduled Monument: A good example of a Norman motte and bailey (earthwork castle), of particular interest because of the presence of the parish church and churchyard within the bailey.

Parish:Little Ness, Shrewsbury and Atcham, Shropshire
Map Sheet:SJ41NW
Grid Reference:SJ 4077 1986

Related records

00851Parent of: Church of Saint Martin, LITTLE NESS (Monument)
30853Parent of: Medieval trackway, S of Little Ness Castle (Monument)
30854Parent of: Possible medieval trackway, S of Little Ness Castle (Monument)

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESA1330 - 1961 field observation by the Ordnance Survey
  • ESA1331 - 1972 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA1332 - 1979 field observation by English Heritage
  • ESA1333 - 1994 evaluation of land south of Little Ness motte by Earthworks Archaeological Services
  • ESA5950 - 2005 WB on pipe trench at St Martins Church, Little Ness
  • ESA6494 - 1995 WB on two soakaway pits and associated trenches at St Martins Church, Little Ness by SCCAS
  • ESA7249 - 1994 topographic survey S of Little Ness motte by GeoQuest Associates


The church is enclosed by a retaining wall which may have followed the course of a bailey, but no trace of a bailey was found. The motte has an average height of 5m. Part of the south side has been cut away. The top, which has a maximum radius of 3m, shows no trace of a building. No trace of a ditch around the motte. OS FI 1961. <1>

A very small mount, 19ft high from the SE slope of the hill with a fosse 5ft deep. The fosse does not surround the mount, but extends only the width of the court. The rest of the hilltop on the north forms the court, its only defence an artificial scarp leaving a narrow terrace on the SW. A church has been built within the court <2a>
Classed as a motte <2b>

In early 1994 Earthworks Archaeological Services carried out an evaluation of a field to the south of the castle site, where residential development was proposed. They noted a scarp south of the castle mound and north of the evaluation site, which defined an area of level ground, and postulated this as an alternative site for the bailey, or perhaps evidence of a double bailey. A topographical survey of the evaluation site detected no earthworks of archaeological interest. Five evaluation trenches were excavated. The northernmost of these, Trench 5, closest to the castle site, revealed a pebbled surface possibly dating from the early medieval period, perhaps a trackway immediately outside the postulated bailey (PRN 30853). Trench 2 in the SE corner of the evaluation site revealed a similar but undateable pebbled surface (PRN 30854), which in this case was sealed on its E side by a demolition deposit possibly of early post medieval date. <5>

Evaluated for MPP in 1990-1, Medium score as one of 43 Motte castles <6>

Scheduling revised in 1995. Scheduling description: ->

The monument includes the motte of a small motte and bailey castle situated on the summit of a small hill overlooking, to the east, the valley of the River Perry. The castle originally consisted of the motte to the south east with an oval bailey enclosure to the north west, which is now completely occupied by St Martin's Church and churchyard, The castle mound, or motte, was originally circular in plan, with a base diameter of 30m. The mound has been cut across by quarrying around its southern side, flattening the base, so that the motte now has a D-shaped plan. The summit of the motte stands up to 4.6m above the surrounding ground level and has a diameter of approximately 4m. Although no longer visible as a surface earthwork, a ditch, from which the material would have been quarried for the construction of the motte, will survive as a buried feature surrounding the motte, ->

-> St Martin's Church, to the north west of the motte, now stands in an oval churchyard enclosure which adjoins the motte at its SE end. The churchyard lies along the line of the hill and has maximum dimensions of 64m NW-SE by 40m transversely. Although there are now no traces of any surface earthworks, the churchyard wall is believed to follow the line of the castle bailey boundary. Although the archaeological stratigraphy in this area is of considerable significance to the monument, the generations of grave cuts in the interior of the churchyard will have greatly disturbed it. The church and churchyard remain in use and are not included in the scheduling. <7>

A watching brief was carried out in 2005 on a trench which was excavated for a new water pipe to connect to the vestry of St Martins Church, Little Ness. Following consultations, a route was chosen for the pipe trench that seemed least likely to encounter archaeological deposits or structures running through the field at some distance west of the motte and around the churchyard to a point on the north side. The pipe trench was excavated in two stages, by archaeologically supervised JCB across the field and by hand within the churchyard. No archaeological features were found, other than a ceramic drainpipe. No artefacts were seen or recovered. <8>

General description of the site. A second bailey may also have lain directly to the south of the motte, represented today by a level area defined along its S edge by a scarp (as per <5>); the road appears to skirt around the E of this feature. <9>

The groundworks at the northeast corner of the church revealed a possible yard surface of sandstone fragments and cobbles beneath 0.3m depth of topsoil. Fragments of brick and tile associated with this possible surface suggested a late eighteenth- or nineteenth-century date for this feature. This surface immediately overlay the natural glacial drift subsoil, which consisted of gravel and pebbles in a dark brown sandy matrix. At the southwest corner of the church, a thin layer of topsoil (0.1m thick) overlay a layer 0.15m in depth of greyish brown silty sandy loam, which had the appearance of being relatively recent made ground. This in turn overlay a layer 0.25m in depth of darker brown loam, probably the original topsoil. Beneath this was the natural sandy gravel and pebble subsoil. No significant archaeological deposits or features were encountered during the course of the groundworks. <10>

The scarp of a putative southern bailey, described by sources <5> and <9> is visible as a slight earthwork from the roadway on Google Street View. The monument GIS boundary was extended to additionally incorporate the area of this possible southern bailey, as annotated on <5>, figure 2. <11><12>

Photographed by aerial photographic survey, 2009-2010. <13><14>

As part of the 1994 evaluation of a site to the south of Little Ness motte (see <5>), a programme of topographic survey was carried out by GeoQuest Associates. This recorded no earthworks of archaeological interest, although the site lay to the south of the postulated southern bailey. <15>

Note in a gazetteer of castles indicates that "excavations c.1870 uncovered quantitities of animal bone and burnt timber". Exact source of information unknown. <16>

<00> Shropshire County Council SMR, Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards, SMR Card for PRN SA 01100 (Card index). SSA20722.

<01> Ordnance Survey, 1961, Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ41NW1 (Card index). SSA4215.

<02d> Wright T, 1872, Uriconium, p47 (TEXT). SSA4213.

<02a> Victoria County History, 1908, Victoria County History 1, p396-397 (Volume). SSA178.

<02c> Parrot P, 1935, Little Ness, Ch2, p15-18 (Monograph). SSA4212.

<02b> Chitty Lily F, 1947/ 1948, A perforated stone implement from Dudmaston, p248-249 (Article in serial). SSA160.

<02> Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (HBMC), 1983, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 11112 (Field Monument Warden Report). SSA4218.

<03> Toms G, 1974, Correspondence, 21/06/1974 (Correspondence). SSA4214.

<04> Department of the Environment (DoE), 1972, Map of Scheduled area, 1972 (Scheduled Monument notification). SSA4216.

<05> Walker W S, 1994, An archaeological evaluation on land at Little Ness, Shropshire (Archaeological fieldwork report). SSA4211.

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

<07> English Heritage, 1995, Scheduling Papers (Revised Scheduling, 20/11/1995) (Scheduled Monument notification). SSA4217.

<08> Baker Nigel J, 2005, An archaeological watching brief at St Martins Church, Little Ness, Shropshire (Watching brief report). SSA22240.

<09> Watson Michael D, 2002, Shropshire An Archaeological Guide, p59-60 (Monograph). SSA22535.

<10> Hannaford Hugh R, 1995, A Watching Brief at St Martin's Church, Little Ness, Shropshire (Watching brief report). SSA23700.

<11> Google, Varied, Google Earth, Street View (Aerial photograph). SSA26796.

<12> Carey Giles, 2014 onwards, Comments by Giles Carey, HER compiler in HER database, 06/10/2014 (SMR comment). SSA26784.

<13> Shropshire Council, 2009-Apr-5, SA0908_252 to SA0908_254 (3 photos) Flight: 09_SA_08 (Oblique aerial photograph). SSA25797.

<14> Shropshire Council, 2010-Jul-23, SA1011_001 to SA1011_004 (4 photos) Flight: 10_SA_11 (Oblique aerial photograph). SSA25004.

<15> Wright J and Lambert C, 1994, A topographic survey of a site at Little Ness, Shrewsbury, Shropshire (Field survey report). SSA27201.

<16> Jackson M, 1985, A gazetteer of Medieval castles in England. Part 33- Shropshire (Gazetteer). SSA29943.


[00]SSA20722 - Card index: Shropshire County Council SMR. Site and Monuments Record (SMR) cards. SMR record cards. SMR Card for PRN SA 01100.
[01]SSA4215 - Card index: Ordnance Survey. 1961. Ordnance Survey Record Card SJ41NW1. Ordnance Survey record cards. SJ41NW1.
[02b]SSA160 - Article in serial: Chitty Lily F. 1947/ 1948. A perforated stone implement from Dudmaston. Trans Shropshire Archaeol Hist Soc. 52. pp.132-138. p248-249.
[02a]SSA178 - Volume: Victoria County History. 1908. Victoria County History 1. Victoria County History of Shropshire. Vol 1. p396-397.
[02c]SSA4212 - Monograph: Parrot P. 1935. Little Ness. Ch2, p15-18.
[02d]SSA4213 - TEXT: Wright T. 1872. Uriconium. p47.
[02]SSA4218 - Field Monument Warden Report: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (HBMC). 1983. Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 11112.
[03]SSA4214 - Correspondence: Toms G. 1974. Correspondence, 21/06/1974. Department of the Environment.
[04]SSA4216 - Scheduled Monument notification: Department of the Environment (DoE). 1972. Map of Scheduled area, 1972.
[05]SSA4211 - Archaeological fieldwork report: Walker W S. 1994. An archaeological evaluation on land at Little Ness, Shropshire. Earthworks Archaeol Rep.
[06]SSA20084 - TEXT: Horton Wendy B. 1990/ 1991. MPP Evaluation File.
[07]SSA4217 - Scheduled Monument notification: English Heritage. 1995. Scheduling Papers (Revised Scheduling, 20/11/1995). 19229.
[08]SSA22240 - Watching brief report: Baker Nigel J. 2005. An archaeological watching brief at St Martins Church, Little Ness, Shropshire. Nigel Baker Rep.
[09]SSA22535 - Monograph: Watson Michael D. 2002. Shropshire An Archaeological Guide. p59-60.
[10]SSA23700 - Watching brief report: Hannaford Hugh R. 1995. A Watching Brief at St Martin's Church, Little Ness, Shropshire. SCCAS Rep. 72.
[11]SSA26796 - Aerial photograph: Google. Varied. Google Earth. digital. Street View.
[12]SSA26784 - SMR comment: Carey Giles. 2014 onwards. Comments by Giles Carey, HER compiler in HER database. 06/10/2014.
[13]SSA25797 - Oblique aerial photograph: Shropshire Council. 2009-Apr-5. SA0908_252 to SA0908_254 (3 photos) Flight: 09_SA_08. Colour. Digital.
[14]SSA25004 - Oblique aerial photograph: Shropshire Council. 2010-Jul-23. SA1011_001 to SA1011_004 (4 photos) Flight: 10_SA_11. Colour. Digital.
[15]SSA27201 - Field survey report: Wright J and Lambert C. 1994. A topographic survey of a site at Little Ness, Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Geoquest Associates Rep.
[16]SSA29943 - Gazetteer: Jackson M. 1985. A gazetteer of Medieval castles in England. Part 33- Shropshire.
Date Last Edited:Mar 19 2018 11:52AM