Totternhoe Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameTotternhoe Castle
Alternative NamesTotternhoe Knolls
Historic CountryBedfordshire
Modern AuthorityBedfordshire
1974 AuthorityBedfordshire
Civil ParishTotternhoe

The motte comprises a conical mound surrounded by a broad ditch on all but the south west side. It is enclosed between two baileys. The smaller, western bailey is oval in plan and defined by a bank, while the eastern bailey is triangular in plan with a well shaft, known as the 'Money Pit' towards its west side. The third bailey lies immediately to the east. It is rectangular in plan and extends eastward along the spur. The earliest written reference to the castle dates from between 1170 and 1176. The medieval quarries lie on the hillside below and to the north and north west of the motte. They survive as a series of infilled pits, spoil heaps and extraction scars. East of the castle, a series of cultivation terraces or lynchets can be seen. These descend 30 metres from the 152 metre contour, forming steps which average 3 metres in height and terraces roughly 5 metres wide. A geophysical survey undertaken in 2001 indicated a buried trackway, running from the western arm of the outer bailey towards a track which still follows the upper terrace. It is thought that these lynchets may have developed during occupation of the castle. (PastScape–ref. Scheduling report)

Gatehouse Comments

The VCH suggested that the outer bailey may have been a Roman camp and Dyer suggested the site may have started as an Iron Age promontory fort, but put forward no evidence beyond the obvious similarity with other such sites. However, the 2001 resistivity survey, over the inner and outer baileys revealed evidence for an earlier field system on the outer bailey site, suggesting that the castle was built on the site of a prehistoric and Roman enclosure.

- 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 ReferenceSP978221
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Copyright Marc Cohen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk East of England Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 15 online copy
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  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 17 online copy
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  • EH Scheduling amendment, 09-SEP-2003