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Pirton Village Defences

In the civil parish of Pirton.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.
Medieval County of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL14683165
Latitude 51.97152° Longitude -0.33194°

Pirton Village Defences has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


To the south of the motte and bailey castle lies the remains of the part of the medieval village of Pirton, known as The Bury, and carefully planned in respect of the Castle. The centre of the modern village now lies further north. A deep well-defined roadway runs east to west across the site of the village and from this the remains of roads and tracks run north and south. Platforms indicate the location of houses and buildings of the village and some buildings survived here until earlier this century. Ditches and banks show the position of land boundaries, and drains and small ponds can be seen. (Scheduling Report)

Toot Hill is an interesting example of a mount and bailey castle, with attached 'burgess' or fortified village (RCHME; VCH 1908).
Beyond these again are traces of a fourth enclosure and the whole of the present village probably formed a defensive stronghold. Traces of ancient foundations are visible everywhere within the wards. It is possible that the fortified village enclosure is of pre-Conquest origin and was adapted for use as a motte and bailey castle at a later date (VCH 1912).
The earthworks in the churchyard and in the pasture field named "The Bury" to the S and E, cannot be identified with certainty as a bailey or series of baileys, as the field is pockmarked by minor quarrying, and modern features encroach. The surviving earthworks, generally in the form of dry depressions up to 1.5m deep, appear to tie in to the village pattern, and are almost certainly Md. At no point are they as deep as the motte ditch (F1 NKB 14-SEP-73). (PastScape)

New post-Conquest medieval village defences of no known urban significance. Pirton (Herts); Earthen bank and/or ditch; Fragmentary remains only; No documentary record of defences known; No archaeological excavtion on defences known. (Bond 1987)

Care must be taken with this record, particularly to differentiate between 'The Bury' earthworks, south of the castle, and baileys of the castle.
The Saxon centre of the village may actually have been to the north of the castle (a possible Saxon church is identified there), where the modern village is centred and which is the focus of the road network.
The Bury area may be a possible planned borough extension of the village of post-Conquest date. The fact that the earthworks are preserved and only partly occupied suggests this may have failed. If so these earthwork have to be seen as boundary markers, rather than defensive features. It may be that the eastern bailey of the castle, which now contains the parish church either was, or has been interpreted as, the original core of the village (certainly this seems to be the interpretation of the 1910 RCHME survey), making this bailey a village enclosure of defensive quality if that interpretation is correct. However, if the village was centred north of the castle then this enclosure was a castle bailey, although one (?later) containing St Mary's parish church, and the actual village was undefended.
Given map reference for St Mary's Church. The Bury is centred about TL147315. The possible Saxon church was just north of TL147318, were a Saxo-Norman cemetery was found.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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