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Chisley Mount, Down End

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Chidley Mount; Bally Field; Downend; Chefdelmunt; Caput Montis

In the civil parish of Puriton.
In the historic county of Somerset.
Modern Authority of Somerset.
1974 county of Somerset.
Medieval County of Somerset.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST30924135
Latitude 51.16732° Longitude -2.98944°

Chisley Mount, Down End has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Despite part of the mound of the motte having been truncated, the earthworks of the monument at Down End survive well. Their form is indicative of a motte with two baileys constructed in a strategic position on high ground above the marshland, which would have offered some natural defence in former times. The monument is known from partial excavation to have been occupied in the Norman period and to contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the construction and use of the site, the lives of its inhabitants, and the landscape in which they lived.
The monument includes part of a mound and three broadly concentric banks, collectively forming the earthwork remains of a motte with two baileys. The major part of the earthwork is located in an area known as the Bally Field, situated at the extreme northern end of the Polden Hills, a long ridge of high ground aligned broadly from north west to south east above the adjacent Somerset Levels. The mound forms a motte and the banks, which are located at the foothill of the mound to the north and east, define the extent of the inner and outer baileys. The natural contours at the end of the narrow Polden ridge have been modified to create the mound. A trench was cut along the western side of the hill and the inner edge scarped thus forming a sub-circular mound approximately 30m across and rising to approximately 4m high above the surrounding ground level on the west side, gradually diminishing in height to the east. Part of the mound on the south and the south east side has been truncated in antiquity by the construction of a track. A single linear bank up to 6m wide located 25m to the north of the mound and curving to the east to form an angle, defines an area which is considered to represent an inner bailey. A second area, representing the probable outer bailey is located approximately 30m to the north and is defined on the north and east sides by two broadly parallel banks, little more than 2m apart with an average width of 10m and an average height of 1m. There are no indications on the ground to suggest that the baileys were enclosed on the west and south sides by earthwork banks and it has been suggested that the site would have been protected in those areas by the surrounding, now reclaimed, marshlands. A partial excavation adjacent to the bank of the suspected inner bailey was undertaken in 1908 and revealed evidence for Norman and later occupation of the site. Pottery identified as pre-Conquest in date was also recovered, which suggests that the site may have an earlier origin. (Scheduling Report)

Earthwork remains of a Motte, and inner and outer baileys, on Chisley Mount or Chidley Mount (now called Bally Field). The earthworks consist of a motte and two baileys on its northern side. The motte has been formed by scarping the western end of a natural ridge where it terminates on low, level ground. Its eastern side, in private gardens, is poorly defined and several pits have been dug into the top. The single bank of the inner bailey, and the twin banks of the outer bailey, have been constructed on level ground, not by scarping the slope. There banks end abruptly on the west. Excavations in 1908 recovered Norman and later pottery and iron objects. (PastScape)

The name Caput Montis, later Chefdelmunt or Chisley Mount, was given in the later 12th century to the prominent western end of the Polden ridge where a castle has been identified and a borough was established. The form la Donend, later Downend, occurs in 1281.
A mound, thought to be a motte, was excavated in 1908 and produced early Norman pottery, although earlier finds from the site were thought to have been Roman. No traces of stone building were found and no medieval written record of a castle has been discovered. However, references to a piece of land called the castle bailey occur between 1562 and 1640, a ditch ran beside le Baly in 1505, and a plot at the site was called Bally in 1842 and the Bally field in 1908. (VCH 2004)

King writes these are slag heaps. Although not near Puriton Church could be a manorial centre with hamlet of Down End representing incipient township. Prior (2007) suggests that the castle utilises a D shaped earthwork of possible Viking origin. The site will have suffered particular erosion from river flooding and an somewhat unusual origin as a Viking work may also have produced an unusually form which may explain why this site was rejected by King. It does seem probably there was Norman development and use of this site.
A great number of castle sites were said to be Danish camps in the C17-C19 on the bases on folklore. The early C20 work of Ella Armitage and others, mainly historical research but also some early archaeological work, showed mottes to be of Norman origin but this was soon generalised into all castles were of Norman origin with Danish and Saxon origin then being routinely dismissed as fable. The reality is castles are complex and varied in origin and use and any general theory of origin and/or function will be have exceptions. (Philip Davis 20-10-2014)
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 09:21:34

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