Topcliffe Maidens Bower

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameTopcliffe Maidens Bower
Alternative NamesTadenclif; Topclive; Topclyve; Topclyffe; Topclyf; Tapcliff; Toppeclivia; Topeclive; Toppecliua; Toppecliffe; Toppeclyve; Toppeclyf; Thopclive; Topp'
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishTopcliffe

Norman motte and bailey castle, known as 'Maiden Bower', along with the moated site and windmill mound of 'Cock Lodge', the manor house which succeeded the castle. Also included is a linear outwork located in a separate area 200m to the north of the River Swale on a narrowing spur of higher land between the Swale and its tributary the Cod Beck. The motte is an earthen mound located at the southern tip of the spur and would have been largely surrounded by impassable marshes during the Middle Ages. The mound is 60m in diameter at the base, rising about 15m from the floodplain to the flat top 10m in diameter. Unusually, the sides of the motte are terraced in three stages, although this may be a slight alteration resulting from later medieval gardening and landscaping works associated with the manor house. The tip of the natural spur forms a small platform to the south-east of the motte whilst, on the north-west side, a 2.5m deep ditch separates the motte from the D-shaped bailey. The bailey measures 80m by 60m across and its defences are formed by a ditch 10m wide by up to 1.5m deep strengthened by an inner bank which is 2m high in places. A slight earthwork, comprising a bank and ditch of maximum width 12m, runs from the north-eastern arm of the bailey across the floodplain of the Cod Beck; this may have been a causeway crossing the former marshes. North-west of the bailey, a strip of land about 60m wide is known to have been ploughed recently and there are no visible earthworks, although this area will retain buried features linking the castle with the moated site. The moated site occupies a major part of the spur between the two rivers; it is unusually large, the island measuring 200m by 160m across, and has a five- sided plan. The south-eastern arm, facing the earlier castle, comprises a 5m wide, 5m deep ditch running across the spur and has a 2m high inner bank with an entrance gap at its mid point

The inner bank continues along the north- eastern arm, although it becomes less substantial, and the side of the valley has been modified to make it steeper; the ditch along this arm, which was recorded in a survey published in 1912, has been altered since then by the passage of farm vehicles and a gap in the bank is modern. The north-western arm is formed by a ditch which is 8m-12m wide by 1.5m deep with a 1.5m high inner bank and has an old causewayed entrance at its mid-point, while a modern entrance is located at the south end of Winn Lake. The two remaining arms run along the western edge of the spur which has been modified to form a 5m high scarp falling steeply from the island platform to the floodplain; no ditch has been observed here. About halfway along the south-western arm, a ditch runs north-eastwards into the interior of the island for a distance of 80m, defining the north-western edge of a slightly raised rectangular platform measuring 90m by 60m. A low bank runs along the south-eastern edge and at the western side of the platform is an oval mound 15m in diameter and 2.5m high. The platform is the site of the manorial buildings, the mound being the base of a type of windmill. Other slight earthworks are visible over the rest of the moated island, indicating areas of medieval agricultural and horticultural activity. North of the moated site, the Swale and its tributary lie up to 650m apart and the intervening land levels out into a wide plain. At this point, the spur is cordoned off by a bank and ditch; although slightened over the years by agricultural activity, the 8m wide bank is 1m high in places, while the ditch is incorporated into the present field boundary on the north side of the bank. The motte and bailey may have been erected in 1071 and was re-fortified by Geoffrey Plantagenet, Bishop of Lincoln, during the de Mowbray rebellion in 1174. Topcliffe was the 'demesne' or home manor of the Percy family from the time of the Doomsday and it was still held by them after 1200 AD, when the prestigious manor house was constructed. The moated site is also known as 'Manor Hills'. (Scheduling Report)

Motte and bailey castle was built at the strategic location of the junction of the River Swale and Cod Beck, about 1071 AD and re-fortified in 1174. The motte is separated from the bailey by a deep ditch. The Motte is 4m high, 20m in diameter at the base and 11m in diameter on the summit. The bailey, surrounded by a ditch, encloses about 1 acre. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

This motte has been terraced to allow spiral access to the summit (in the post-medieval period) as part of a landscaped garden. This was the principal residence of the Percy's until the early part of C14, when Henry de Percy purchased the barony and castle of Alnwick. Much of the written histories, particularly after the C13 probably refer to the adjacent Cock Lodge

- 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 ReferenceSE409750
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Copyright Matthew Hatton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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