Chippenham Motte

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Palace (Royal)

There are no visible remains

NameChippenham Motte
Alternative NamesKing Arthur's Palace
Historic CountryWiltshire
Modern AuthorityWiltshire
1974 AuthorityWiltshire
Civil ParishChippenham

There is evidence for an undocumented motte immediately west of the Market Place. A large earthen mound was found there in the 19th century, found in conjunction with masonry including a Romanesque doorway. However there is lack of corroboration that this was a motte. (PastScape ref. Creighton)

By unbroken tradition the actual site of the King's residence in the Manor was that high ground now occupied by the houses above the Angel Hotel, Chippenham. The area in front of them has borne always the name of the PALACE SQUARE. Foundations of very old buildings have been discovered, and a decayed spiral stair case, cut in steps out of a solid trunk of a huge oak (forming originally the ascent to a turret,) was removed from that site about 1820, and left to perish by exposure to weather in a timber yard. In the garden behind the Square is a mound of earth of considerable height, which no doubt at one time bore a watch-tower, from which for ten miles around, might be observed the movements of an invading host. (Daniell 1894)

Gatehouse Comments

Traditionally a Saxon palace lay in the vicinity. This could have been a hunting lodge for Chippenham Forest but the town was also the centre for the Hundred of Chippenham and was a significant C9/C10 Saxon town, a Villa Regia, possibly with a royal mint. The Forest remained in Royal hands until the time of James I and the forester must have had a base somewhere, possibly in the town but the nearest royal residence for the post-Conquest kings seems to be Devizes, certainly after it was obtained in from the Bishop of Salisbury in 1139. It may be possible the Saxon palace had some brief royal use after the Conquest, although it may well have been in long term decline and ruinous, and it is likely it was retained as the site for Chippenham manorial and hundred courts (It was still the site of the County Court in 1886 and remains the site of the local magistrates court). As an important political and judicial building it is likely to have had some martial functions and forms. However, although the manor was Saxon royal demense it was broken up into smaller manors fairly shortly after Domesday and these were either granted to hereditary tenants, the church or used as temporary grants and the 'castle' (in the sense of a potential royal residence) was short lived and the town was insignificant for the rest of the medieval period. Although it seems probably there was a Saxon high status building here and a post-Conquest administrative centre the mound is not necessarily a motte and it may have been an early modern prospect mound within the walled garden of an up-market town house or even just a collapsed building mound. The given description are not specific enough to be certain although it should be noted the mound was not significant enough to be shown on C19 maps.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceST920731
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 89
  • Haslam, J., 1976, Wiltshire towns: the archaeological potential (Devizes: Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society) p. 15, 16, 77
  • Daniell, J.J., 1894, The history of Chippenham. Compiled from researches by the author, and from the collections of the late Rev. Canon Jackson (London: Houlston and sons) p. 5-6 online copy
  • Britton, John, 1814, The Beauties of England and Wales, or, Delineations topographical, historical and descriptive (London) Vol. 15 p. 528 online copy


  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 93 p. 108 online copy


  • Mcmahon, Phil, 2004, The Archaeology of Wiltshire's Towns An Extensive Urban Survey Chippenham (Wiltshire County Archaeology Service) online copy