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Lilbourne Castle

In the civil parish of Lilbourne.
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: SP56117747
Latitude 52.39254° Longitude -1.17710°

Lilbourne Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Lilbourne motte and bailey castle lies within 800m of a second motte and bailey at Lilbourne Gorse and occupies an important strategic position at the crossing point of the River Avon. The monument presents a well preserved example of a motte castle with two peripheral baileys and an associated fishpond.
Lilbourne motte and bailey castle lies just to the north of Lilbourne village, close to All Saints Church. The castle is located just south of the River Avon beside a crossing point of the river. The earthworks of the motte and bailey castle cover an area measuring approximately 140m x 100m. The motte is a round conical mound about 10m high, which is surrounded by a ditch 2m deep on the north, south and east sides. To the south east of the motte lies a substantial peripheral bailey, about 35m square. The bailey has banks up to 3m high around its inner edge on all but the north side, and is surrounded by a ditch up to 5m wide. A further bank, about 1m high, lies on the outer edge of the south side of the bailey. To the north east of the motte mound is sited the remains of a second smaller peripheral bailey area, oval in shape. This bailey is surrounded by a ditch and has a slight inner bank on the south east side. Lying outside the motte and bailey to the north east is a small rectangular fishpond which was associated with the castle and was connected by a water channel to the ditches of the bailey. The castle is located 800m to the north east of a second motte and bailey at Lilbourne Gorse. (Scheduling Report)

Motte and bailey (SP 56117747; Figs. 97 and 98), known as Lilbourne Castle, lies N. of the village, near the almost isolated parish church. It is situated in the valley bottom close to the R. Avon, on alluvium and river gravel at 95 m. above OD. Its position is in marked contrast to the other motte in the parish and it appears to control the river crossing. Nothing is known of its date or its history, but the two stages of development visible in the surviving earthworks suggest that it may have started as a small motte and bailey of the late 11th century and was then rebuilt and strengthened perhaps in the mid 12th century.
What appears to be the earliest part of the site consists of a tall conical motte, now 7.25 m. high, with a surrounding ditch and a small sub-rectangular bailey on its N.E. side. The bailey is bounded by a ditch up to 2 m. deep with an inner bank on its S. and E. sides but has been damaged by later activity, including the use of the ditch on the N. side as a track. To the E. of this bailey is a large rectangular depression, probably once a fishpond. To the S.E. of the motte is a later bailey consisting of a rectangular raised platform bounded on three sides by a massive bank and surrounded by a ditch up to 2 m. deep. The bank is some 2.5 m. high except at the S. and S.E. corners where it rises a further 1.5 m. to two prominent mounds. The great size of this bank, and the fact that the bailey is constructed on ground rising out of the valley-bottom, means that it dominates the adjacent motte as well as improving the tactical position of the site from the S.
To the N.E. of the later bailey and immediately S.E. of the fishpond is a small circular mound only 0.25 m. high. It may overlie ridge-and-furrow, but this is not certain. Its purpose is unknown. To the E. and S. of the site is a series of ditched and embanked enclosures, many with ridge-and-furrow within them, that extend S. and form part of the settlement remains (3). A number of hollowed trackways approach and skirt the site but their relationship to it is not clear (air photographs in NMR; RAF VAP 106G/UK/636, 4160–1; CUAP, AGU82, AKP62, AWQ5; Arch. J., 35 (1878), 117–8; 90 (1933), 380; plans and sections, 1842, in Dryden Collection, Northampton Central Library).

For some reason (flooding in the C14 is suggested) the village of Lilbourne has moved south leaving the castle and church somewhat isolated but the earthworks of the village tofts and crofts as well as considerably amounts of ridge and furrow survive in a remarkable state of preservation making this an almost text book example of a medieval village.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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