Etonbury, Arlesey

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Ringwork), and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameEtonbury, Arlesey
Alternative Names
Historic CountryBedfordshire
Modern AuthorityBedfordshire
1974 AuthorityBedfordshire
Civil ParishArlesey

Ringwork and bailey(s) defaced by railway. Record in PastScape as "Supposed Danish earthwork/dock ? Homestead moat/manorial site." but listed as medieval ringwork. King writes - Ringwork with one, or two, baileys and burgus defence he notes that this earthwork is often ascribed to the Danes.

A probable Danish "harbour" site lies on the River Hiz, but is so mutilated by the construction of the railway and road that its layout is uncertain. (Dyer)

A "rectangular harbour area" measuring 250 ft N-S by 150 ft E-W is apparent, with a smaller enclosure 140 ft by 50 ft leading off from its SW corner. The harbour is fed by a stream running into it from the E, but the location of the original entrance into the river is uncertain. To the N of the harbour are two massive curved banks with external ditches enclosing a fortified area. This may originally have been D-shaped, the straight side abutting the harbour, but it is largely overlaid by the railway. A rough sketch by Lysons (circa 1800) shows an entrance linking the enclosure with the harbour area, but this is no longer visible. It seems certain that it was later used for manorial purposes particularly on the E side (not shown on Dyers' plan). Etonbury, an earthwork of uncertain origin generally as depicted on the plans by Wadmore and Dyer, but since mutilated in the south by a fly-over over the railway, by a sewage trench cut through the centre from N to S in 1972, and by ploughing to the E of Pix Brook. The situation is on the W end of a ridge fading into the drained flood-plain of the River Hiz. (PastScape-field Investigators comments)

Gatehouse Comments

Almost certainly manorial earthworks. Earthworks were clearly too large and complex to just be a homestead moat, although a smaller, later, manorial site within the earthworks is possible. Now heavily damaged. Lowerre and Petre dismiss this as a castle site because of the similarity in form and supposed history with Willington Danish Docks a site which has been excavated and found not to be Danish but C12-C13. However, Etonbury has not been excavated and there remains a possibility of earlier origins, including being a ringwork castle.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL192379
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Petre, James Scott, 2012, The Castles of Bedfordshire (Lavenham: Lavenham Press for Shaun Tyas) p. 99-101 (discounted as castle)
  • Lowerre, A.G., 2005, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd: BAR British Series 385) p. 217 (C12-C13 moated site)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 12
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 4
  • Dyer, J.F., 1972, 'Earthworks of the Danelaw Frontier' in P.J. Fowler (ed), 1972, Archaeology and the landscape: essays for L V Grinsell p. 222-36
  • Wadmore, Beauchamp, 1920, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire (Bedford) p. 57-9
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Goddard, A.R., 1904, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Doubleday, H.Arthur and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Bedfordshire Vol. 1 p. 278-80


  • Baker, D., 1982, 'Mottes, Moats and ringworks in Bedfordshire: Beauchamp Wadmore revisited' Château Gaillard Vol. 9-10 p. 35-54
  • Kennett, D.H., 1973, Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 8 p. 138 online copy (large file)
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127


  • Lowerre, A.G., 2004, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (PhD thesis: Boston College) p. 440-1