Cockroad Wood Motte, Charlton Musgrove

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameCockroad Wood Motte, Charlton Musgrove
Alternative NamesCockroadwood; Wincanton; Penselwood 2
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthoritySomerset
1974 AuthoritySomerset
Civil ParishCharlton Musgrove

The site in Cockroad Wood survives as a particularly intact and undisturbed example of the class, and is one of a number of motte and bailey castles in the area.

The monument includes a motte and bailey castle on the western edge of a summit outlying the hills of the Somerset/Wiltshire border. The site would have commanded extensive views although it is at present surrounded by conifer plantation. The castle includes a motte lying on the east edge of the site between two external baileys, the larger rectangular bailey on the level ground to the south and a small sub-triangular bailey sloping down to the north-west. The motte is a conical mound 6m-7.5m high and c.13m broad on the top, with an uneven surface, and is ditched except on the steep west side. The rectangular bailey has an internal area of 0.3 ha., defended by a bank 1.5m high internally and a ditch 1.5m-2m deep externally, with a counterscarp bank up to 1m high on the south-west. The defences become a scarp and terrace on the steeper west side. On the far side of the ramparts from the motte there is a projecting terrace between the bank and ditch, and it is possible that this formed an abutment for a bridge. The bailey is subdivided by internal banks, or perhaps raised walkways, into three smaller areas, at the junction of which is a slight platform. The smaller bailey encloses 0.07 ha within a bank up to 1.5m high, a ditch up to 1.5m deep, and a counterscarp bank up to 1m high. The banks of the baileys separate them from the ditched motte. The bailey defences adjoin on the west and run up to the motte either side of a neck of ground. There are no obvious entrances to the castle, suggesting the use of bridges, walkways and steps. There is another motte and bailey castle 2.5km to the east in Wiltshire, and a possible site at Ballands Castle 1.5km to the south-east

The castle was in the medieval parish of Wincanton, the manor of which, together with Castle Cary and Bridgwater (both with a castle), was held at the time of the Domesday survey by Walter of Douai. By the reign of Henry II the hills in which Cockroad Wood castle was situated had become a royal forest and the castle would have been redundant. (Scheduling Report)

Motte with two baileys, one to the S and the other to the NW, the whole situated along a ridge running N-S. The S bailey appears to have been divided into three smaller enclosures and there is evidence of a slight platform at the junction of these. No masonry is apparent in the construction and there is no obvious entrance, though there may have been one to the E of the motte where the ditch around the S bailey ends. The small counterscarp, partway down the bank around the S bailey, appears to be contemporary but has no obvious purpose (OS Record) Strong defensive position. The motte is 6-7.5m high from the bottom of the ditch which completely encircles it and which is 1-1.25m deep and 13.5m wide The motte has a flat irregular top some 13.5m diameter with no traces of stone buildings. The rectangular bailey to the S is surrounded by a strong bank and ditch. On the W it is scarped out of the hillside, on the S the ditch is 1.5-3m deep and the inner bank 4.5m high, on the E the ditch is 1.5m deep with the bank 3m high. The bailey appears to be divided by an internal bank but it is not visible clearly because of the undergrowth. In addition there is a triangular shaped bailey on the NW side of the motte with dimensions 36m N-S and 32m at its widest point. This bailey lies under a fir plantation with some silver birch as well. Bracken is growing in the ditches The remaining areas of the site are surrounded by fir plantations but were obviously carefully avoided when the trees were planted. Birch trees are invading this clear area which is covered with bracken (HBMC Field Monument Wardens report). Motte and bailey castle on the edge of a summit. Counterscarp bank outside bailey ditch on S. On the far side of the bailey rampart from the motte is a projecting terrace between bank and ditch (referred to as a small counterscarp in earlier entry above), and it is possible that this formed an abutment for a bridge. One of the internal banks in the bailey leads from inside this, and the banks may have been raised walkways. The smaller bailey on the NW is enclosed by a bank, ditch and counterscarp bank; it has been suggested that this may be a ringwork and overlain by the motte (Aston and Burrow). Both baileys are separated from the ditched motte by banks. There are no obvious entrances to the castle, suggesting the use of bridges, walkways and steps (Preece). The land was held by Walter of Douai at the time of the Domesday survey, together with Castle Cary and Bridgwater, both of which later had a castle. By the reign of Henry II the area had become a royal forest (Dunning, R., 1993 per corr). (Somerset HER)

Gatehouse Comments

One of three closely spaced castle, the others being Ballands Castle and Castle Orchard. This may well have started as a military camp built during the invasion of Wessex in 1067 but development of the site after this time may have been more connected with providing hunting and convenient accommodation near the major cross country road (now the A303).

- 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 ReferenceST746321
Latitude51.0883712768555
Longitude-2.36387991905212
Eastings374610
Northings132180
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Martin Hibbert and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.

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Books

  • Prior, Stuart, 2006, A Few Well-Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War (Tempus) p. 68-109
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 82
  • Dunning, R.W. (ed), 1999, VCH Somerset Vol. 7 p. 170-77 online transcription
  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 51
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 442
  • Aston, M. and Burrow, I., 1982, The Archaeology of Somerset: A Review to 1500 A.D. (Taunton: Somerset County Council) p. 125
  • Bothamley, 1911, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Somerset Vol. 2 p. 513

Journals

  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Wiltshire' Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 93 p. 112online copy

Other

  • 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. 2 p. 125 Download via EThOS
  • Preece, A., 1993, English Heritage Monuments Protection Programme fieldwork