Woodnesborough; The Mount

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte)

There are no visible remains

NameWoodnesborough; The Mount
Alternative NamesWoodnesbeorb; Firtree Hill
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishWoodnesborough

N of Woodnesborough Church, at the published site, Hasted shows a large conical flat-topped mound called 'The Mount'. He describes it as' apparently artificial...consisting of sandy earth' and goes on to say' some years ago sundry sepulchral remains were found in the top including a cone beaker, a fibula, the head of a spear and some fragments of Roman vessels. Much of the earth or sand has been lately removed but nothing further has been found' (Hasted). A Frankish-type jug of coarse bluish pottery found with a circular jewelled brooch in a sandpit 'behind the Oak Inn at Woodnesborough' TR 30835689 (VCH) is almost certainly from this site, as are about 30 glass vessels found in the late C18 'very near the conical hill at Woodnesborough' (Douglas). These glass vessels were used by farm hands until all were broken except one, illustrated by Akerman, a C5-early C6 bell beaker (Harden). There is now no trace of the mound which, according to Clarke was moated. The site is occupied by an old, disused sand-pit and two modern bungalows. (F1 FGA 26-JUN-64). Probably the site of the very important late C6 Anglo-Saxon burial excavated c1845 by W.W Boreham. The grave goods are in Saffron Walden Museum (Davidson and Webster). Listed as a Saxon burial ground (Meaney). Listed by Cathcart King as a possible motte. (PastScape)

The church stands nearly in the centre of it, on high ground. At a small distance from the church is Woodnesborough hill, both of which are sea marks

This hill is a very high mount, seemingly thrown up by art, and consisting of a sandy earth, it has been thought by some to have been the place on which the idol Woden from whom this place is supposed to have taken its name) was worshipped in the time of the Saxons; by others to be the burial place of Vortimer, the Saxon king, who died in 457, whilst others suppose this mount was raised over those who fell in the battle fought between Ceoldred, king of Mercia, and Ina, king of the West Saxons, in the year 715, at Woodnesbeorb, according to the Saxon chronicle, which name Dr. Plot supposes to be Woodnesborough. Vortimer, as our historians tell us, at his death, desired to be buried near the place where the Saxons used to land, being persuaded that his bones would deter them from any attempt in future. Though authors differ much on the place of his burial, yet this mount at Woodnesborough is as probable, or more so, perhaps, than any other, for it was near to, and was cast up so high as to be plainly seen from the Portus Rutupinus, which at that time was the general landing place of the Saxon fleets. Some years ago there were found upon the top of it sundry sepulchral remains, viz. a glass vessel (engraved by the Rev. Mr. Douglas, in his Nænia;) a fibula, (engraved by Mr. Eoys, in his collections for Sandwich;) the head of a spear, and some fragments of Roman vessels. Much of the earth of sand has been lately removed round the sides of it, but nothing further has been found. (Hasted)

Gatehouse Comments

Origin as a Saxon burial mound (or non burial mound associated with the worship of Odin) does not exclude later adaptation and use as a motte. The destructive digging of C19 antiquarians, who's agenda seems to have been to find Saxon remains, may well have destroyed evidence of such adaptation and, even if seen, they may not have bothered with noting post-Conquest finds/evidence. However, apart from the location beside the church and Clarke's report the mound was moated (possibly a second hand report and not necessarily reliable), there is no evidence to support this being used as a castle.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTR308568
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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 237 (possible)
  • Meaney, Audrey, 1964, A gazetteer of early Anglo-Saxon burial sites p. 141
  • Read, C.H., 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 387 (plan) online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1800 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 10 p. 121- online transcription
  • Akerman, J.Y., 1853, Remains of Pagan Saxondom p. 33 plate 17.i online copy
  • Douglas, J., 1793, Nenia Britannica p. 71


  • Davidson, H.R.E., and Webster, L., 1967, 'The Anglo-Saxon burial at Coombe (Woodnesborough), Kent' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 11 p. 1-41 view copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 206 online copy
  • Clarke, G.T., 1881, Archaeologia Vol. 46 p. 206