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Repton Motte

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Repton.
In the historic county of Derbyshire.
Modern Authority of Derbyshire.
1974 county of Derbyshire.
Medieval County of Derbyshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SK303272
Latitude 52.84174° Longitude -1.55218°

Repton Motte has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are no visible remains.


In 1986, excavations in the kitchen garden of the headmaster of Repton School had uncovered a deep cut, initially interpreted as either a Viking ship-slip or a 12th century castle ditch (Biddle & Kjølbye-Biddle 1986a). Further examination in 1987 indicated that the latter interpretation was the correct one, and that the ditch, which had been recut three times, surrounded the motte of a previously unknown Norman castle. The motte appears to have occupied broadly the area of the Hall garden, while the bailey took in the church and graveyard (Biddle & Kjølbye-Biddle 1987). It has been suggested that soon after the acquisition of Repton by the Earls of Chester, the motte and bailey castle was erected to command the crossing of the Trent at the point where the road divided towards either Willington or Twyford. However, during the civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda, the castle was put in a more defensible state, with the ditch being recut to a depth of about 4m at its deepest point. Material recovered from this first recut included wood, some animal and human bone, a fair amount of later 11th century pottery and an iron shield boss of conical shape (Biddle & Kjølbye-Biddle 1987). At this stage, the castle would have been in the possession of Ranulf II, whose power lay in a series of properties in northern Leicestershire, southern Nottinghamshire and southern Derbyshire along the upper Trent and who is reputed to have hoped to strengthen his power via a 'chain of fortresses securing his dominion from sea to sea' (Round 1895, quoted in Biddle & Kjølbye-Biddle 1986a). Following the accession to the throne of Henry II in 1154, however, the castle would probably have been destroyed, and the site later given by Ranulf's widow for the priory. The ditch was apparently recut twice, probably during the 12th and 13th centuries by the canons, and used as a drain, before being filled in and used, first as a farmyard and later as a garden (Biddle & Kjølbye- Biddle 1987). (Extensive Urban Survey, 2009)

Seemingly missed by the usual authors of castle studies. Not in PastScape or the Derbyshire HER, as a motte, although may be under a different description. Biddle and Kjølbye-Biddle were clearly most interested in Viking and Anglo-Saxon remains and their report may have been overlooked by post-Conquest scholars but castles do usually get reported to the NMR and SMR.
Repton was a royal manor when recorded in Domesday, but later held by Earl of Chester. Repton had been an important Mercian Saxon centre (the stone crypt of the early Saxon church survives) and was a major crossing point of the Trent. It's strategic importance was show by its use as a Viking winter camp, for which extensive defences were constructed. However, it had probably lost most of its symbolic significance by the time of the Conquest. It is certainly possible the Viking works were reused and altered to make a castle although the actual evidence for this seems weak. The building of a monastic house here in the C12 does suggest this manor retained some importance to the Earls of Chester, although it was rather on the edge of their holdings, and one might expect a manorial centre to be a building that reflected this importance.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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