Duffield Castle, Derbyshire

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

There are masonry footings remains

NameDuffield Castle, Derbyshire
Alternative NamesDufelda; Castle Orchard
Historic CountryDerbyshire
Modern AuthorityDerbyshire
1974 AuthorityDerbyshire
Civil ParishDuffield

Duffield castle consists of the remains of a C12 tower keep castle together with those of C11 motte and bailey castle which preceded it, and also part of the remains of C6 or C7 Anglian cemetery and a Romano-British settlement which formerly occupied the area. Excavations indicate that the castle was built circa 1080 in earth and timber. This motte and bailey was destroyed in 1173, but in 1177-90 William de Ferrers built a stone keep. Modifications were made after 1250 and in 1266 the castle was demolished. A small medieval building was constructed after the demolition of the castle in the mid C13. (PastScape)

Duffield Castle is a reasonably well-documented example of a tower keep castle overlying an urban motte and bailey castle dating to the early years of the Norman occupation. Its strategic and administrative importance lasted from the 11th to the mid-13th century, during which time it played an important role in the political history of the country and was associated with a leading aristocratic family of the Middle Ages, the de Ferrers. Although the tower keep castle does not survive as a standing structure, limited excavation carried out in key areas has demonstrated that the buried remains of other features survive well and incorporate remains relating not only to the earlier and later castles, such as their defensive earthworks, but to periods of Anglian and Roman occupation. On the south west side of the monument, there is an area demonstrated to contain Roman remains which has not been disturbed by the construction of the castle and will therefore retain further intact archaeological deposits of that period

Outside the ditch on this side of the castle mound is a remnant of the castle bailey which has suffered little disturbance and will retain further archaeological evidence of the medieval and earlier periods of occupation.

Duffield Castle is located on high ground overlooking the confluence of the rivers Derwent and Ecclesbourne and the town of Duffield to the south. The monument includes part of the remains of the 12th century tower keep castle together with those of the 11th century motte and bailey castle which preceded it, and also part of the remains of an Anglian cemetery and a Romano-British settlement which formerly occupied the area. Also included are the remains of a small medieval building constructed after the demolition of the castle in the early 13th century. The land surrounding the monument was open until the early 20th century but is now occupied by access roads and housing dating largely to the 1920s. Gardening activity and small-scale excavations south west of the castle mound and in the gardens of some houses along Avenue Road have led to considerable quantities of Romano-British pottery being recovered. It is therefore clear that further remains relating to the earlier phases of occupation will survive in the suburbanised area. However, these have not been included in the scheduling except where the south west ditch and a small part of the bailey lie alongside the former driveway from Lime Avenue to Castle House, as their extent and state of preservation is not sufficiently understood. In addition, in 1887, when the site of the castle was described by the Rev J Charles Cox, it was said to include a bailey or outer enclosure west of the motte or castle mound. This bailey has also been partly covered by urban development. Although much of it survives within the gardens of houses on Lime Avenue and Castle Hill, it too is largely excluded from the scheduling as its full extent is unclear. However, Cox described the bailey as being separated from the castle mound by ditches on the north west and south west sides. Although the north west ditch no longer survives as a visible feature, having been buried beneath later housing, part of the south west ditch, which was partly excavated in 1957, can be seen alongside the driveway which formerly led from Lime Avenue to Castle House. The remnant of the castle bailey which flanks this ditch is included in the scheduling. It is considered likely, on excavation evidence, to retain Romano-British remains in addition to those of service buildings and other associated features of the medieval castle, such as workshops and corrals for stock and horses. Knowledge of the site of Duffield Castle derives principally from three part excavations carried out by Cox in 1886, Williamson in 1931 and Manby in 1957. The first revealed the foundations of a massive square sandstone tower built on top of a natural promontory which had been levelled and scarped to create a 4.5m high motte. The ground floor of this stone keep was divided by a wall indicating that it may have been an example of the rarer type of tower keep known as a hall keep. In the north west and south east corners were the remains of newel or spiral stairs while, in the south west corner, was a well. Entry to the keep was gained on the west side via a forebuilding or entrance annexe which would, originally, have contained a staircase leading to the first floor. Near the north west corner of the keep were found the bones of a young woman together with an amber bead, part of a brooch of the type called a cruciform fibula, and a stone spindle whorl. These grave-goods indicate that the burial dated to the sixth or seventh century AD and that the levelling of the area to create a motte had partly disturbed an Anglian cemetery of which further remains will survive both inside and outside the area of the scheduling. Cox also recovered large quantities of Romano-British pottery which indicated a Roman phase of occupation. Further Roman pottery was found south of the motte during the 1931 excavation. In the course of the 1957 excavation, a number of trenches were dug across the outer features of the castle to determine the nature of any defensive works. The bailey ditch on the south west side was described by Manby as being 40 feet (12m) wide across the top, 16 feet (4.8m) wide across the bottom and originally 15 feet (4.5m) deep. Material dumped and washed into it has reduced the visible depth to about 2m at its north west end though, at its south east end, it appears to drop to its original depth. From here it may formerly have extended round the south side of the castle mound through the garden of Castle House though this is not entirely clear. Finds recovered from the excavated ditch silts included Romano-British Derbyshire Ware, medieval pottery and a piece of a Roman flanged roof tile. Also on the south west side, between the ditch and the base of the motte, Manby noted a berm or terrace which he investigated and found to contain more Romano-British pottery very close to the surface, indicating that the area had been undisturbed by the construction of the castle and therefore retains further evidence of early occupation of the site. At its north west end, round the base of the motte, the terrace had been cut into during the Middle Ages by a shallow ditch which had become silted up and contained more Romano-British and medieval pot, a piece of daub, corroded iron and also a sherd of Saxo-Norman Stamford Ware pottery which would have been contemporary with the motte and bailey castle. Flanking the south west side of this inner ditch was a short stretch of banking which was found to include a post hole on the side facing into the inner ditch, a V- sectioned gully below and, at the south east end, two wedge-shaped sandstone masonry blocks which may have come from a gate arch. Medieval pottery recovered from this bank dated it to c.1250. A trench was also taken across the interior of the stone keep and the post holes of the earlier 11th century timber keep identified. Also found was a midden and the post holes and rubble foundations of a small building which Manby describes as post-dating the demolition of the stone castle. The excavated remains therefore indicate several phases of activity, the earliest of which dates to the third century AD. This was followed in the sixth or seventh century by a period of Anglian use, apparently as a pre-Christian cemetery. In c.1080, a motte and bailey castle with a timber keep was built. This work was most likely carried out by Henry de Ferrers who died in 1089. The timber castle was probably demolished in 1173 following the implication of William de Ferrers in the rebellion against King Henry II and the recorded loss to the Crown of his castles at Tutbury and Duffield. By 1177, William was back in favour and was restored to his estates at Duffield. It is probable that the construction of the stone keep began at about this time. There is no evidence, however, that the rest of the castle was rebuilt in stone and the next elaboration of the defences did not occur until c.1250 when the defensive bank was raised and a stone gatehouse possibly constructed. This activity coincided with the rebellion of Robert de Ferrers against King Henry III which resulted in the capture of Robert at a battle near Chesterfield in 1266 and the seizure of his estates by the Crown. Duffield Castle was subsequently demolished and the site granted to Prince Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. Masonry from the site was subsequently removed leaving only the foundations. After 1266, enough stone was robbed to construct a small building. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The great tower at Duffield was a considerable building, nearly 30m square, with a forebuilding, Mackenzie compares it to Dover although, as a whole, Duffield castle, lacking outbuildings and a masonry curtain wall was a considerable smaller castle. Nevertheless this was a major castle in a prominent position and must have very impressive.

- 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 ReferenceSK343440
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Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved

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  • Crisp, B., 2015, 'Duffield Castle: when and who?' Postern Vol. 27 p. 16-21
  • Speight, Sarah, 2008, 'Castles as Past Culture: Living with Castles in the Post-Medieval World' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 385-94 (slight)
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  • Williamson, F., 1931, 'Roman and other remains found at Duffield.' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 52 p. 107-112
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Primary Sources

  • Stubbs, Wm. (ed), 1867, Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi Benedicti Abbatis; Chronicle of the Reigns of Henry II and Richard I. A.D. 1169-1192 (London: Rolls Series 49) Vol. 1 p. 48 online copy
  • Great Cowcher of the Duchy of Lancaster II f. 98, n. 41 The National Archive


  • Guilbert, G., 2001, Duffield Castle, Derbyshire. Sample excavations across walls of the keep, August 2000 & February/March 2001. (Unpublished contractor’s report,Trent & Peak Archaeological Unit, report DFC3 ‘er’ 0301)