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Tilsworth Warren Knoll

In the civil parish of Tilsworth.
In the historic county of Bedfordshire.
Modern Authority of Bedfordshire.
1974 county of Bedfordshire.
Medieval County of Bedfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP975243
Latitude 51.90931° Longitude -0.58419°

Tilsworth Warren Knoll has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Turf covered motte, situated at the South-West end of the ridge in the garden of the vicarage, having been heavily mutilated by the building of a summer house and store within it. The motte measures 3.2m high and 33.0m east-west by 28.0m north-south. No ditch is apparent. A small excavation showed that the mound had been surrounded by a ditch, 6.0m wide, with a flat bottom. The mound is almost certainly a motte. Slight traces off an encircling mound can be seen in the fields to the east and north and this may be the remains of an outer fortification, possibly a bailey. (PastScape)

The site known as Warren Knoll is situated towards the eastern end of the village of Tilsworth, about 60m to the north of All Saints Church. The castle occupies a commanding position overlooking the Ouzel valley to the south and Watling Street to the east, and is intervisible with the motte and bailey castle at Totternhoe on the opposite side of the valley, about 2km to the south. The motte castle consists of a circular mound, approximately 35m in diameter, and 3.5m high, surmounted by a level platform measuring 7m across. The motte is surrounded by an infilled ditch which has been demonstrated by excavation on the southern edge of the mound, and is still visible as a slight depression around the northern side. The excavations in 1973 revealed that the ditch was 6m wide and 2.45m deep. The inner scarp formed a continuation of the slope of the mound and descended to a flat base, 2.5m across. The ditch fills contained fragments of Totternhoe stone, tile and animal bone. A piece of early medieval coarseware pottery was recovered from the basal deposits. The motte would have supported a timber-built tower, although as the excavation evidence suggests, stone from the nearby source at Totternhoe may have been used in the construction. Further defence would have been provided by a palisade surrounding the ditch. Warren Knoll is though to have been constructed during the late 11th century, as part of a series of defences controlling the valleys to the west of Watling Street. As a stronghold rather than a residence the site would have been occupied for a limited period, and would probably have been abandoned by the early 15th century when a large moated site (Tilsworth Manor) was established on the valley floor some 150m to the south of the motte. The motte remained within the estate of the later manor, and was described as a warren in a lease dated 1732. The mound continued in use as a warren during the 19th century and was last recorded as serving this purpose in 1910. In the mid 19th century a rectory (Tilsworth House) was built on the western side of the motte, and the mound was incorporated as an ornamental feature within the associated garden. A brick-lined passage was inserted in the southern side of the motte to serve as a cold store for the rectory. (Beds HER)

It has not been explained why, as has been suggested this was part of a strategic defence, it would be built next to a church on the opposite side of the village from Watling Street, so that the village obscures the view of the Street? Clearly a manorial administrative centre and residence with some defences but no real strategic value and, as with most castles, a building of status rather than of military function.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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