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Farthingstone Castle Dykes

In the civil parish of Farthingstone.
In the historic county of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough.
Modern Authority of Northamptonshire.
1974 county of Northamptonshire.
Medieval County of Northamptonshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP618567
Latitude 52.20469° Longitude -1.09638°

Farthingstone Castle Dykes has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Castle Dykes is a well preserved example of a substantial but isolated motte and bailey castle with two well-defined inner baileys, and an embanked outer bailey. The undisturbed remains of the motte mound contain foundations of a stone castle, making this one of the best surviving examples of its type in Northamptonshire.
The monument consists of the motte and bailey castle known as Castle Dykes which lies to the north of the village of Farthingstone. The mound of the castle motte stands 5m above the surrounding ditch and is about 80m in diameter at its base. The remains of stone walls are identifiable on the motte mound. The motte is centrally placed between two lateral inner baileys which lie to east and west of the motte. The baileys consist of well defined floor areas, approximately 70m wide in the west bailey and about 62m wide in the east bailey. Both are surrounded by a substantial bank 3m high. To the north of the motte and inner baileys lies the outer bailey which measures about 108m x 110m. The whole monument is enclosed by a large ditch up to 3m deep, with an outer bank up to 2.5m high. A causeway crosses the ditch and provides access from the outer bailey to the western inner bailey. (Scheduling Report)

Motte and baileys (SP 618567; Fig. 68), known as Castle Dykes, stands in the N. of the parish on almost level ground on Northampton Sand at 152 m. above OD. Most of the site is overgrown and difficult of access. Immediately to the E. the ground falls steeply into a deep valley and to the S. is another steep-sided tributary valley. The castle thus has a superb site with extensive views to the N., E. and S. and only on the W. and N.W. are there no natural obstacles.
The motte stands in the centre of the S. side and is circular, up to 2 m. above the natural land-surface and 4 m. above the bottom of the wide encircling ditch. The summit is edged by a low bank some 3 m.–4 m. wide and up to 0.5 m. high, apparently constructed of stone rubble. The interior of the motte has a large depression 1.5 m. deep in it, perhaps as a result of the digging there in the 18th century. On each side of the motte is a semicircular bailey, that on the W. being more regular than the one on the E., each bounded by a massive bank up to 2.5 m. high above a broad outer ditch. A gap in the E. side of the E. bailey appears to be modern. In the S.E. corner the bailey ditch bifurcates and the branches are separated by a length of bank. No reason for this can be seen. To the N. is a third, large, D-shaped bailey bounded by a bank 2.3 m. high and, except in the S., by an outer ditch up to 1.75 m. deep. The N.E. corner of the ditch has recently been destroyed by a modern track. The interior is under cultivation. There are two apparently modern entrances into it on the N.W. and E. and an original causeway links this bailey to the S.W. one across its S. ditch.
Workmen digging for building-stone on the site before 1712 are said to have discovered a 'room with a vaulted stone roof, and another room beneath', as well as 'rudely carved' stones with human figures on them (J. Morton, Nat. Hist. of Northants. (1712), 543; G. Baker, Hist. of Northants., I (1830), 375; Whellan, Dir., 416; VCH Northants., II (1906), 409; Plans and Sections, 1841, Dryden Collection, Central Library, Northampton). A medieval floor tile, said to be from Castle Dykes, is in the possession of Daventry School. Nothing is known of the history of the site but in its present form it presumably dates from the late 11th or the 12th century. However it is possible that part of the outer ramparts are of Iron Age origin, particularly those of the two semicircular baileys. Roman finds said to be from this site may in fact have come from the prehistoric enclosure to the S. (RCHME)

300m to the south, at a slightly higher elevation lie the earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort. This appears to be a genuinely isolated castle, 1.75km from the village and church of Farthingstone. However, unlike other isolated castles, this is a major earthwork clearly more than would be need to defend a farmstead. There were two manors in the time of King Edward recorded in Domesday in Fordinestone the second an eighth the size of the first but both are held by the noted castle builder Robert of Mortain in 1086. Did Mortain decide to build a castle on the second small manor? If so for what reason? Mortain had nearly 800 manors across England including a concentration in Northamptonshire so it is just possible this was a local caput for his manors west of Northampton. There appears to be little strategic value to the site (Weedon Bec, 3km north-east, also held by Robert Mortain, lies on Watling Street).
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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