Middleton Stoney Castle

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

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameMiddleton Stoney Castle
Alternative NamesMiddelton'; Mideltune
Historic CountryOxfordshire
Modern AuthorityOxfordshire
1974 AuthorityOxfordshire
Civil ParishMiddleton Stoney

Middleton Stoney motte and bailey castle survives as an impressive earthwork and is a good example of its class. It is known from excavation that it contains archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, function and the landscape in which it was built. The castle is unusual in being built on the site of an earlier Roman building and early medieval enclosure. It also appears to have been central to various changes in land management during the later medieval period: an enclosed warren was built to the south east of the castle in the 17th century, while village earthworks and traces of cultivation surround the site. A standing cross was moved into the castle bailey, perhaps from the nearby churchyard, while further landscaping occurred in the 18th century. The complex sequence of development witnessed in and around Middleton Stoney Castle will be of interest in studies of landscape evolution generally, providing evidence for the different ways in which the local inhabitants regarded this site throughout the course of the last 2000 years.

The monument includes a motte and bailey castle at Middleton Stoney set within an earlier enclosure bank which also includes a Roman building, the base of a medieval cross, which has been relocated to the castle bailey from the nearby churchyard, an early post-medieval rabbit warren and a sample of the surrounding medieval field system where it meets the castle earthworks. The site lies within parkland adjacent to All Saints Church c.250m south west of the present village of Middleton Stoney. The castle includes an earthen motte built around a stone tower, enclosed by a deep ditch and, to the north west, a later bailey with a bank and ditch enclosing a series of buildings, courtyards and other associated features. Only the earthwork motte, sections of the bank and partly infilled sections of the ditch remain visible at ground level

However, it is known from part excavation during the 1970s that substantial remains survive as buried features. The tower has 3m thick walls which enclose a rectangular area 10.5m by 7m across. Its walls survive, within the mound of the motte, to 1.3m high, resting on the original ground surface. The tower's long axis runs roughly north west-south east and all four corners are buttressed. Within the width of the wall in the eastern corner of the tower, a 1.7m by 1.4m wide shaft was found. When excavated this was found to be 3.2m deep and is believed to have been a water tank. A staircase running up the north west side of the motte and then up the outside of the tower on the south east side was also found. The motte was originally circular although it has since been distorted in shape by landscaping. It measures c.36m in diameter and stands c.4m high. Surrounding it, but no longer visible at ground level, is a broad, flat-bottomed ditch c.5m wide and 3m deep. This ditch provided a quarry for the material of the motte and also contributed to the overall plan of the defences. The main bailey ditch to the north west measures 5.5m wide and c.1.5m deep, although it is now mostly infilled. The enclosure measures 70m by 100m across. Within it, excavation has shown that there are a number of buildings, pits, walls and other features which relate to the period of the castle's occupation. Within the bailey are the remains of a medieval standing cross, Listed Grade II and once sited in the adjacent churchyard. The cross includes a square based octagonal socket stone c.0.8m across upon which rests the broken base of an octagonal shaft c.1.5m high. The top of the shaft and the head of the cross are no longer present. It is known to have been one of two standing crosses shown on a farm map of 1737. The whereabouts of the other cross is no longer known. The castle lies to the north west of a small rectangular enclosure aligned north east-south west. This enclosure is defined on three sides by an earthen bank c.10m wide and up to 1.5m above the present ground level. The area enclosed measures c.70m by c.35m. Part excavation has shown that this bank is surrounded by a ditch 3m wide and c.2m deep although it is now largely infilled. Both features were modified during the later landscaping of the park. The excavations showed that the bank overlay a surface associated with a Roman building, suggesting that the bank is of early medieval date. The building was rectangular in plan with its long axis running north east-south west. It measures 12.5m by 7.9m internally and has walls c.0.5m thick. These were built of limestone with the outer face of dressed blocks and a rubble core. The building had a gulley feature running along it and was later modified. Further Roman structures and sections of wall were found, suggesting that the site was either a farmstead or small villa. To the south east lies a further banked and ditched enclosure which measures 130m from north west-south east and 110m from south west-north east. The bank is c.3m wide and stands up to 1.5m high, above the original ground surface. Its adjacent quarry ditch lies inside the bank and although largely infilled, is known from limited excavation to measure 2.5m wide and 0.7m deep. Pottery evidence dates the ditch fill to the post- medieval period and the enclosure almost certainly defines a warren, recorded in documentary sources, though it may originally have been associated with the castle. Surrounding the castle and still visible in places, despite later landscaping, are traces of medieval fields and ridge and furrow cultivation. Traces of these extend well beyond the monument but are not visible at ground level immediately adjacent to it. It is known from documentary sources that the castle was probably built by the de Granville family during the late 1100s in a period known as the Anarchy. In 1202 they were granted the right to create an enclosed park but only a few years later, in 1216, there was a royal order for the destruction of the castle. It was visited by Leland in 1530 when the ruins were overgrown but some walls were still visible above ground. It is also documented that Sir Edmund Denton built a banked and walled warren before 1700. Further landscaping, mainly in the 18th century, has further changed the appearance of the monument to its present form. (Scheduling Report)

The evidence from Middleton Stoney would now suggest the following chronology:

1) an Iron Age setlement, probably a farmstead of indeterminate size dating from c. 200 BC to the Roman occupation;

2) a Romano-British farmstead dating from the late C1st through to c. 200 AD;

3) the replacement of this structure by a villa/farmstead to the E, so far unlocated but identified through the sealed layers beneath the rampart;

4) possible post-Roman occupation, so far identified by a single pottery find;

5) a late Saxon fortification/enclosure, traces of which have now been found beneath the rampart and the make-up for the base of the Norman keep;

6) the Norman stone keep;

7) the C13th manor house, built in the eastern and western enclosure of the dismantled castle. (Rowley 1978)

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 ReferenceSP532232
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Primary Sources

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  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 433 online copy