Pinsley Motte, Southwick and Widley

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NamePinsley Motte, Southwick and Widley
Alternative NamesPortsdown; Port Down
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire (City of Winchester)
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishSouthwick and Widley

One of the least common forms of Norman earthwork - a square bailey with a corner mount of somewhat higher elevation than is usual in this county, and possessing the unusual feature that the bailey bank and ditch completely surround the mount and that its ditch does not merge with that of the bailey; it stands separated from the bailey bank by a space of 10 - 20 feet.

The mount, in the NE corner of the bailey, is about 20 yards in diameter, and rises about 3 feet above the remains of the level area on the SE side. It is completely surrounded by its ditch, which measures 30 - 40 feet from lip to lip and is 13 feet below the level of the mound where this is best preserved.

The bailey remains perfect only on the N of the mound. Here the bank rises 5 feet above the area and 10 feet above the bottom of the ditch. A band of chalky ploughland about 40 feet broad but now quite level (not shown on plan) indicates the line of the western side. There is an entrance, apparently original, in the N side of the bailey, opposite the centre of the mound, and a low bank runs from the NW side of the mount ditch and joins the N bank of the bailey.

The Portsmouth - Southwick road cuts diagonally across the site from SE - NW, and large chalk-pits and shallow irregular diggings have further destroyed the remains, only the NW half of the bailey, together with the mount, now remaining. There are now no traces of foundations, or of a well (Williams-Freeman).

The castle mound, intact but heavily overgrown, is encircled by a ditch. The bailey bank (and, along the overgrown northern side,

its outer bank) is well preserved to the east of the road, except where cut through by chalk pits. The interior of the bailey on this side has been completely quarried away by shallow chalk pits

The area to the west of the road is under plough and no trace of the bailey bank survives (F1 VJB 10-AUG-55).

Ploughing has reduced the motte to a slight spread mound of unsurveyable proportions, and has erased all other features to the S of it. Some 40.0 metres of the bailey bank, with traces of the ditch, remain either side of the N entrance, covered with undergrowth (F2 ASP 20-JAN-69). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

A damaged site that was reportedly of unusual form and large size situated on an apparently isolated site on a slope overlooking Portchester. There does not seem to be any dating evidence to support the identification as a Norman site. The road cutting through the site seems to be relatively modern the older route, to the west, being marked by a lane (called Drove Road) and a footpath. Has any critical investigation been made of this site? Is there any dating evidence - the road was widened fairly recently - did these works find dating evidence? Are there alternative explanations for this earthwork (ie C17 fieldwork; C17-C19 practice field work; Medieval hunting lodge with viewpoint)? It may be that, if there is little or no medieval material, this just shows a site of a very short life as possibly a centre of an unrealised manor that got absorbed into the grant of land made in 1133 that set up Southwick Priory.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSU639073
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  • Osborne, Mike, 2011, Defending Hampshire: The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present (Stroud: The History Press) p. 243 (listed in Appendix)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 50
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 192
  • Williams-Freeman, J.P.,1915, An Introduction to Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire (London) p. 266-7, 394
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 3 p. 161-65 (parish history only) online transcription


  • Hughes, Michael, 1989, 'Hampshire Castles and the Landscape 1066-1216' Landscape History Vol. 2 p. 27-60