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Yielden Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Yelden; Yeldon; Giuelden; Yielding

In the civil parish of Melchbourne And Yielden .
In the historic county of Bedfordshire.
Modern Authority of Bedfordshire.
1974 county of Bedfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL01386694
Latitude 52.29167° Longitude -0.51475°

Yielden Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

Impressive motte and two baileys. C13 stone curtain found on motte in excavation in 1881-1882. Mentioned in 1173-4 and as 'in decay' in 1360.

It stands, not on high ground, but towards the base of a long gradual slope, which continues to rise beyond the castle: "the extreme end of the outer bailey on the north is well above the level of the inner bailey" (Wadmore). From Domesday to C13 it was the stronghold of the Trailly family, but by 1360, had "falled entirely to decay" (Goddard). The top of the mound is 40ft above the bottom of its north moat and small remains of stone foundations were discovered on it in 1882. The base of a stone wall was also found at the north west angle of the bailey, the base of two small round projecting towers at the south west angle and a length of stone foundation lining the south rampart. Excavations of the small mound situated opposite the two tower bases revealed the remains of a stone round tower with 4ft walls: there may have been a drawbridge over to the inner bailey at this point. Much stone burnt red was found, especially in the last mentioned round tower. (Renn, Goddard, Wadmore) The motte rises 9.5m above the bottom of its east ditch and its surface is scarred by extensive rabbit diggings. On the top, which for an unknown reason is stepped, can be seen a quantity of undressed stone burnt red. No foundation pattern is visible and the burning may be recent, there being traces of bonfires here. The inner bailey to the southwest contains the only traces of building foundations, where at TL 01356647 is the outline of a stone structure 6.0m square. Fragmentary traces of foundations of the bailey wall are also visible. The ditch enclosing the motte and inner bailey is now mostly dry. It has a maximum width of 30.0m at the south west where the outer bank is 1.6m high. No traces of buildings can be seen within the north bailey which elevates towards the north east angle. Both the north east and east ditches are dry with a maximum width of 16.0m. The west extension ot the bailey shown on the VCH plan has been destroyed by realignment of the river, and no foundations are visible on the small island suggested above as a possible drawbridge site. Ranged along the whole of the east and south east sides are a series of rectangular enclosures. The northerly ones seem to be contemporary with the main work, whilst those to the south are later and merge with the existing fields (OS archaeology field investigator). (PastScape)

The castle is probably mentioned, as castra de Giuelden' in the Pipe Roll of 20 Henry II, when the cost of supplying five knights to the castle from the 1st to 15th of August is noted in the returns from Northamptonshire. The castle was in Bedfordshire but is very close to the Northamptonshire border and the knights may well have come from Northamptonshire. Quite what these 5 knights did for two weeks in this relatively small castle is an open question (Lowerre (2005) suggest they were a garrison during the revolt of the Young King) but the short period suggests legal and administrative work is more likely than any military function, although recruiting troops is not impossible. Henry was in Northampton at the beginning of August but heading south departing from Portsmouth on the 8th of August with an army going to relieve the siege of Rouen. It does not seem likely he was resident, even for a day at Yielden.
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 on Saturday, September 20, 2014

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