Hewelsfield Motte

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameHewelsfield Motte
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityGloucestershire
Civil ParishHewelsfield And Brockweir

"SO 567021 : Motte on hill SW of church". Hewelsfield. (O'Neil: Rahtz)

SO 5668 0209. A roughly circular mound, 30m x 25m, is visible as an earthwork on aerial photographs. The mound is located about 80m to the south west of the church at Hewelsfield, and is thought to be the remains of a Medieval motte. No evidence of masonry structures was recorded, although a small straight bank 13m long appears on the western side of the mound. Traces of a ditch are visible at the foot of the mound, especially around the south west quadrant. Additional banks and ditches (SO 50 SE 46, SO 50 SE 47) in the vicinity of the mound may represent associated structures, possibly including part of a bailey, or may be associated with Medieval fields (SO 50 SE 120). The mound and related features have been mapped by EH's Gloucestershire NMP. (PastScape)

Hewelsfield is an area rich in archaeology, and its current status as a small settlement, shouldn't mask the importance of the historically.

The churchyard surronding the 12th century Church is circular, which could indicate that it is a pagan site, which means it has considerable age. (Gloucester County Councils Sites and Monuments Record (SMR))

Evidence of Hewelsfield Castle remains as earthworks to the south west of the Church, situated on a hill. It is thought that the castle was a masonry structure, but very little evidence remains. The bailey associated with the castle has either disappeared completely or never existed. (SMR)

Around the site of the castle there is a series of earthworks, thought to be the remains of a deserted medieval village, possibly connected with the castle, although there is another theory that the earthworks are the remains of medieval field systems


At the base of the castle motte there is a series of linear earthworks possibly medieval in date, and are likely to be field boundaries. (SMR) (Hewelsfield Character Appraisal)

The earthwork and buried remains of a medieval motte castle, known as Hewelsfield Castle Tump.

The motte castle at Hewelsfield is designated for the following principal reasons: Survival: the earthwork remains, which include the motte, survive well and have been little altered. Potential: the expectation that evidence of the construction and use of the castle mound will survive below the earth's surface is partially borne out by the evidence of stonework on the surface of the mound. Group value: with the nearby C12 Church of St Mary Magdalene (Grade IIstar).

Motte castles are medieval fortifications introduced to Britain by the Normans. They comprised a squat, flat-topped mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a wall or palisade, and/or a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte and bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. They generally occupied strategic positions, dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are some of the most impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the C11 to the C13, after which they were superseded by other types of castles.

Documentary sources indicate that the settlement at Hewelsfield was forcibly depopulated to expand the hunting forest (Royal Forest of Dean) after 1066, but was reconstituted into a manor in the C12. The Norman Church can be dated stylistically to the period 1175-1200. There is no evidence to indicate when the motte castle at the centre of the village was constructed, but it is likely to date from around this time, either as part of the consolidation of the countryside or as a matter of local defence.

The castle stands on a north-facing slope, below the summit of the ridge. The flat-topped mound is oval in plan, measuring approximately 27m N-S x 24m W-E at its base, and some 14m across the top. In order to create a level building platform, in relation to the sloping ground on which its stands, the height of the motte increases from south-north where the natural slope appears to have been artificially enhanced. Some scattered stones, which appear to have been worked are on the platform, although it is not clear if these are later than the original phase of construction. Although no longer visible at ground level, a ditch, from which material was quarried during the construction of the motte, surrounds the mound. This has become infilled over the years but will survive as a buried feature, approximately 5m wide.

Traces of a possible ditched enclosure which may have been either an incomplete or denuded bailey can be seen on aerial photographs as cropmarks on the northern side of the motte. The entrance to the platform appears to have been from the south side. Some scattered stones which appear to have been worked, are present on the surface, although it is not clear if these are later than the original phase of construction.

Extent of Scheduling: the monument boundary includes the mound and its infilled ditch, which is some 5m wide, plus a 2m margin around the motte for its support and protection. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Appears to have been scheduled as recently as 2010.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO566020
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 22
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 181
  • Rahtz, Philip et al, 1969, Medieval sites in the Mendip, Cotswold, Wye Valley and Bristol Region (Bristol Archaeological Research Group field guides 3) p. 15
  • Hart, Cyril, 1967, Archaeology in Dean p. 56, plate XXVb


  • Rawes, B., 1977, 'A Check List of Castles and other Fortified Sites of Medieval Date in Gloucestershire' Glevensis Vol. 11 p. 39-41 online copy


  • Williams, P., 2007, Hewelsfield Character Appraisal (Forest of Dean District Council) online copy