The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Chippenham Motte

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
King Arthur's Palace

In the civil parish of Chippenham.
In the historic county of Wiltshire.
Modern Authority of Wiltshire.
1974 county of Wiltshire.
Medieval County of Wiltshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST92097313
Latitude 51.45715° Longitude -2.11524°

Chippenham Motte has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a probable Palace.

There are no visible remains.


There is evidence for an undocumented motte immediately west of the Market Place. A large earthen mound was found there in the 19th century, found in conjunction with masonry including a Romanesque doorway. However there is lack of corroboration that this was a motte. (PastScape ref. Creighton)

By unbroken tradition the actual site of the King's residence in the Manor was that high ground now occupied by the houses above the Angel Hotel, Chippenham. The area in front of them has borne always the name of the PALACE SQUARE. Foundations of very old buildings have been discovered, and a decayed spiral stair case, cut in steps out of a solid trunk of a huge oak (forming originally the ascent to a turret,) was removed from that site about 1820, and left to perish by exposure to weather in a timber yard. In the garden behind the Square is a mound of earth of considerable height, which no doubt at one time bore a watch-tower, from which for ten miles around, might be observed the movements of an invading host. (Daniell 1894)

Traditionally a Saxon palace lay in the vicinity. This could have been a hunting lodge for Chippenham Forest but the town was also the centre for the Hundred of Chippenham and was a significant C9/C10 Saxon town, a Villa Regia, possibly with a royal mint. The Forest remained in Royal hands until the time of James I and the forester must have had a base somewhere, possibly in the town but the nearest royal residence for the post-Conquest kings seems to be Devizes, certainly after it was obtained in from the Bishop of Salisbury in 1139. It may be possible the Saxon palace had some brief royal use after the Conquest, although it may well have been in long term decline and ruinous, and it is likely it was retained as the site for Chippenham manorial and hundred courts (It was still the site of the County Court in 1886 and remains the site of the local magistrates court). As an important political and judicial building it is likely to have had some martial functions and forms. However, although the manor was Saxon royal demense it was broken up into smaller manors fairly shortly after Domesday and these were either granted to hereditary tenants, the church or used as temporary grants and the 'castle' (in the sense of a potential royal residence) was short lived and the town was insignificant for the rest of the medieval period.
Although it seems probably there was a Saxon high status building here and a post-Conquest administrative centre the mound is not necessarily a motte and it may have been an early modern prospect mound within the walled garden of an up-market town house or even just a collapsed building mound. The given description are not specific enough to be certain although it should be noted the mound was not significant enough to be shown on C19 maps.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER            
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
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.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact