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Tapton Motte, Chesterfield

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Topton Castle; Toptan cast; Castell Hyll

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SK39167214
Latitude 53.24482° Longitude -1.41453°

Tapton Motte, Chesterfield has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


At Tapton, "the hill, commonly called Windmill Hill, from a windmill formerly erected there, is in old deeds called Castle-Hill, and a close or field also of the Duke of Devonshire's, there is called Castle-field. Hollinshed, where he speaks of the course of the river Rother at this place, mentions also Topton-Castle, which is also mentioned in the parish register of Chesterfield, A.D. 1605, and Robert de Ferrars was taken prisoner, 1266, apud castrum de Chestrefelde, as we have it in Leland's Collectanea, vol. I, 276, III, 403". (PastScape ref. Pegge)

Within the public gardens attached to Tapton House School, the property of Chesterfield Corporation, is a large mound, 36.0 m. in average diameter and c. 2.0 m. in height. There are no traces of a ditch; the mound has a flat top, c.20.0 m. in average diameter and is planted with small trees and shrubs. It is slightly mutilated on the north by the digging of potting soil and tipping rubbish. No evidence of a bailey was seen in the area. The place-name evidence favours the identification of the mound as a motte but its weak profile and the suggestion of a windmill hereabouts may indicate an alternative classification as a mill-mound. Its proximity to the house may suggest a gazebo. It may be a motte which has been mutilated by subsequent use for either of these two alternatives. 'Castlefield' could not be identified but the mound is certainly now named 'Castle Hill'. (PastScape ref. Field Investigators Comments–F1 WW 27-APR-60)

Although Tapton Castle motte has been disturbed by planting, sufficient of the monument remains intact for archaeological remains relating to the structures on the motte to be preserved.
The monument is a motte or castle mound and comprises a roughly circular hemispherical mound with a base diameter of 36m and a maximum height on the south-west side of 2m. The level top of the mound measures 20m by 25m and, from its appearance, is interpreted as the site of a shell keep; a type of castle keep in which timber buildings were arranged round the inside of a circular wall or palisade. In addition to the motte, there would originally have been a bailey or outer enclosure in which further domestic and service buildings would have existed together with corrals for stock and horses. Although archaeological remains relating to the bailey are likely to survive in the surrounding parkland, they are not included in the scheduling as their extent and state of preservation are not sufficiently understood. There are several documentary references to a castle in this area, the first dating to 1339 when the fieldname 'castulfurlong' was noted. In 1468 and 1502, references were made to 'le Castell Hyll' and 'Tapton Castle'. In addition, the site also appears on Christopher Saxton's survey of 1577 and J Speed's map of Derbyshire of 1610. Furthermore, Leland, writing in the first half of the 16th century, tells of one Robert de Ferrers who, in 1266, was taken prisoner at the 'castrum de Chestrefelde', a place assumed to be Tapton Castle. This event occurred during the period of constitutional crisis and civil strife which took place in the 1250s and 1260s between a group of barons and Henry III. It is possible that Tapton Castle was constructed at this time, possibly as an adulterine fort; that is, one built without the king's permission. It is in a strategic location, overlooking the Rother Valley, and in its elevated position would have commanded views over a wide area. The rebellion ended in c.1267, after which time the castle may have fallen into disuse. In the late 17th century the site was incorporated into the grounds of Tapton House which is now a Grade II-star Listed Building. The walls round the edge of the monument are excluded from the scheduling although the ground underneath is included. (Scheduling Report)

It is clear that Tapton House occupies the bailey and that any evidence for the bailey ditches is lost under later building and gardening. It is likely the mound has been much eroded and this may, originally have been a tall conical motte, much of which is probably back in, the filled in, ditches that would have originally surrounded it.
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:47

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