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Preston Capes Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Preston Capes.
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: SP57625492
Latitude 52.18952° Longitude -1.15853°

Preston Capes Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Motte (SP 576549; Fig. 125; Plate 3), known as Preston Capes Castle, stands on the summit of a N.-projecting spur on the N.E. side of the village, on Upper Lias Clay, at 165 m. above OD. On all sides but the S. the land slopes steeply from the edge of the motte ditch and there are extensive views, especially to the N.
The exact date of the construction of the castle is unknown but it was probably built soon after the Norman Conquest. In 1086 Preston was held by Nigel of the Count of Mortain (VCH Northants., I (1902), 328). Around 1090 it certainly existed, for a Cluniac Priory was founded at that time by Hugh de Leicester 'ajoining his castle' at Preston Capes. Nothing more is known of the castle, but the site remained the centre of the manor, even though the priory was moved to Daventry in 1107–8. The existing Manor Farm, which stands to the S.E. of the motte, is the modern successor to the medieval manor house (VCH Northants., II (1906), 109–110). On a map of 1742 (NRO) the area is called Castle Hill.
The site consists of a small conical motte some 4 m. high with a flat top 27 m. across. The S. side has been cut and mutilated by farm buildings and if there ever was a ditch at this point no trace of it survives. Elsewhere at the base of the motte is a shallow ditch no more than 1 m. deep which still holds water at one place. Along the outer edge of the ditch is a small bank only 0.25 m. high which, externally, is little more than a steepening of the natural hillside.
No trace of a bailey survives, although previous workers have suggested that one probably occupied the flatter ground to the S.E. (E. S. Armitage, Early Norman Castles (1912), 190); another source suggests that a slight depression to the S. might be the remains of its ditch (OS Record Cards). However, although it is likely that there was a bailey in this area, the present Manor Farm and its buildings have destroyed all trace. Various low scarps and shallow depressions S. of the farm appear to be the remains of old farm buildings.
Below the castle, at the bottom of the spur and curving around its base, is a large bank with a broad ditch on its S., uphill, side. The bank is between 1 m. and 2.5 m. high, with the greatest elevation at the ends. At its S.E. end the ditch broadens out into a wide depression, with what appear to be old quarry pits above it. The ridge-and-furrow to the N. terminates well short of the bank which is therefore contemporary with or older than the medieval ploughing. No date or function can be assigned to this feature. (RCHME)

The remains of motte and bailey castle seen as earthworks, recorded as being in existence by 1090. The motte has a flat top and is 80 to 90ft in diameter, with a slight breastwork. The motte is situated on the edge of a plateau, and 16ft down the steep north side a ditch with an outer bank embraces half the mound. Lower down is another longer ditch and rampart. It is probable that there was a bailey to the south east. (PastScape - derived from Armitage)

Hugh de Leicester, sheriff of Northamptonshire about the year 1090, placed four Cluniac monks in his church of Preston Capes; lack of water and other inconveniences, including the close proximity of Hugh's castle, rendered the place unsuitable for the establishment of a monastery and caused its removal to Daventry. (VCH, 1906, p. 109)

Preston Capes motte is good example of an early post-Conquest castle and is located close to a Cluniac Priory. Although the motte mound is relatively small, the earthworks are well preserved and the surrounding waterlogged ditch retains considerable potential for the survival of organic remains.
The earthwork remains of the motte and bailey castle at Preston Capes stand on the summit of a north facing spur on the north east side of the village. The motte consists of a conical mound over 4m high with a flat top about 27m across. The motte is surrounded on all sides except the south by a partially waterlogged ditch over 1m deep, and the land slopes steeply in a series of narrow scarps from the edge of the motte ditch. Below the motte on the north- east side, a bank up to 2m high indicates the extent of the original bailey area on that side. The part of the bailey which lay on the flatter ground to the east and south-east of the motte has been built over and archaeological remains are not thought to survive. The motte was the site of a castle built soon after the Norman Conquest, most likely by Nigel of the Count of Mortain who held Preston in 1086. The castle was certainly established by 1090 when it was recorded that Hugh de Leicester founded a Cluniac Priory adjoining his castle at Preston Capes. The site remained as the centre of the manor through the medieval period. (Scheduling Report)

Recorded as a ringwork by King.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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