Gannocks Castle, Tempsford

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameGannocks Castle, Tempsford
Alternative Names
Historic CountryBedfordshire
Modern AuthorityBedfordshire
1974 AuthorityBedfordshire
Civil ParishTempsford

Rectangular ward, embanked, with wet defences small motte at one angle. (King 1983)

Open area excavation was carried out on the site of a medieval moated enclosure within the grounds of Tempsford Park, Tempsford, Bedfordshire in advance of a new highway. A total area of 0.64ha was examined taking in about half of a medieval moated enclosure and adjacent areas to the north and south.

The excavation produced limited evidence for prehistoric and Roman activity. More intensive occupation began in the middle Saxon period, with a series of enclosures that produced associated pottery finds of coarsewares and Maxey-type ware. The late Saxon period saw the formation of an organised landscape, with ditched boundaries defining a series of rectilinear plots. Associated finds of pottery and other domestic artefacts indicate the nearby presence of occupied tenements, but no buildings lay within the excavated area. The boundary ditches were recut and realigned over their two hundred years of use, and in the late 12th century a timber aisled hall was constructed along with a possible detached kitchen range.

In the early 13th century a large moated enclosure containing a timber manor house was imposed onto the existing settlement landscape. The manor house comprised a hall with a parlour/solar range to the north and a service wing to the south, and it is presumed that the ancillary buildings lay to the east, beyond the excavated area. The building was both extended and refurbished in the 14th century, and the pottery assemblage indicates that it was abandoned in the early to mid-15th century

The buildings appear to have been systematically dismantled, and small amounts of late 15th to early 16th century pottery may relate either to picking over of the debris or continuing occupation on nearby plots.

In the late 18th century the moated enclosure was taken into Tempsford Hall Park, and underwent some landscaping, and at the end of the 19th century the moat was partially filled with dumps of brushwood, soil and domestic debris from the house. (Northamptonshire Archaeology)

Gatehouse Comments

Salter suggests the 'motte' is the base of buried tower. PastScape say alleged Danish fortification, probably C12/C13 manorial site. This is clearly a fortified manor house but it seems unlikely it was a meaningful castle site. However, some of the earlier descriptions mention traces of other earthworks and it may be that the site is a moat in part of an earlier larger construction. The association of this site with the documented Danish fortification of 921 should be noted and then dismissed.

- 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 ReferenceTL160529
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  • Petre, James Scott, 2012, The Castles of Bedfordshire (Lavenham: Lavenham Press for Shaun Tyas) p. 106 (discounted as castle)
  • Edgeworth, M., 2007, 'The Medieval Period' in M. Oake et al, Bedfordshire Archaeology. Research and Archaeology: Resource Assessment, Research Agenda and Strategy (Bedfordshire Archaeology Monograph 9) p. 100
  • 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. 223
  • Maull, A. and Chapman, A., 2005, A Medieval Moated Enclosure in Tempsford Park (Northampton: Bedfordshire Archaeology Monographs 5)
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 14
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 7
  • Dyer, 1972, in Fowler, P.J. (ed), Archaeology and the landscape: essays for L V Grinsell p. 224-6
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 138
  • Wadmore, Beauchamp, 1920, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire (Bedford) p. 65-9 (as Danish)
  • Hamilton Thompson, A., 1912, Military Architecture in England during the Middle Ages (London) p. 32-3 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Bedfordshire Vol. 2 p. 251 online transcription
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 385-6 online copy
  • Goddard, A.R., 1904, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Doubleday, H.Arthur and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Bedfordshire Vol. 1 p. 281-2


  • 2004-5, 'Gannock Castle Restoration' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 18 p. 84 (news report)
  • Shotliff, D., 1996, 'A moated site in Tempsford Park, Tempdford' Bedfordshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 online copy (large file)
  • 1994, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 24 p. 9-12 online copy
  • 1987, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 17 p. 5, 6 (plan) online copy
  • 1983, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 13 p. 4 online copy
  • Gould, I.C., 1901, 'Early Defensive Earthworks' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 7 p. 15-38 esp. 30 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 199-200 online copy
  • Clark, 1875, The Builder Vol. 33 p. 232-3


  • 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. 469-70
  • Northamptonshire Archaeology, 1999, Excavation of a medieval moated enclosure in Tempsford Park, Tempsford, Bedfordshire 1999 Assessment Report and Updated Research Design online copy