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Beaumont Castle, Mixbury

In the civil parish of Mixbury.
In the historic county of Oxfordshire.
Modern Authority of Oxfordshire.
1974 county of Oxfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP61013407
Latitude 52.00173° Longitude -1.11268°

Beaumont Castle, Mixbury has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

Beaumont Castle, listed as an earthwork of mount and bailey type, having two courts. The flat top of the circular mount is 30 ft across and 9 ft above the ditch bottom and lies at the north end of the west bank of the almost square northern court, whilst the south bank of the southern court conforms to the course of the adjacent road, approximately northwest to southeast. (VCH, 1907)
Beaumont Castle was probably built by Roger D'Ivry, who held the manor in 1086, and nicknamed Beaumont because the ground N of it falls to the stream. Excavations in 1954-5 revealed a deep well or dungeon at the NW corner of the earth ramparts with an underground passage leading out of it. (oral report) (VCH, 1959)
The excavations were a private venture and have completely removed the NW corner. They were done by the Whiteley brothers, one of whom lives at Warren Fm, Finmere, not Mixbury, and the other in London. Nothing was published but the results were as noted above (authy Mr Whitely). Of the earthworks, the outside ditches are tree and bush covered and the interior clear. The surface of the N court is much disturbed, doubtless grass-covered foundations, but forming no coherent patterns. The S court is clear. (F1 BHS 11-OCT-73)
The gardens of a row of new houses ranged along the W side have resulted in an apparent narrowing of that outer ditch. There is no surface evidence of a motte and I find it difficult to believe that such could have been completely removed by an amateur excavation; authority 2 (1907) refers to a "circular mound" but such is not published on the OS First Edition or any other map/plan consulted, and for defences of this nature one would expect a motte of considerable stature. This site was almost certainly an early defended timber hall with double court. (F2 FDC 12-NOV-73)
A castle is recorded at Mixbury in the late 12th century or early 13th century when it was in possession of St Valery. (Brown, 1959) (PastScape)

The main enclosure is surrounded by a ditch 3.0m deep with an inner bank 0.9-1.2m high. The interior has many bumps which may hide foundations. The outer court ditch and bank are stronger, reaching a maximum depth and height of 3.6m and 1.5m respectively on the south side. According to the VCH the NW corner contained a lower mound, but this has now been flattened (Scheduling Report)
Possible bailey enclosure to north (Aerial Photographs. Northants County Council photos, G Foard (1984))
Possible barbican to west of village street (Field Notes/Field Visit. J M Steane, Dr I Burrow, 18.3.86)
Identified as motte and bailey castle for MPP
Castle probably built by Roger D'Ivry who held the manor at the time of Domesday survey; subsequently it passed to the St Valery family. It has been suggested that this castle may have been the principal manor of the honor of St Valery (VCH, 1959) (Oxfordshire HER)

Beyond the church, on the north side of Church Lane, the impressive banks and ditches of Beaumont castle can be seen. No masonry remains above the ground and the earthworks alone survive of this important early medieval fortification. This castle was probably built by Roger d'Ivry and nicknamed Beaumont because the ground north of it falls to the stream. Recent excavations (1954–5) revealed a deep well or dungeon at the north-west corner of the earth ramparts with an underground passage leading out of it. (VCH 1959)

There is a good sized earthwork and an historical record to a castle here (although medieval use of the term castle was nuanced). The suggestion that "a motte of considerable stature" is to be expected appears to a un-nuanced modern use of the term castle. In fact, a low mound such as described by the 1907 VCH is quite typical for many castle sites most of which were a 'defended timber hall'. The 1950s 'excavation' may just have found a stone lined well with some short horizontal adits designed to ensure a better water supply. However, there may have been a tradition of early stone towers in Oxfordshire (c.f. Radcot) and further investigation of the site (at least a geophysical survey) may be worthwhile.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated on Sunday, October 19, 2014

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