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Bicton; The Isle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Rossal Castle; Little Rosshall

In the civil parish of Bicton.
In the historic county of Shropshire.
Modern Authority of Shropshire.
1974 county of Shropshire.
Medieval County of Shropshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ45741672
Latitude 52.74537° Longitude -2.80521°

Bicton; The Isle has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The moated site adjacent to Isle Farm is a well-preserved example of this class of monument. The moated island will retain buried evidence of the buildings that once stood on the site, which together with the associated artefacts and organic remains, will provide valuable evidence about the occupation and social status of the inhabitants. Organic remains surviving in the buried ground surface under the raised interior and under the internal bank, and within the moat, will provide information about the changes to the local environment and the use of the land before and after the moated site was constructed. Fishponds were constructed throughout the medieval period with many dating to the 12th century. The direct association of the moated site with these ponds provides further evidence about the economy and lifestyle of the occupants of the site during the medieval period. The importance of the site is further enhanced by its association with the nearby chapel and the detailed documentary references concerning ownership. The construction of the prospect mound within the moated site also provides valuable evidence about the use of the site during the post-medieval period.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a medieval moated site, a prospect mound and fishponds to the south east of Isle Farm. The moated site is considered to be the manorial centre of Rossall, which was held by Vivian de Rossall (Rosshall) in the early 13th century. The manor was held by the Rossalls until the early 15th century, when it passed to the Englefield family. A survey of the manor by John Lovell for Francis Englefield in 1587 records that the moated manor site was used as an orchard by this date and that no buildings remained standing. This survey also notes the presence of a former chapel in Chapel Field to the south of the moated site. Documentary sources list the incumbents from the 13th century until the 15th century. It has been alleged that the chapel was burnt down during the Reformation. Its position is approximately marked on the earliest large scale Ordnance Survey map of 1881 as being adjacent to the south west corner of the moated site. There are no visible indications of this building since the area has been heavily disturbed by tree planting. The chapel site is not therefore included in the scheduling as its exact location and form are not known. The moated site was built on western side of the neck of a large meander of the River Severn. It is situated on level ground next to the very steep slope cut by the river. The rectangular moated island, which measures approximately 60m north-south and 70m east-west, is defined on its western side by the steep slope and on the other sides by a moat, now dry, consisting of three arms between 9m and 15m wide. Water within the moat would have been held by dams constructed at the western ends of the north and south arms. Of these two dams the one crossing the northern arm is still visible as an earthwork. Material excavated from the moat has been used to raise the surface of the island by about 0.5m above the level of the surrounding ground. Material from the moat has also been deposited along the inner edge of the northern moat arm creating a bank about 10m wide and up to 1m high. Access onto the island was by means of a causeway, 3m wide, which crosses the eastern arm. In 1959 the moat was partially recut and the remains of a curtain or retaining wall was found. Dressed sandstone blocks, some of which are moulded, found at this time have been deposited next to the western end of the internal bank. In the south eastern corner of the moated island there is a circular earthen mound, 1.5m high. It is approximately 12m in diameter at its base and has a flat top, 6m across. Stone steps have been inserted into the southern part of the mound. It is shown on an early 18th century estate map and is considered to be a prospect mound on which a summerhouse was built. This feature is probably contemporary with the nearby house known as The Isle, a late 17th century structure that was substantially altered in the mid-18th century. To the east of the moated site are the remains of three fishponds. Two are long and narrow and are at right angles to one another. The third is subrectangular and lies opposite the other two. On the early 18th century estate map all three are shown as water-filled. The elongated pond to the south still contains water, the others have been drained and are largely infilled. The size and relationship of these ponds suggest that they were used for the breeding and storing of fish to provide a sustainable supply of food. The fishponds are included in the scheduling in order to preserve the relationship between them and the moated site. (Scheduling Report)

Called a 'possible' castle by David King, who generally used the term 'possible' for sites about which he had significant doubt. Gatehouse presumes this is a reference to the circular earthen mound and that King was considering this as a possible motte. This idea is not without merit. The site was, presumably, the manor house of Little Rosshall or Rossall (Rosela in Domesday) which was held by St Chad's church as overlords in 1066 and 1086 but may have had a sub-tenant of knightly status who could have expressed that status with a motte. However, the opinion of the writers of the scheduling report appears to be this was an early modern prospect mound and, while it is not unknown for mottes to be later used as prospect mounds, this may well be a de novo mound of the C17. The moat itself could well be that of a house strong enough to be considered fortified and the location, at the neck of a distinct looping meander of the River Severn, is similar to that occupied by a number of castles and manor houses, including Shrewsbury Castle on the next meander downstream.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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