Little Ness Castle Mound

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameLittle Ness Castle Mound
Alternative Names
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishLittle Ness

The motte belonging to the motte and bailey castle south east of St Martin's Church is a good example of its class. It will retain archaeological information relating to its construction, age and the character of its use. Environmental evidence relating to the landscape in which it was constructed will be preserved on the old land surface sealed beneath the motte and in the fill of the buried ditch. Although not included within the scheduling, the area of the churchyard to the north occupies the site of the bailey and illustrates the close relationship between castles and parish churches in this region in the 11th and 12th centuries. Such monuments, when considered either as single sites or as a part of a larger medieval landscape, contribute valuable information concerning the settlement pattern, economy and social structure of the countryside during the medieval period.

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 south east end

The churchyard lies along the line of the hill and has maximum dimensions of 64m north west to south east 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. (Scheduling Report)

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 record card 1961).

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 (VCH 1908). Classed as a motte (Chitty 1947-8).

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. Trench 2 in the SE corner of the evaluation site revealed a similar but undateable pebbled surface, which in this case was sealed on its E side by a demolition deposit possibly of early post medieval date (Walker 1994). (Shropshire HER)

A large tumulus stands close to the church of Little Ness, about seven miles north-west of Shrewsbury. Mr Pidgeon informs me that some years ago he "delved at its side, and found quantities of animal bones and burnt woods." (Wright 1872)

Gatehouse Comments

Presumably the burnt wood and bone fragments found were from a activities associated with construction (burning scrub, construction feast?) rather than cremation remains. The modest Domesday manor was held by Reginald the sheriff and later was demense of the FitzAlans. The tenurial history given in Eyton does not suggest this was the site of a sub-tenanted holding but it is also not the site of a residence of the Sheriff or FitzAlans. The manor must have had a steward's house but it would seem unlikely this small but tall conical mound marked the site of that. What was the function of this mound? It is too small to have had more than a small tower on top of it and there was no resident military man. The bailey is now entirely occupied by the church (originally a chapel of the parish of Baschurch) and church yard although, possibly, it might have contain a small manorial hall originally as well.

- 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 ReferenceSJ407198
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  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 98
  • Watson, Michael D., 2002, Shropshire An Archaeological Guide p. 59-60
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 87 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 43
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 426
  • Parrott, P., 1935, Little Ness (Shrewsbury) p. 15-16
  • Wall (after Downham), 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Shropshire Vol. 1 p. 396-7
  • Wright, T., 1872, Uriconium (London: Longmans, Green and Co.) p. 47 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire (London: John Russell Smith) Vol. 10 p. 101- (tenurial history) online copy


  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Chitty, L.F., 1947-8, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 52 p. 248-9


  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 33 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 34 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 West Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 44 online copy
  • English Heritage, 1995, Scheduling Papers (Revision, 120/11/1995)
  • Walker, W.S.,1994, Land at Little Ness, Shropshire, An Archaeological Evaluation (Earthworks Archaeological Services Report)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1983, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 11112