Cleobury Mortimer Castle Ditches

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

There are earthwork remains

NameCleobury Mortimer Castle Ditches
Alternative Namescastle of the Mortimers; The Castell Dike; Cleoberi
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishCleobury Mortimer

In the Domesday Book the manor of Cleobury was held by Ralph de Mortimer. Cleobury Castle is first mentioned in 1154 when it is recorded as being destroyed by Henry II after de Mortimer's rebellion. By 1179 it must have been rebuilt, as Hugh de Mortimer came from overseas to reside at Cleobury. Leland visited the site between 1538 and 1545, and noted that there was a castle at Cleobury, by the church, the plot is yet cawled the Castell Dyke…In 1740 a Mr Childe founded the school that adjoins the site. In 1759 in a lease between Mr Childe and Mr Holland of Castle Ditch, it is noted that the house at Castle Ditch was burnt down and that part has been closed for a bowling green. … The First Ed OS (half inch scale?) map of 1825 indicates a mound on the site, whilst that of 1883 (6in scale?) shows no mound…. Hulbert in 1837 states that the school premises occupy part of the site of the ancient castle and that William Glazett who was forming a bowling green where the school now stands, 70 or 80 yrs ago, found remains of walls and foundations that were dug up-and some coins-passed to Mr Holland a solicitor. The OS 25in scale map of 1902 shows no mound, indicates site of a castle and new buildings to N and S of the site. A note in the TCSVFC in 1909 records that little more than an encircling moat could be seen. In 1911 Auchmuty in 1911 states that stones forming the causeway or bridge across the ditch may still be seen, but he appears to be referring to the Castle Toot site. The site forms part of the topographical feature known as Castle Ditch which has been badly mutilated by C19 and C20 development. The ditch and mound it surrounded are clearly shown on the First edition OS Map. The outer bailey is suggested by topographical features of the surrounding street pattern and perhaps parts of stone retaining walls still to be in the High St (Teare M. 1986

Site History)

The northern slope of the probable motte is still visible, though only about 1m high and much degraded. There is a house on the top (Site visit report: Burrow Ian. 1976-Feb-13).

In September 1993 an archaeological evaluation was carried out in the grounds of Lacon Childe School, which was thought to occupy the site of the bailey of the castle. Five trenches were excavated, located away from the built up areas of the site. Trenches A and B produced only post medieval features. Trench C contained a double posthole of probable medieval date and a shallow ditch with a fill containing C12 / C13 pottery. In Trench D the remains of an oven or small kiln were found. Trench E was located adjacent to a footpath separating the school from the site of the motte. It had been suggested that at this point the footpath lay within the ditch around the motte. The trench revealed traces of a wall constructed of thin fragments of sandstone bonded in red clay which contained two sherds of early medieval pottery. The middle of the wall was cut by what may have been the remains of a robbed out wall running south-west. The dating of the oven in Trench D is problematical. The Roman pottery from the layer sealing the oven was highly abraded and is likely to be residual, although conversely the single piece of medieval pottery recovered from the same context might just possibly have been intrusive. Parallels for similar features come from both Roman and medieval contexts. The oven's small size and the lack of associated pottery wasters would suggest that it was not used for pottery production. Both the ditch and the double post hole in trench C were sealed by a layer containing a substantial amount of medieval pottery ..The pottery from the bonding of the wall in Trench E dates its construction to the C12 or later, whilst the layer sealing it dates its destruction to some time before the early C17. The location of this feature immediately adjacent to the supposed line of the ditch separating the motte from its bailey raises the possibility that it might have formed part of the bridge across the ditch. The evaluation showed that significant features of medieval date survive in good condition beneath the present lawns to the north, east, and south of the main block of school buildings. The recommendation was therefore that, although they do not merit preservation IN SITU, they should be preserved by record, and any development in these areas should be preceded by further full scale archaeological excavation (Hannaford 1993)

CMHTS Comment: The extent of the component is hard to define, but antiquarian accounts suggest that Childe's school built 1740 (cf PRN 10826) occupies part of the castle, probably an outer bailey to the east, defined by street pattern. By the mid 19th century the castle was "ploughed up and planted with potatoes" (cf PRN 5490) (Foxall H D G. Transcript of Cleobury Mortimer Tithe Map (1846)). Field investigation in 1994 showed that the motte survives as an earthwork c3.0m high and defined by a lane on the East which is c1.0m below general ground level and may mark the ditch. The motte slopes to the South and merges with sloping natural topography. Further East it is harder to distinguish the motte, although a distinct steep slope can be observed, with a level area above where houses now stand. The whole extent of the motte and adjacent areas is built over or landscaped as private gardens

{information} indicates that little now remains upstanding of this castle which is situated within Cleobury Mortimer (a small medieval market town). A small part of the motte is reported to survive as an earthwork about a metre high. The rest of the site has been built upon and has been landscaped since the late 19th century. An archaeological evaluation conducted in 1993 in relation to a housing development in the area of the bailey encountered medieval structural features and pottery dating to the 12th century. A small oven or kiln was also found associated with sherds of Roman and medieval pottery. Not visited (Alternative Action Report: Reid Malcolm L. 1999-Sep-08).

A detailed study of the part of the motte at 4 Castle Hill describes a surviving earthwork about 3 metres high, defined by a lane to the east, which is 1 metre below the general ground level and may mark the line of an outer ditch. The report also suggests that the proximity of the motte to the parish church (itself possibly on the site of a pre-Conquest minster - see PRN 05468) may indicate that it sits on an occupation site of pre-Conquest date. The report contains detailed documentary and cartographic research on the castle site (more than given in this summary). It suggests that the defensive circuit of the castle may originally have included the parish church site and an area extending to the High Street, and that some form of proto-urban settlement may have grown up here in the shadow of the castle. Though the castle appears to have been rebuilt after its destruction in 1155, there are virtually no post-12th century documentary references to a castle. The impression given is that the site had developed from a fortress into a manor house by c1300, with the focus of occupation possibly on the northeast side of the motte, on the site of the Lacon Childe School, where the 1993 evaluation produced remains of that date. A similar change of function occurred at other Marcher castles, including those owned by the Mortimer family. Early post-medieval references suggest that the castle had been abandoned by the early 16th century. Though the subsequent history of the site is poorly documented, it appears to have been at least partly built up in the 18th century, until affected by fire in 1775-6, after which it appears to have been cleared and used in part for a bowling green and in part for arable. There are references in contemporary documents to the disturbance of medieval remains during the associated landscaping works, and to the transfer of building stone taken from the site to Kinlet Hall. The report traces the subsequent developments on the castle site through the sequence of 19th century maps.

The archaeological recording with which the documentary research was associated produced similar results to the earlier evaluation at 4 Castle Hill, producing evidence of motte deposits and overlying post medieval soils (Excavation report: Priestley S. 2006. Documentary survey and emergency archaeological recording: No 4 Castle Hill, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire. Border Archaeol Rep. BA0626ICM) (Shropshire HER)

The fact that the castle was the chief manor of the extensive Mortimer estates in Shropshire, and was occupied by the Mortimers in the 12th century, may indicate that there was a substantial complex of buildings at the castle (SA 3248). Little is known of the detailed structural sequence of the castle, although part of a stone bridge between the motte and the bailey has been identified (Hannaford 1993). (Dalwood, 2005)

Location of the 'Castle of the Mortimers', originally a motte and bailey. The castle still existed in the 18th century and foundations and coins have been found from time to time. The site is now largely occupied by housing and schools. A small part of the motte survives as an earthwork about a metre high. Archaeological evaluation in 1993 located a kiln or oven and Roman and Medieval pottery- the latter dating to the 12th century. Whilst the castle may possibly have been demolished in 1154 and later rebuilt, close dating of the development of the castle is hampered by the fact that key medieval documents are ambiguous as to whether they refer to this site or Castle Toot, also in the same parish. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

(See also Castle Toot, Cleobury Mortimer)

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO673758
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  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 59-60
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 37
  • Hannaford, H.R., 1993, An archaeological evaluation at the Lacon Childe School, Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire (Shropshire Archaeology Unit report 39)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 18
  • Auchmuty, S.F., 1911, The History of Cleobury Mortimer p. 5 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1857, Antiquities of Shropshire (London: John Russell Smith) Vol. 4 p. 193- (tenurial history) online copy


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 399
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 189 online copy


  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • 1909-12, Transactions of the Caradoc and Severn Field Club Vol. 5 p. 60

Primary Sources

  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1879, Historical works, the Chronicle of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (Rolls series 73) Vol. 1 p. 162 online copy


  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • Hannaford Hugh R., 1993, An Archaeological Evaluation at the Lacon Childe School, Cleobury Mortimer (SCCAS Rep. Rep 39)