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Chipping Norton Castle

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SP31082746
Latitude 51.94469° Longitude -1.54832°

Chipping Norton Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

The motte and bailey castle at Chipping Norton survives well and the later alterations to its plan contribute to our understanding of changes and developments in defensive and aristocratic architecture. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, occupation and the landscape in which it was built. The associated fishpond provides evidence of the medieval economy. It is one of the best examples in Oxfordshire.
The monument includes the remains of Chipping Norton motte and bailey castle, and an associated fishpond to its west, situated on the south east side of a shallow valley immediately north west of the present town of Chipping Norton. Two distinct phases in the layout of the castle can be recognised in the present earthwork remains. The earliest castle included a motte, now known as the Mount, and a large bailey to the east which encloses the whole area in which the later castle earthworks were built. The motte has been altered by modern landscaping but remains clearly visible as a conical mound with a flat top c.30m in diameter. This stands c.6m above the meadow to the north west and c.2m above the top of the natural slope outside the present castle. The bailey has been partly levelled by the building of the later castle but survives as a low rampart bank c.4m wide and 1.5m high enclosing an area c.196m from west- east and 108m from north-south. It is surrounded by a ditch, part of which has been reused for the later castle and the remains of which are partly infilled. However it can be seen at the east of the monument where it survives as a shallow feature c.10m wide. The original entrance appears to have been in the south east corner where the later castle entrance was also located. The later castle had two enclosed areas or 'wards' of which the one to the north east was the smaller. They were formed by levelling part of the valley slope and building high ramparts with deep ditches on all sides, except the north west where the rampart is supported by a natural slope. The enclosed area is 164m by 82m, divided into two wards by a north west-south east ditch. The ramparts stand up to 5m high and measure up to 8m across. The surrounding ditches vary in width and depth depending on the topography but are up to 8m deep and measure as much as 20m across on the south side. Internally, the wards are sub-divided by a series of low banks which are believed to represent the lines of walls, and a number of building platforms have been recorded, including a possible gatehouse. To the north west of the castle lies a broad meadow, bounded by the stream which runs through the valley to the north, and the base of the castle earthworks to the south. This meadow may originally have been a fishpond and certainly provided grazing for horses. This is not included in the scheduling. To the west of the castle lies a fishpond measuring 70m across and 150m long. This has partly silted up over the years and is now dry although often waterlogged after rain. Its south west end is defined by a large 15m wide bank c.4m above the base of the valley. The castle is known from documentary sources to have been built by the Fitzalans of Clun during the 12th century. This refers to the later visible earthworks and the earlier motte and bailey must belong to the period immediately after the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. The castle is believed to have later been used as a seasonal hunting lodge by the Fitzalans, as were other castles around the royal hunting lodge at Langley in Wychwood Forest. The castle appears to have still been inhabited in 1268 but had gone out of use and was in ruins by 1566. When the house known as the Mount was built, in 1869, a number of finds were made which were said to show ..'beyond a doubt that the beautiful new mansion of H F Wilkins Esq formed part of the ancient castle.' (Scheduling Report)
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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The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
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This record last updated on Saturday, September 20, 2014

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