Chisley Mount, Down End

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameChisley Mount, Down End
Alternative NamesChidley Mount; Bally Field; Downend; Chefdelmunt; Caput Montis
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthoritySomerset
1974 AuthoritySomerset
Civil ParishPuriton

Despite part of the mound of the motte having been truncated, the earthworks of the monument at Down End survive well. Their form is indicative of a motte with two baileys constructed in a strategic position on high ground above the marshland, which would have offered some natural defence in former times. The monument is known from partial excavation to have been occupied in the Norman period and to contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.

The monument includes part of a mound and three broadly concentric banks, collectively forming the earthwork remains of a motte with two baileys. The major part of the earthwork is located in an area known as the Bally Field, situated at the extreme northern end of the Polden Hills, a long ridge of high ground aligned broadly from north west to south east above the adjacent Somerset Levels. The mound forms a motte and the banks, which are located at the foothill of the mound to the north and east, define the extent of the inner and outer baileys. The natural contours at the end of the narrow Polden ridge have been modified to create the mound. A trench was cut along the western side of the hill and the inner edge scarped thus forming a sub-circular mound approximately 30m across and rising to approximately 4m high above the surrounding ground level on the west side, gradually diminishing in height to the east. Part of the mound on the south and the south east side has been truncated in antiquity by the construction of a track. A single linear bank up to 6m wide located 25m to the north of the mound and curving to the east to form an angle, defines an area which is considered to represent an inner bailey

A second area, representing the probable outer bailey is located approximately 30m to the north and is defined on the north and east sides by two broadly parallel banks, little more than 2m apart with an average width of 10m and an average height of 1m. There are no indications on the ground to suggest that the baileys were enclosed on the west and south sides by earthwork banks and it has been suggested that the site would have been protected in those areas by the surrounding, now reclaimed, marshlands. A partial excavation adjacent to the bank of the suspected inner bailey was undertaken in 1908 and revealed evidence for Norman and later occupation of the site. Pottery identified as pre-Conquest in date was also recovered, which suggests that the site may have an earlier origin. (Scheduling Report)

Earthwork remains of a Motte, and inner and outer baileys, on Chisley Mount or Chidley Mount (now called Bally Field). The earthworks consist of a motte and two baileys on its northern side. The motte has been formed by scarping the western end of a natural ridge where it terminates on low, level ground. Its eastern side, in private gardens, is poorly defined and several pits have been dug into the top. The single bank of the inner bailey, and the twin banks of the outer bailey, have been constructed on level ground, not by scarping the slope. There banks end abruptly on the west. Excavations in 1908 recovered Norman and later pottery and iron objects. (PastScape)

The name Caput Montis, later Chefdelmunt or Chisley Mount, was given in the later 12th century to the prominent western end of the Polden ridge where a castle has been identified and a borough was established. The form la Donend, later Downend, occurs in 1281.

A mound, thought to be a motte, was excavated in 1908 and produced early Norman pottery, although earlier finds from the site were thought to have been Roman. No traces of stone building were found and no medieval written record of a castle has been discovered. However, references to a piece of land called the castle bailey occur between 1562 and 1640, a ditch ran beside le Baly in 1505, and a plot at the site was called Bally in 1842 and the Bally field in 1908. (VCH 2004)

Gatehouse Comments

King writes these are slag heaps. Although not near Puriton Church could be a manorial centre with hamlet of Down End representing incipient township. Prior (2007) suggests that the castle utilises a D shaped earthwork of possible Viking origin. The site will have suffered particular erosion from river flooding and an somewhat unusual origin as a Viking work may also have produced an unusually form which may explain why this site was rejected by King. It does seem probably there was Norman development and use of this site. A great number of castle sites were said to be Danish camps in the C17-C19 on the bases on folklore. The early C20 work of Ella Armitage and others, mainly historical research but also some early archaeological work, showed mottes to be of Norman origin but this was soon generalised into all castles were of Norman origin with Danish and Saxon origin then being routinely dismissed as fable. The reality is castles are complex and varied in origin and use and any general theory of origin and/or function will be have exceptions. (Philip Davis 20-10-2014)

- 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 ReferenceST309413
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  • Prior, S.J., 2007, 'Strategy, symbolism and the downright unusual: the archaeology of three Somerset castles' in M. Costen (ed), People and places: essays in honour of Mick Aston (Oxford: Oxbow Books) p. 76-89
  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 68-109
  • Dunning, Robert (ed), 2004, VCH Somerset Vol. 8 p. 146-60 online transcription
  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 37
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 446 (reject)
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 288-9
  • Beresford, Maurice, 1967, New towns of the Middle Ages: town plantation in England, Wales and Gascony (New York) p. 483-4
  • Burrow, Edward J., 1924, Ancient Earthworks and Camps of Somerset (Cheltenham and London) p. 124-5
  • Bothamley, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Somerset Vol. 2 p. 518-19
  • Page, Wm. (ed), 1906, VCH Somerset Vol. 1 p. 360


  • Chater, A.G., Albany, F., 1909, 'Excavations at Downend' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 55 p. 162-174
  • Dymock, C.W., 1877, 'Megalithic antiquities at Stanton Drew' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 23 p. 35

Primary Sources

  • BM Skinner mss 33716 folio 105 (C16 reference to castle bailey place name)
  • Bodlian museum Aubrey mss 15 folio 122 (C16 reference to castle bailey place name)
  • Elton, C.I. (ed), 1891, Custumaria of Glastonbury (Somerset Record Society 5) p. 4 online copy
  • 1884, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fifth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1158- 1159. Now first printed from the original in the custody of the Right Hon. the Master of the Rolls (Pipe Roll Society Publications 1) p. 20 (Renn suggests this as the site for which Burgriht was paid.) online copy


  • Prior, Stuart, 2004, "Winning Strategies" An Archaeological Study of Norman Castles in the Landscapes of Somerset, Monmouthshire and County Meath, 1066-1186 (PhD thesis; University of Bristol) Vol. 1 p. 79-80; Vol. 2 p. 136 Download via EThOS
  • Prior, S, 1999, 'An Earthwork Survey of a Motte and Bailey Castle at Downend, Puriton, Sedgemoor' (MA Course work)