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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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;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.


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.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Petre, James Scott, 2012, The Castles of Bedfordshire (Lavenham: Lavenham Press for Shaun Tyas) p. 86-8
      Lowerre, A.G., 2008, 'Why here and not there? The Location of Early Norman Castles in the South-East East Midlands' in C.P. Lewis (ed), Anglo-Norman Studies 29. Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2006 (Woddbridge) p. 126, 165
      Edgeworth, M., 2007, 'The Medieval Period' in M. Oake et al, Bedfordshire Archaeology. Research and Archaeology: Resource Assessment, Research Agenda and Strategy (Bedfordshire Archaeology Monograph 9) p. 98-9
      Lowerre, A.G., 2005, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd: BAR British Series 385) p. 226
      Creighton, O.H., 2002, Castles and Landscape (Leicester) p. 181-2
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 17
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 4
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 236-7
      Brown, A.E., 1987, Fieldwork for archaeologists and local historians (Batford) p. 109-10
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 7
      Rowley, T., 1983, The Norman Heritage 1066-1200 (London) p. 43
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 321
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 351
      Godber, J., 1969, History of Bedfordshire (Bedford) p. 24
      Wadmore, Beauchamp, 1920, The Earthworks of Bedfordshire (Bedford) p. 145-9
      Page, Wm (ed), 1912, 'Parishes: Yelden' VCH Bedfordshire Vol. 3 p. 175-9 (manorial history) online transcription
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Goddard, A.R., 1904, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Doubleday, H.Arthur and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Bedfordshire Vol. 1 p. 289-291
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England Vol. 1 p. 142 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Baker, D., 1982, 'Yielden Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 139 p. 17-18
      Baker, D., 1982, 'Mottes, Moats and ringworks in Bedfordshire: Beauchamp Wadmore revisited' Château Gaillard Vol. 9-10 p. 35-54 (plan)
      Dyer, J.F., 1962-3, 'Bedfordshire Earthworks VIII, The Castles: Part One' Bedfordshire magazine Vol. 8 no. 63 p. 346-7
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 200 online copy
      Baker, R.S., 1882, 'Yielden Castle in Bedfordshire...' Reports and Papers of the Associated Architectural Societies Vol. 16 p. 251-64 online copy
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 1896, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the twentieth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1173-1174 p. 55 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 21) online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Lowerre, A.G., 2004, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (PhD thesis: Boston College) p. 479-82
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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