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Great Somerford; The Mound

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Mount

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

OS Map Grid Reference: ST96388310
Latitude 51.54678° Longitude -2.05358°

Great Somerford; The Mound has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a Masonry Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Siege Work.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The Great Somerford motte survives well and is one of few such monuments surviving in the south of England. The importance of the site is enhanced by the likelihood of the survival of below-ground waterlogged and organic remains, as a result of its location on the floodplain of the River Avon. These remains will give a detailed insight into the economy of the people who inhabited the site and the environment in which they lived.
The monument includes a motte castle set on low-lying level ground immediately south of the River Avon. It survives as a steep-sided earthen mound 3.4m high and 40m in diameter with a flat top 25m across. Excavations on the mound in 1811 and again in 1910 produced medieval pottery and the remains of a 12th century building comprising walls and semi-circular arched windows; a quantity of charcoal and ashes suggests the building was destroyed by fire. A ditch, from which earth was quarried during the construction of the monument, surrounds the motte. This has become largely infilled over the years although traces are still visible as a low earthwork to the east of the mound. The motte could be one of three castles known to have been built near Malmesbury in 1144. (Scheduling Report)

A large mound behind the old manor house at Great Somerford is identified as a motte. It is 12 feet high and 75 by 85 feet in plan; there is no trace of a ditch except possibly on the east side, and no trace of the bailey though it may have been on the south. The remains of a 12th century building - ruined walling and semi-circular arched windows - were excavated in 1811 and re-excavated in 1910. A summer-house is known to have stood on the mound in the 18th century and an ice-house seems to have been formed from the ruins found in excavation. There were no signs of the 12th century building in 1956 (F1 ANK 04-DEC-67).
Charcoal and ashes found in excavation suggest that the building was destroyed by fire and medieval potsherds from the site are in Devizes Museum. There is a traditional account of a moat in the vicinity, but no trace is known (and it may be an oblique reference to the motte.) (Downman and Goddard; Goddard)
The motte, a flat topped mound 3.4 metres high, is centred at ST 86388409. There are no traces of a bailey. no trace of a moat (F1 ANK 04-DEC-67).
Low motte with quadrangular bailey. The remains excavated could be those of an earlier church, although the earthworks appear to be too definite for this to be the entire explanation. It might be one of three castles built near Malmesbury in 1144 (Renn).
Creighton examines the alternative explanations of the 12th century building found in the 19th century and concludes that the most likely explanation is that it was a church. The site overlooks a ford over the Avon, and the motte may have been a siegework erected against Malmesbury by the Earl of Gloucester in 1144. A late 12th century church is documented at Great Somerford, and the present church appears to be a refoundation (Creighton). (PastScape)

At over 5km from Malmesbury Gatehouse is of the opinion this was not one of the recorded three siege castle, although it could have been used as a back support camp. It could be a pretty standard manorial centre type castle, although building on a church is interesting; was this an earlier parish church or a thegnal manorial chapel? {Consider - Shapland, Michael, 2012, Buildings of Secular and Religious Lordship: Anglo-Saxon Tower-nave Churches (PhD Thesis University College London)}
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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