Medieval motte and bailey. Possible ringwork.
Located within the Medieval manor of Horsford, Norfolk, the site includes a deer park which provided food, hunting and wood.
This Medieval motte measures 77m by 85m wide and 2.3m in height. It is circular and surrounded by a dry ditch which was once wet. The connecting bailey measures 72m by 32m. Within the bailey are traces of buildings and a masonry barbican. The bailey has been ploughed over resulting in much damage to the site.
The manor was originally held by an Anglo-Saxon by the name of Edric, but following the Battle of Hastings he lost his lands after William I granted them to one of his followers, Roger Malet, who had accompanied him on his incursion in 1066.
The site passed to Walter de Caen son of Robert Malet, Baron of Eye. Walter built the original castle on the site.
When Walter de Caen passed the manor went to his son Robert Fitz Walter, Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk. Robert married Sybil de Caisneto, the daughter of Ralph de Chesney, and they built St. Faiths Priory for Benedictine monks. This was confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1163.
The founding of the Priory has an interesting story. Robert and Sybil went on a pilgrimage to Rome, but were attacked, robbed, and imprisoned. They prayed to St. Faith and were duly released. Upon returning to England, they then founded St. Faiths Priory as a way of giving thanks for their release.
Camdon tells us that,
“1451….From this time I began to imagine the castle or Capital House at Horsford was neglected and suffered to decay, the Lordship now coming into and henceforth passing through families whose principal possessions lay’d far distant from this country, and who seem to have been very little, or not at all conversant here.” (Camden cited in Barrett-Lennard, 1904).
As with many small Manors, the owners did not always live there as they had their main residences at the biggest and best known family locations. Horsford seems to have ended up as a minor manor held by the well-known Dacre family and was pushed to the periphery as considered to be of little importance. Left to fall into ruin and decay, with only the land being of value and no longer the structures within it, the castle succumbed to the ravages of time.
Following is the timeline for the site.
1003-1066 Held by the Anglo-Saxon Edric.
1066 Manor granted to Roger Malet.
* Roger Malet died, and the manor passed to his son, Walter de Caen.
1070 Walter built the castle.
1086 Walter de Caen died, and the Manor passed to his son, Robert fitz Walter, who had married the daughter of Ralph de Chesney.
1105 Robert fitz Walter and his wife Sybil de Caisneto founded St. Faiths Priory for Benedictine Monks.
1115-1129 Robert fitz Walter was Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.
1135 Robert fitz Walter was Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.
1136-1146 John fitz Robert, eldest son of Robert and Sybil, was Sheriff of Norfolk.
* Robert fitz Walter died, and the Manor passed to his son William de Caisneto (fitz Walter), who had taken his mother’s name. He was Sheriff of Norfolk and founded Sibton Abbey.
* Margaret, daughter of William inherited the Manor. She had married Hugh de Cressy. The manor passed to the de Cressy family
1246 Roger de Cressy held the Manor, but he supported King John and lost his lands.
1263 Held by Hugh de Cressy who paid £100 to Henry III to reclaim his lands.
* Hugh de Cressy died, and the Manor was passed to his son, Stephen de Cressy.
* Stephen de Cressy died, and the manor went to William de Cressy.
1296 The de Cressy family line died out with William de Cressy, and the Manor passed to Robert fitz Roger, the great grandson of Robert fitz Roger.
1310 Robert fitz Roger died and the Manor was held by Matilda, wife of Edmund, Earl of Cornwall. Their heir was John de Clavering (fitz Roger). Who had assumed his mother’s de Clavering name.
1313 John de Clavering was captured by the Scots at the Battle of Stirling.
1315 John de Clavering fought in Scotland with Edward II.
1316 John de Clavering killed six deer in the castle park.
1319 John de Clavering fought in Scotland with Edward II.
1321 John de Clavering was amongst the men sent to seek a truce with Robert the Bruce by Edward II.
1331 John de Clavering was summoned to Parliament and granted the title 1st Lord Clavering.
1332 John de Clavering died and was buried in Langley Church, Norfolk.
1332 The manor passed to the husband of John’s daughter Eve, Thomas de Audley.
* The manor passed to Eve’s son John Ufford.
1361 John Ufford died, and the Manor went to his brother Sir Edmund Ufford.
1374 Sir Edmund Ufford died, and the Manor went to his son Sir Robert Ufford.
1384 Sir Robert Ufford died, and the Manor passed to his daughter Joan who had married Sir William Bowett.
1421 Sir William Bowett died, and the manor went to his daughter Elizabeth, wife of Sir Thomas Dacre. The manor now passed into the hands of the well-known Dacre family.
1431 After: In ruins.
1448 Sir Thomas Dacre died, and the site went to his daughter Joan Dacre. She married Sir Richard Fynes, and he became Lord Dacre.
15th C Middle: The site was abandoned.
1800 The lands of the Manor were Enclosed.
1838 Depicted on maps as a castle.
1969 Field Investigation.
1981 Field Investigation.
1986/7 Tenant farmer ploughed out the bailey, destroying the area and a lot of the history, and archaeological remains.
21st C Ditch measures 1.82m deep and the bank stands 3.04m in height.
Archaeology associated with the area includes Medieval harness mounts, buckles and weight. As far as I can see the site has not been excavated or investigated.
I have not been able to find any legends associated with the site.
There is little recorded history of Horsford Castle, maybe there is some more information stored in the Cressy or/and Dacre family archives. However, this small and unassuming little site has been held by some of the most important people in the forming of Medieval England and definitely worth a visit.
Questions relating to this site –
References & Bibliography
Barrett-Lennard, T. (1904). Some Account of the Manor or Castle of Horsford and its Occupants. Norfolk Archaeology 15 (3). Vol 15(3), pp. 267-292. https://doi.org/10.5284/1077566.
Bayne. A. D. 1873. Royal Illustrated History of Eastern England. Oxford University Press.
Bloomfield. F., & Parkin. C. 1805. An Essay Towards a Topographical History of The County of Norfolk. W. Bulmer.
Britton. J., Brayley. E. W., Nightingale. J., Brewer. J. N., Evans. J., Hodgson. J., Laird. F. C., Shoberl. F., Bigland. B., & Rees. T. 1810. The Beauties of England and Wales, Or, Delineations, Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive, of Each County. Volume 11. Thomas Maiden.
Browning. C. H. 2002. Magna Charta Barons and Their Descendants. Genealogical Publishing Company
Browning. S., & Tink. D. 2020. Norwich and Norfolk: Stone Age to the Great War. Pen & Sword.
Bühler, C. F. 1938. Some New Paston Documents. The Review of English Studies, 14(54), 129–142. http://www.jstor.org/stable/509890
Creighton. O. H. 2005. Castles and Landscapes: Power, Community and Fortification in Medieval England. Equinox.
Green. J. A. 1997. The Aristocracy of Norman England. Cambridge University Press.
Griffiths. E. 2022. Managing for Posterity: The Norfolk Gentry and Their Estates C.1450-1700. University of Hertfordshire Press.
Heritage Gateway. 2023. Horsford Castle List Entry. Available at https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=132896&resourceID=19191
Historic England. 2022. Horsford Castle. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1003998?section=official-list-entry
Liddiard. R. 2005. The Castle Landscapes of Anglo-Norman East Anglia: A Regional Perspective. In Christopher Harper-Bell (ed). 2005. Medieval East Anglia. Boydell Press. pp. 33-51.
Mackenzie. Sir. J. D. 1896. The Castles of England: Their Story and Structure. Volume 1. The Macmillan Co.
Pevsner. N., & Wilson. B. 2002. The Buildings of England. Norfolk 2: West and South. Yale University Press.
Rye. W. 1885. A History of Norfolk. Elliot Stock.
Wade-Martins. P. 2017. A Life in Norfolk’s Archaeology: 1950-2016 Archaeology in an Arable Landscape. Archaeopress Publishing Limited.
White. W. 1836. History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk, and the City and County of the City of Norwich. W. White.
Horsford_Castle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2049220 By Ashley Dace, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11418421
Horsford_Castle_Ditch_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2049196 By Horsford Castle Ditch by Ashley Dace, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105804067
Horsford_Castle_Ditch_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2049190 By Horsford Castle Ditch by Ashley Dace, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=105804009
Most interesting. So many of these early small castles have little or no history attached to them. I have to say that in appearance Horsford seems to be more of a ringwork and bailey rather than a motte and bailey.This particular part of the world does seem to have more ringworks than mottes, possibly a predeliction of the regional overlord whose fashion his followers took upon themselves i.e the de Clares seem to have been predisposed towards ringworks. In my part of the world most early castles were of the motte and bailey type yet just a few miles to the west the majority are ringworks. (There could well be a thesis in this, if it has not already been done!).