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Therfield Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Therfield.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.
Medieval County of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL331371
Latitude 52.01697° Longitude -0.05822°

Therfield Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Despite some levelling, Tuthill motte and bailey castle is comparatively well- preserved and is unusual in that it has produced evidence for earlier occupation. Limited excavations have increased knowledge about the site and confirmed the survival of further remains containing important archaeological and environmental evidence. Archaeological remains will survive throughout the site but may be particularly significant in the areas of the bailey and village enclosure where evidence for the length and nature of occupation may survive. Environmental evidence will survive largely in the fills of the ditch and fishpond and may provide evidence for the economy of the site's inhabitants and the landscape in which they lived.
Tuthill motte and bailey castle is situated 50m north-west of St Mary's Church in Therfield. The monument includes a small motte, 14m in diameter at its base, 8m in diameter at its top and c.1.5m in height. The motte is surrounded by a ditch which has a maximum width of 5m and is 1m deep. The bailey which is situated to the south of the motte, is defined by a ditch and slight bank which survives as earthworks to the south and south-west. The bank measures 2.5m in width and c.0.4m in height whilst the ditch varies between 5m and 7m in width and has a maximum depth of 1m. These earthworks appear to continue westwards into the graveyard. Additional amorphous earthworks are visible north of the motte and are considered to be continuations of the castle defences. Directly south of the motte, within the area of the bailey, is a waterfilled fishpond, which measures 68m east-west by 10m north-south and may be contemporary with the rest of the monument. Excavations carried out in 1958 by M.Biddle confirmed the site as a mid 12th century motte and bailey with a probable contemporary village enclosure. Evidence from the northern part of the bailey showed that the enclosure was pallisaded. The castle fell into disuse early in the 13th century. However, in the area covered by the 12th century castle, an earlier Saxo-Norman occupation layer was found. This phase of occupation can be dated by pottery from 1050 to 1100. The site was then abandoned until the castle was built. (Scheduling Report)

A small mound approx. 14m in diameter and approx. 1.5m high, within a bailey defined by a ditch and slight bank to the S and SW, and containing further unidentified earthworks to the N. Interpreted by its excavator as a mid 12th century adulterine castle, abandoned shortly afterwards (Biddle 1964). An earlier, Saxo-Norman, occupation layer with pottery dating from 1050 to 1100 was excavated beneath the site of the castle. A water-filled fishpond, 68m by 10m, lies directly south of the motte, and may be contemporary. (Hertfordshire HER)

A supposed adulterine castle of Stephen's reign, excavated by M Biddle in 1958 in advance of destruction. (Later reprieved, but bailey area mostly levelled about 1960).
Excavation confirmed the site as a mid 12th century motte and bailey with probable contemporary village enclosure. Finds included pottery and domestic objects from within the motte and in the bailey enclosure. The motte was sectioned and showed no traces of supporting a structure, but it had a surrounding ditch originally circa 21ft wide and 3ft deep. The depressed centre was apparently dug by local treasure-seekers in about 1920.
Posthole evidence along the N bailey bank and ditch suggest the area was palisaded. The bailey ditch south of the motte was probably re-shaped for water requirements at a later date.
In an area approx as covered by the bailey enclosure, an earlier Saxo-Norman occupation level was found, (with St Neots, Stamford & 11th century sandy ware, quern fragments and bone implements) but pottery and stratification suggested this occupation lasted only from circa 1050-1100 and the site was then abandoned until the castle was built. A posthole (in the Saxo-Norman level) was the only positive evidence of a structure, although some pits of occupation debris were found. No positive dating evidence was found in the earthworks N & S ('B' & 'C' on plan) of the bailey, but a clay pipe stem from a quarry pit in area 'C' suggests the quarries were of a later date.
The conclusion of the excavation was that the 'castle' was constructed in the mid 12th century to protect Therfield, but was slighted very soon after, (perhaps the defences, particularly of the enclosure were never completed) and completely disused by the 13th century.
Two Roman silver coins (1st-2nd century AD) and (3rd-4th century AD) along with a few sherds that were discovered suggest a possible Roman occupation in this area (Biddle).
"Castle Mound" comprising a motte and bailey with associated banked and ditched enclosure, all under rough pasture.
The motte, circa 14.0m in diameter and 1.5m high with a depressed centre 0.4m deep, has indications of a surrounding ditch on the N side only. The bailey area W of the motte appears to be bounded on the S by a waterfilled ditch circa 11.0m wide, and on the W by a continuation of the enclosure bank and ditch. Little survives of the bailey works on the N side.
Amorphous earthworks confused by quarrying to the N of the bailey have no recognisable connection though they are possibly continuations of the enclosure defence.
The remains of the enclosure earthworks comprise an outer ditch and slight bank (0.4m high) with counterscarp, and within are traces of rectangular banked area and a linear bank running E-W (F1 JRL 09-FEB-73). (PastScape)

HERTFORDSHIRE: THERFIELD (TL/335373). Because the site was to be bull-dozed for agriculture, M. Biddle excavated, for the Ministry of Works, the mound and surrounding bank and ditch. The site proved to have been a very small motte-and-bailey castle. The mound, surrounded by its own ditch, was only 7 ft. high and 25 ft. in diameter. The body of the mound and a small ditch running below it contained a few sherds compatible with a mid-12th-century date.
The documentary evidence shows that between 1130 and 1160 part of the manor of Therfield, which belonged to the abbey of Ramsey, was alienated to Ralph of Therfield, Kt. This may well refer to the present site and suggests that it was an adulterine castle of Stephen's reign. The castle did not appear to have been finished. On the other hand, the posts of the palisade discovered along the bank of the bailey appeared to have been deliberately pulled out and the bank thrown down into the ditch. From this evidence it seems reasonable to suggest that the castle was built, but never finished, late in the Anarchy and destroyed some time soon after 1154.
Below the NE. entrance, sealed by the bank and cut by the ditch of the later castle, was a small, but complete, Saxo-Norman living area. This included what seems to be a dwelling-pit and other features, surrounded by a fence, and protected from surface water by drainage gullies, and yielded much St. Neots and Stamford ware. Except that it lies below the banks of the castle there is no other dating evidence. The position of the castle entrance road directly over the very soft filling of the dwelling-pit, suggests that the position of the earlier structure was not then known. (Med. Arch. 1959)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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