Mount Ferrant Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameMount Ferrant Castle
Alternative NamesBurythorpe; Mountferaunt
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishBirdsall

A motte and bailey castle situated on a narrow promontory projecting westwards from the foot of Birdsall Brow. This spur, with steep scarps on three sides, offers a naturally defensive position and only slight additional fortification was required. Because of the topography of the site, the motte and bailey has an unusual form but the essential elements of this type of castle, a main stronghold and one or more outer courts, have been identified. The spine of the promontory rises gradually from east to west and its highest point, a slight knoll near the western end, served as the motte; although there is no evidence that the top of the knoll has been artificially raised, it was made more defensible by a 2.5m deep ditch on the eastern side and a corresponding but slightly shallower ditch on the western side. To the east of the motte, the promontory is divided into three baileys by earthworks cut transversely across the ridge. The western bailey is at a slightly lower level than the motte and measures 50m by 50m across, its eastern edge is marked by a 5m high scarp to the base of a ditch. This ditch is 25m wide and its 2m high eastern scarp rises to the middle bailey, a relatively flat area measuring 100m east-west and up to 60m north-south. The eastern bailey is separated from the middle bailey by a slight ditch and measures 200m east-west by 100m north-south; the ground falls quite steeply to the east where the promontory joins the foot of the Wold scarp. Here the existing field boundary incorporates the outer defences of the bailey; these take the form of a 2m high earthen bank with a 10m wide outer ditch which lie across the narrow neck of the promontory. The construction of the castle is attributed to Nigel Fossard. There is documentary evidence that the castle was constructed largely of wood. It must have fallen out of use by 1150 when it was dismantled and timbers were given to monks for their building works at the newly founded abbey of Meaux

The destruction was completed, in around 1173, by Henry II to punish the young Lord William Fossard. Commanding views over the surrounding countryside are possible from the highest point of the castle; it overlooks the Roman road to Malton which runs just over 100m to the west of the castle and which will have remained as a strategically important routeway in the medieval period. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The narrow and prominent ridge make a particularly defensive site. However this location seems to have cut the castle off from its surrounding community and its usefulness as a site soon lost and giving the timber to Meaux Abbey in 1250 would have been little hardship and the final 'destruction' of the castle in the 1170s may have been trivial event recognising a pre-existing state.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSE795639
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  • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 243
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 63
  • Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 21
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 513
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 250
  • Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield) p. 125
  • Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 2


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 544, 545, 568
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 58 online copy


  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)

Primary Sources

  • Clay, C.T. (ed), 1952, Early Yorkshire Charters, Vol. 9: The Suteville Fee (Leeds: Yorkshire Archaeological Society Extra Series 7) p. 89, 90


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
  • Creighton, O.H., 1998, Castles and Landscapes: An Archaeological Survey of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (PhD Thesis University of Leicester) p. 580-1 online copy
  • Bannister, N., 1994, The Birdsall Estate, Yorkshire: Historic Landscape Survey 3 Vols. (Unpublished Report: N. Yorks. SMR)