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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Aerial View of Motte and Church
Entrance gate to Motte now with badger
Information Board erected 2014
information for this page has been obtained from the publication
"The Norman Motte and Bailey Castle in the Manor of Mount Bures
by Steve Walker 1993
Colour photographs by Alan Beales
update with new information Board 24/06/14