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Monument details

HER Number:TQ 76 NW 95
Type of record:Monument
Name:Boley Hill, probable site of William I's Motte and Bailey Castle in Rochester


Boley Hill is the site of a suspected Motte and Bailey from the reign of William I. No physical evidence was found of such a structure during excavations by Dulley. Despite this fact strong evidence still exists in the form of its size, form, positioning and place name evidence.

Grid Reference:TQ 7410 6847
Map Sheet:TQ76NW

Monument Types

  • MOTTE AND BAILEY? (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1089 AD)

Full description

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[Name TQ 74066848] Motte and Bailey. [NR] (site of) [NAT] (1)

As argued by Armitage (2) and Wheatley (3-4) there is strong reason to think that Boley Hill is the site of William I's castle at Rochester.(5) Wheatley's case rests mainly on disproving a Danish attribution for the site, and in comparing it with an 11th c. work at Le Mans, where the juxtaposition of motte, Roman fort and Cathedral is closely paralleled (see plan(4)). Henry III included Boley Hill in his new defences of the town (A.D. 1225-6) when the hill was ditched, the motte probably reduced, and the east end raised to provide an additional bailey for the adjacent castle, built c.1089 by Bishop Gundulf. Armitage regards the size and position of Boley Hill as strongly characteristic of the first castles of the Conquest. The earliest form of the name is Bullie Hill (Edw.IV), when it enjoyed a special jurisdiction under a `Baron of the Bully' - an office Norman in origin. Other forms are `Bailey Hill' and `Beaulieu' - indicating a castle or residence. Dulley (6) put a section across the summit of Boley Hill, at the west end, where Wheatley's highly conjectural plan shows the motte. At this point the hill was some 17ft. high, with extensive stone revetment on the south side, suggestive of 18th c. landscape gardening; the summit had also been pared off. Spoil from the revetment had been dumped on the north side of the hill, where it overlay a 13th-14th c. occupation layer. Dully concluded that there was no evidence of a motte at the west end of Boley Hill. Topographically, the broader, east end was a more likely site, where it would command the south gate of the town and its approach road. (2-6).

Boley Hill is a natural elevation some 100.0m in length, oriented NW - SE. The NW end overlooks the River Medway, and here must, originally, have terminated in a 40ft. cliff down to the east bank. The eminence, artificially heightened at this end, and at present some 7.0m. above the surrounding ground, broadens and descends to ground level at the SE end. Tudor and late 18th c. terracing and cutting back on the SW side have reduced the hill to a narrow ridge and its former extent cannot now be judged. The SE half has been overbuilt with houses and gardens. Dulley does not discount the possibility of a motte and bailey here, but his excavations found no evidence of pre - 12th c work. However, he dug only to within five feet of the original ground surface of the hill. If indeed there was a motte and bailey here, the higher NW end with its natural defences would seem to be the obvious site for the motte, with the bailey occupying the lower, broader, SE end. Dulley's suggestion that the motte occupied the lower end is quite untenable. (See Rochester Map Diagram - TQ 76 NW 10) (7)

Additional bibliography [8,9].

<01> OS 25" 1955 (OS Card Reference). SKE48270.

<02> Early Norman Castles 1912 49 196 (ES Armitage) (OS Card Reference). SKE41569.

<03> Arch Cant 39 1927 159-64 (Canon SW Wheatley) (OS Card Reference). SKE35069.

<04> Arch Cant 41 1929 127-41 plans (Canon SW Wheatley) (OS Card Reference). SKE35094.

<05> Hist King's Works 2 1963 806-8 (MPBW) (OS Card Reference). SKE43901.

<06> Arch Cant 74 1960 197-8 (AJF Dulley) (OS Card Reference). SKE35564.

<07> MS Report Excavations on Boley Hill Rochester July 1960 (AJF Dulley) Poss KAS Library Maidstone Mus (OS Card Reference). SKE47466.

<08> F1 ASP 07-JUL-65 (OS Card Reference). SKE41984.

<09> Field report for monument TQ 76 NW 95 - November, 1964 (Bibliographic reference). SKE4130.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<01>OS Card Reference: OS 25" 1955.
<02>OS Card Reference: Early Norman Castles 1912 49 196 (ES Armitage).
<03>XYOS Card Reference: Arch Cant 39 1927 159-64 (Canon SW Wheatley). [Mapped feature: #23274 castle, ]
<04>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 41 1929 127-41 plans (Canon SW Wheatley).
<05>OS Card Reference: Hist King's Works 2 1963 806-8 (MPBW).
<06>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 74 1960 197-8 (AJF Dulley).
<07>OS Card Reference: MS Report Excavations on Boley Hill Rochester July 1960 (AJF Dulley) Poss KAS Library Maidstone Mus.
<08>OS Card Reference: F1 ASP 07-JUL-65.
<09>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 76 NW 95 - November, 1964.

Related records

TQ 76 NW 10Part of: Saxon town of Rochester (Place)