: a walk through the archaeology of Castle Bytham : the castle
There is a small footbridge leading into the land around the base
of the Castle (the fortifications themselves are on private land).
There are about 600 Motte and Bailey castles like this one in the
country; most were built with great speed soon after the Norman Conquest.
The Bayeux Tapestry illustrates one being thrown up at Hastings immediately
after the battle.
The motte or mound is the conspicuous feature here and is built on
the tip of a natural spur. Despite the huge quantity of earth moving
necessary, historical records show that these castles were often constructed
in a week or less. It is known that forced labour was often used.
Around the motte, to the rear of what we can see from the footbridge,
lies the remains of the bailey, an enclosed area of raised ground
where the lumps and bumps visible from aerial photography suggest
the earth-covered remains of buildings.
The bailey seems to have contained an inner and an outer courtyard
and the building would have included domestic, agriculture and service
buildings such as stables, barns, brew-houses and lodgings. The entrance
to the bailey is via a causeway across its enclosing ditch, and further
bumps in the land surface suggest the presence of the buried remains
of a gateway.
It is thought that in the first instance Norman mottes were topped
by raised wooden platforms. Later these were often replaced by more
permanent stone built towers. At Castle Bytham the remains suggest
a four sided wall at the top of the motte surrounding a stone tower.
Between the motte and bailey and no doubt protecting the causeway
between the two is a further enclosed circular mound that has been
interpreted as the remains of a hexagonal tower or barbican.
The area between the present water course and the castle is the area
known as Castle Yard. Two causeways cross this area which is thought
to have served as contained further ponds, serving both the defensive
and symbolic purposes of separating the castle from the rest of the
The castle itself was archaeologically excavated early in the 19th
century. The excavations showed the survival of stone structures below
the now earth mounds and indicated at least two periods of destruction
by fire - one of which no doubt related to the seige of the castle
Motte and Bailey castles were essentially military works in the initial
conquest of England after 1066 and survived for the next few hundred
years as centres from which the feudal overlords of the country were
able to dominate and exploit the surrounding medieval landscape. By
the 14th century they were becoming increasingly outdated and those
which did survive as elite residences fell into disuse and collapse
as the incresaingly centralised state that characterises the late
Middle Ages began to emerge.
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The text shown on this page has been reproduced from a booklet written
by Dan Ratcliffe, from the Heritage
Trust of Lincolnshire, to accompany a walk around the village
of Castle Bytham which he led as part of the Midsummer
Fair in June 2004.
We are grateful for their permission to reproduce the document on