Mount Bures Community Web Site





The Castle Mound or `Motte`

"Motte" in Celtic means "clod of earth" or a heap of soil. Later is use was restricted to the Mound of a Norman Castle.


Painting of the Church & Mound by local artist, Mike Petterson..

The Mound is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Private Property.
Metal Detecting is strictly forbidden by law.

Front view with steps leading to summit - this was most probably 100ft high when built (see text)

When William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, his followers expected their share of the spoils from the newly conquered lands.
Roger the Poitevin, was one such member, commonly known as Roger of Poitou. He was a son of Roger de Montgomery and with his fathers support, held extensive holdings in England. William sent out his chief barons across the country to take control together with Roger of Poitou moving northward. The majority of strongholds were placed near roads or adjacent to navigable rivers. Their strategic position meant that their garrison effectively controlled communication between villages and they could suppress the unruly local population.

Roger of Poitou was awarded the Lordship of Mount Bures after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, so it would seem likely the Mount Bures "Motte" was built around 1067 or 1068.

William the Conquerors successful warfare campaign was mainly due to the use of such earth and timber castles, already common in France.
The "Motte" at Mount Bures is one of those strongholds, it is within easy reach of the river and the roads such as they were.
From the top of the Tower the views of the river would have been extensive, at least 3 miles in any direction including the river crossings at Bures and Wormingford.
Consequently from the summit, any defenders could easily see the enemy, including approaches by the River Stour.

The construction of the Motte was influenced by the local terrain and geology. As the army was moving forward, speed of construction was essential in positioning a garrison to provide fortifications.

In the case of the Mount Bures mound it would have been constructed by local labour force. It would be expected that the experienced troops would also assist with the work. Some historians estimate a Mound such as ours, could have been built in something like 40 - 50 days.

In 1763 the Rev Philip Morant records: ......................near to the church there is an artificial mound, cast up to considerable height. It is now about 80 feet perpendicular but it has been much higher, part of it having been cut away and thrown down. From the bottom of the dry moat it could not be once less than 100 feet.

In 1977, the Colchester Archaeological Group, estimated the present height to be 33 feet above the present ground level, far short from its original height.
Over the years erosion and slip may be the result of such a dramatic loss in height, remember the sides of the mound are very steep together with a light sandy, gravel soil.

An 83 year old gentleman in the village remembers when as a boy his father told him " When I was a lad we climbed to the top of the Mound and we could see the masts and sails at Harwich.
That would be a distance of some 20 miles across country.

TOWER:-On the top of the mound would have been a substantial wooden tower. Four large tree trunks suitable for corner posts were placed in position and rammed home to make the tower foundation. Most probably the tower was a simple affair used mainly as a lookout, with its excellent views in all directions. Should the fortification be attacked, the knights could retire to the "Motte" top and hurl missiles down at the enemy.
Entrance to the top was either by a wooden bridge or a series of steps. Either could have easily been demolished in the event of an attack.

The Mount Bures tower was an entirely timber construction. It was most probably a two storey building with the top floor open on all sides with a simple roof for cover. The lower floors contained weapons, ammunition, food and water in case of attack.



BAILEY:- At the bottom of the "Motte" was the Bailey or Courtyard. The defended Bailey contained many wooden buildings, such as a house or hall for the owner and accommodation for the troops and servants. Food stores for the flour and grain, a kitchen, smithy and stables.  


In other words it was the living quarters for the garrison.
Bread was the staple diet. Since this could not be kept for any length of time it had to be milled at frequent intervals. The local Mill on Cambridge Brook was not only the Lord`s Mill but the "Motte" mill. Cambridge Brook would have been the source of the water supply for the garrison.

A wooden bridge would have connected the timber tower to the lower bailey, used as the general living area with the Knights living in the wooden tower, during an emergency only.
At Mount Bures, there is no evidence that a bailey existed so we can only guess at its possible layout.

Left:- another example of Bailey and Motte
Replace the Wooden Keep with Look-out Tower
Replace the buildings inside the Bailey with a Church

MOAT- self explanatory. It would have been about 10ft deep to give maximum hindrance to any attacking enemy. In the case of the Mount Bures moat, the soil is of a very sandy nature and could not have retained any water. Consequently it was a dry moat.

Eventually the enemy learned to tunnel into the mound and fire the wooden structures. This led to the use of stone towers which were less vulnerable to attack.



The mound is open free to the public with a wooden flight of steps to the top. Access is via the road leading up to the Church.

The view from the summit is breathtaking, the whole countryside and the river being visible.

Not suitable for the disabled.

top of mound

Aerial View of Motte and Church

Entrance gate to Motte now with badger proof fencing

Information Board erected 2014

Historical information for this page has been obtained from the publication
"The Norman Motte and Bailey Castle in the Manor of Mount Bures in 1086
by Steve Walker 1993

Revised 25.04.09
Colour photographs by Alan Beales
update with new information Board 24/06/14
updated with Motte image 18/11/23