Monument record MCC7138 - Castle Mound North of St John's Church, Mount Bures


Mound, c.35ft high, and 200ft in diameter at the base.


Grid reference Centred TL 9045 3255 (94m by 79m) (FCE)
Map sheet TL93SW


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

Mound, c.35ft high, and 200ft in diameter at the base. Round the mound is a ditch, now nearly dry. No definite traces of outer works, but the Norman church (see MCC7193) stands immediately south of the mound and may originally have stood within the bailey. The work is on high ground which drops sharply towards a stream to the W; on the slope is a nearly rectangular area scarped on three sides, with an oblong depression near the W side. This is probably the site of a terraced garden to the hall. Plan and section of motte in RCHM.<1>

J.H. Round said 'I have been disposed to think that Mount Bures may have been the castle of the Sackvilles, raised perhaps in the anarchy under Stephen (1135-1154) or possibly under Henry I (1100-1135)' - source 3 quoted in OS card. According to OS field officer, A.S. Philips, the W side of the bailey could be traced along the fence of the graveyard (MCC10037). The rectangular area described by RCHM could be some form of outwork. A depression could be the site of a building of later date.<2><3> in <2> Other refs: <5> - <8>

Site Assessment = opened by digging. <1> In 1960, the mound was in good condition, ditch and outer bank much mutilated and generally in poor condition. The whole was overgrown with trees and shrubs. <2> The motte is covered by large trees and undergrowth. The early C12 date of the church and the scale in proportions of the motte suggest that the latter is an early example of its type. <4>
AP <9>
Aerial photos <10><11><12>.

Contour survey carried out. The steep-sided earthwork, 60m in diameter at the base, survives to 10m above the present ground surface, and is surrounded by a dry ditch c.3.5m deep and between 10m and 12m wide. Very little evidence of the bailey appeared to have survived. No evidence of a stockade or major fortification ditches was found, although the presence of two parallel ditches indicate a palisade. Contour survey included the pasture field to the north and west of the mound.<13><14>

Excavations on the motte were carried out in August 2011. The excavations showed that evidence of medieval date does still survive on the motte summit. It demonstrated that the main medieval use of the motte was as a lookout post during the civil war between King Stephen and Matilda in the mid 12th century. No cut features were found showing that if there had been a timber structure on top of the motte it must have been small with little or no sub-surface foundations. The excavations gave an insight into how the mound was constructed. A small amount of pottery (11 sherds) was recovered including Early Medieval Sandy Coarsewares (12th to 14th century). <19>

The other area where clear archaeological evidence for medieval domestic occupation was found was located immediately south of the church, where one test pit revealed animal bone and 11 unabraded pottery sherds (totalling 203g in weight), associated with a large cut feature, probably a post-hole from a substantial building. The evidence from this pit was tentatively interpreted, (given the size of the post-hole and its location close to the church and near the motte and present hall) as indicating the presence of a medieval hall. The pottery mostly comprised the same 12th – 14th century Early Medieval Sandy Coarsewares, as found elsewhere on and around the motte, but also included a are (mid 9th – late 11th century. Another test pit immediately west of the churchyard also produced animal bone and seven sherds of Early Medieval Sandy Coarsewares, again attesting to the presence of domestic settlement in the immediate vicinity.<19>

Sources/Archives (19)

  • <1> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, p.186.
  • <2> RECORD SHEET/FORM: Ordnance Survey. unknown. OS cards. TL93SW03, 1960.
  • <3> DESC TEXT: Round, JH. 1906. Trans Essex Archaeol Soc. New Series, Vol 9, p.21.
  • <4> Scheduling record: Department of the Environment. 1986. DOE Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Parts 5-8.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: Round, JH. unknown. Geoffrey de Mandeville.
  • <6> DESC TEXT: Morant, P. 1768. History of Essex.
  • <7> DESC TEXT: Pevsner, N. 1954. The Buildings of England, Essex. p.274.
  • <8> DESC TEXT: Priddy, DA. unknown. unknown.
  • <9> AP: Tyler, Sue. 1986. Mount Bures.
  • <10> AP: Strachan, David. 1999. BW/99/14/6-8.
  • <11> AP: Tyler, Sue. 2000. CP/00/15/2-4.
  • <12> AP: Tyler, Sue. 2000. CP/00/14/13-15.
  • <13> DESC TEXT: Essex Society for Archaeology and History. 2002. Essex Archaeology and History Vol 33. Rachel Clarke pp.378-80.
  • <14> AP: Strachan, David. 1999. BW/99/9/4.
  • <15> AP: Saunders, Helen. 2007. CP/07/06/01-05.
  • <16> AP: Saunders, Helen. 2007. BW/07/01/14-15.
  • <17> Monograph: McMaster, I and Evans, K. 1996. Mount Bures, Essex : Its Lands and its people.
  • <18> Map: Ingle, CJ, Strachan, D, Tyler, S and Saunders, H. 1993-2012. NMP Cropmark Plot - 1:10,000.
  • <19> EXCAV REPORT: Access Cambridge Archaeology. 2011. 2011 Archaeological Excavations at Mount Bures.

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Record last edited

Aug 17 2018 1:43PM

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