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West Dean

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SU25682746
Latitude 51.04592° Longitude -1.63504°

West Dean has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The poorly preserved remains of a motte are situated on the wooded crest of a ridge 60m east of the site of the old parish church of St Mary. A circular mound measures 53m in diameter and rises a maximum of 2.9m above the bottom of a shallow ditch which surrounds it. Short stretches of this ditch on the north and south south west have been filled with debris but elsewhere it measures 12m wide and 0.8m deep. The top of the mound was deliberately levelled in C18 for use as a bowling green, which was approached from the south west via a causeway which measures circa 3m wide. (PastScape–ref. RCHME Field Investigation 20-MAR-1992 (CR Lewis))

An earthwork at West Dean (SU 257275), whilst undoubtedly originating as a medieval fortified site, has been modified radically as an ornamental feature within a formal garden setting. The present field monument comprises a circular entrenchment of c. 60m diameter with an interior raised little more than c. 2.5m. Given the large diameter of the earthwork, which argues against it originating as a motte, the most likely scenario is that the rampart of a ringwork has been flattened in the post-medieval period to form the raised bowling green recorded early in the nineteenth century (Master 1855, 242). The artificial reduction of a former rampart also seems likely given the dimensions of the surrounding ditch (c. 1.2m deep yet over 12m wide), which appears to have been substantially filled in. Immediately to the west, the flanks of the gentle ridge that the earthwork surmounts have been modified through the creation of a series of successive garden terraces. In part, these earthworks are almost certainly on the site of a bailey enclosure that formerly enclosed the parish church of St Mary's (RCHM 1987, 119-210), thus demonstrating the juxtaposition of a seat of secular power with a private ecclesiastical foundation. (Creighton 2000)

There does not appear to be a modern tenurial history. The large Domesday manor was held by Waleran 'the favored English huntsman of the Conqueror, and the ranger of the New Forest' and continued to be held by his descendants (Masters). Thus this is a castle built by a Saxon, although certainly after the Norman Conquest, although probably by modifying an existing thegnal complex.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

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