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Lilbourne Roundhill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Hill Ground; Lilborune Gorse

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: SP55337714
Latitude 52.38950° Longitude -1.18839°

Lilbourne Roundhill has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a Siege Work although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The monument at Lilbourne Gorse is one of two closely associated motte and bailey castles which lie within 800m of each other. Both the motte and the bailey are essentially undisturbed and survive in good condition. The site has considerable potential for the survival of archaeological information on the period of construction and use of the castle and concerning its relationship to the second castle nearby.
This monument consists of a motte and bailey castle which lies just south west of Lilbourne Gorse, and approximately 0.9km to the north west of the village of Lilbourne. The motte and bailey survives as earthworks which cover an area measuring approximately 85m x 62m. The motte lies on the south of the site and is a flat topped round mound about 10m high. The mound is surrounded by a substantial ditch between 1.5m and 2.5m deep and in places up to 10m wide. On the north side of the motte lie the remains of a peripheral oval bailey. The edge of the bailey is defined by a slight rise in the land up to 0.5m high, and the ditch around the bailey is indicated by soil marks. The motte and bailey stands in an isolated position on high ground, looking towards Watling Street to the west. This castle lies 800m to the south west of a second motte and bailey which is located just to the north of Lilbourne village. (Scheduling Report)

Motte (SP 55337714; Fig 96), lies in the N.W. of the parish, immediately S.W. of Glebe Farm, on glacial gravels at just over 122 m. above OD. It stands on the E. edge of a prominent ridge with extensive views in all directions, including part of Watling Street (A5) which lies 450 m. to the S.W. Nothing is known of its date or history. The existence of another motte in the parish is unusual and difficult to explain.
The motte consists of a large circular mound 7.5 m. high, formerly surrounded by a ditch up to 2 m. deep. The latter has been damaged, especially on the N. where it is now hardly visible. The summit of the mound was once probably flat and 15 m. across, but a large L-shaped trench has been cut in it and extends down the N. and E. sides. Some of the spoil from the latter may have been dumped at the bottom of the mound on the S. side where there is a pile of earth projecting into the ditch.
There is little indication of a former bailey. The surrounding land is now under permanent cultivation but air photographs taken in 1945 before the area was ploughed (RAF VAP 106G/UK/636, 4159–60) show ridge-and-furrow to the S., E. and W. of the motte, with what appears to be a track extending S.W. from Glebe Farm and around the S. side. However it is just possible that a bailey existed to the N. of the motte. The outer edge of the ditch on the N.W. side runs on as a well-marked scarp up to 2 m. high and becomes the S.W. side of a modern pond. This may be the W. ditch of a former bailey. The field to the N. was already under cultivation in 1945, but a discoloured area with a curving N. edge is visible on the air photographs. Although this could indicate the area of the bailey the proximity of the modern farm suggests that it is more likely to be a recent feature. No finds have been made in the area.
In 1878 it was recorded that outside the motte ditch to the S.E. was a 'smaller and apparently sepulchral tumulus' (Arch. J., 35 (1878), 119). No trace of this now exists or was visible in 1945. The general area has quantities of relatively modern brick, tile and post-medieval pottery on it, probably to be associated with a farm on the site. (RCHME)

The large and impressive motte and bailey Lilborne castle beside the church is clearly the manorial centre of Lilborne. No clear explanation for the existence of the motte at Round Hill is known. There was a bailey to the north and Glebe Farm occupies its site. Has been called a possibly siege castle but there is no known siege and this is not really the form of a siege castle, which are generally, ringworks. There are three manors recorded in Domesday for Lllborne. In 1086 two are held by Earl Aubrey of Coucy (the smallest is sub-tenanted) and the third, about half the size of the largest, is held by Alfred the butler from Count Robert of Mortain. Presumably Lilborne castle represents the caput of the Coucy holdings in the East Midlands. Alfred the Butler, despite the English name, appears to be Norman and was wealthy, holding 50 manors as sub tenant of Robert Mortain. It is probable that Roundhill represents one of the manor house for one of these holdings in Lilborne. However the available tenurial histories of the parish are dated and unclear so attributions and more precise dating of the building of fortifications is currently speculative. Was one of these manors conveyed to the church at some point?
Roundhill is located overlooking Lilbourne village, in a position similar to many pre-historic burial mounds. Clark reported a smaller mound nearby which is now lost. Was it based on an existing earthwork?
It is fairly close to Watling Street and can see and be seen from that road. However, arguably, to control the road it should be situated nearer to the crossing of the Avon, at Dow Bridge.
May be the Catthorpe who the Sheriff of Leicestershire was ordered to 'thrown down' ( prosternendo ) in 1218.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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