North Tawton Castle Court

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameNorth Tawton Castle Court
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishNorth Tawton

The motte 160m east of St Peter's Church survives comparatively well, despite some disturbance as a result of its position within a formal garden, and will contain archaeological information relating to its construction and use. It holds an important location close to the church.

This monument includes a motte situated on a gentle hillslope overlooking the valley of the River Taw to the east of the present centre of North Tawton. The monument survives as an approximately circular mound measuring up to 35m in diameter, up to 2m high and surrounded by a ditch up to 12.1m wide and a maximum 1.5m deep. The mound and ditch are bisected by a field boundary which runs in a north west to south east direction. To the east, the ditch and a small section of the motte are clearly defined within a field. To the west, the motte and ditch lie within a garden. The mound in this western area has been cut on the southern side by two depressions, which are consistent with the area having been landscaped at some time in the past. A small wooden summer-house has also been erected in this area while to the north and overlying the ditch is a large woodshed which abuts a garden wall. Beyond this garden wall the ground surface has been deeply cut away and levelled for formal gardens and further buildings. (Scheduling Report)

'The moated fort adjoining the churchyard' (Risdon).

Earthwork variously described as a moat or motte. Low mound, 2.7 metres high and 30.5 by 39.5 metres in plan. A moat which originally surrounded it is scarcely visible in places but survives to a depth of 1 metre on the south. Slight indications of entrance on south. Now bisected by a modern fence

Just over 30 metres to the north are the remains of another escarpment, much altered and destroyed by modern buildings (Wall).

Risdon refers to it as the manor house of the Valletorts, the moat being still visible in the early 17th century (Williams).

Moated site crossed by a wall from north-west to south-west. The east side is under short grass. Ditch circa 5 feet deep, bank circa 5 feet high. West side of wall very overgrown so extent of moat unclear. Date of site visit: 17th March 1970 (Scheduling Report).

Site visit: 17th June 1971. Appears to be a castle mound with a flat, and probably spread, top. The surrounding ditch is traceable on all but the west side where it has been destroyed. No sign, or likelyhood of entrance. The possible bailey suggested in a wall is now built upon. Site of manor or court house unknown but perhaps to the west of the mound. Mound and surrounding fields densely overgrown (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card).

More likely to be a motte than a moat. Probably founded during the early years of the 12th century, although a civil war context (1130s or 1140s) is not impossible (Higham, 1979). (Devon and Dartmoor HER)

Gatehouse Comments

This is a wide, low motte - a form more common than tall conical motte. The surrounding ditch is now mainly filled in but in its original form this would have been similar to later moated manor houses except for the ditch being circular rather than square. A possibly bailey was reported to the north in the VCH but that area is now built over. A later manor house and court may have been to the west of the motte and that area may also have been a lost bailey.

- 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 ReferenceSS666017
Latitude50.799919128418
Longitude-3.89435005187988
Eastings266600
Northings101750
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Books

  • Higham, Robert A., 1999, 'Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 136-43
  • Salter, Mike, 1999, The Castles of Devon and Cornwall (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 87 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 117
  • Wall, C., 1906, in Page, Wm (ed), 'Ancient Earthworks' VCH Devon Vol. 1 p. 614-5 (plan)

Antiquarian

  • Risdon, Tristram, 1811 (written c. 1620) The Chorogphaphical Description or Survey of the County of Devon (London) p. 291-3 online copy

Journals

  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Higham, R.A., 1982, 'Early Castles in Devon' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 9-10 p. 101-116
  • Williams, H.F.F., 1954, 'North Tawton: A Devon Market Town' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 86 p. 117

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