Nant y bar, Dorstone

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameNant y bar, Dorstone
Alternative NamesMynyddbrydd Tump 2
Historic CountryHerefordshire
Modern AuthorityHerefordshire
1974 AuthorityHereford and Worcester
Civil ParishDorstone

earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle, situated on the eastern tip of an east-west ridge, near the head of the Golden Valley. The ridge slopes steeply down to tributaries of Pont-y-Weston Brook to north and south. The remains include an earthen motte mound of circular form, c.32m in diameter at the base, whose steep sides rise c.3m to a top of roughly 22m diameter. An earthen bank runs around the rim of this otherwise flat top, barely visible in the eastern quarter but standing to a height of c.0.6m and c.2m wide to the west. This bank will have supported a timber palisade around the motte to enhance its defences. The motte is surrounded by a ditch which is now mostly infilled, but is clearly visible as an almost continuous circle of thicker and darker grass up to 4m wide. Around the north and west it remains as a depression c.0.3m deep, and is narrower around the south and east where the ground slopes steeply away. Where the ground slopes less steeply to the north, north east, and westwards along the ridge, an earthen bank has been cast up outside the ditch, to improve the defences of these more vulnerable areas. To the north west and east this counterscarp bank is visible as a slight rise some 3m wide, but to the north it survives up to 0.5m high, probably due to its incorporation into a later field boundary bank. To the ENE the ditch is interrupted by a causeway which continues as a hollow up the side of the mound. A small amount of masonry is visible in this hollow, at the foot of the mound to the right of it, and in the counterscarp bank near its junction with the causeway. This causeway probably represents the original access to the motte, the masonry perhaps being the remains of stairs or footings for a bridge. The motte castle 230m north west of Nant-y-bar is part of a concentration of medieval defensive monuments in the area

It commands impressive views in all directions, and is most closely associated with the separately scheduled motte and bailey at Mynydd Brith, only 500m to the NNE. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Phillips makes the point that the motte is larger in volume than the volume of the ditches and may, therefore, be an enlargement of a pre-existing earthwork, such as a barrow. He states a small bailey may have existed to the north-west but, if so, it has been destroyed by ploughing. He considers this site either to be an early 'watch-tower' motte or a later 'fortified site' (a farmstead?). The modern farmhouse in 150m SE and, Gatehouse suspects the motte is its precursor. It may have been constructed as a 'watch tower' but it may be questioned if the funding and organisation existed to maintain such a function over any length of time.

- 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 ReferenceSO278410
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Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image
Copyright Philip Halling and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image

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  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 110-164
  • Phillips, Neil, 2005, Earthwork Castles of Gwent and Ergyng AD 1050-1250 (University of Wales) p. 267-9 Download from ADS
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, Castles of Herefordshire and Worcestershire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 52
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  • 1981, Herefordshire Countryside Treasures (Hereford and Worcester County Council) p. 43
  • RCHME, 1931, An inventory of the historical monuments in Herefordshire Vol. 1: south-west p. 57 No. 4 online transcription
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Herefordshire Vol. 1 p. 236


  • Sterling Brown, R., 1988, 'Preliminary Results of Castle Survey' Herefordshire Archaeological News Vol. 50 p. 44
  • 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
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12 (listed as siegework)
  • Marshall, G., 1938, 'The Norman Occupation of the Lands in the Golden Valley. Ewyas, and Clifford, and their Motte and Bailey Castles' Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club p. xciii, 150 online transcription