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Monument details

HER Number:TQ 86 SW 2
Type of record:Monument
Name:Binbury motte and bailey castle


Motte and bailey castle with the remains of a masonry tower within the site of the bailey. The castle stands on the tableland of the North Downs and is now within the bounds of the former Detling airfield. The manor formed a portion of the holding of Bishop Odo of Bayeux. After the forfeiture of his lands the manor was granted to Gilbert de Magminot and afterwards passed with the adjacent manor of Thurnham to the de Northwordes.

Grid Reference:TQ 5812 1602
Map Sheet:TQ51NE

Monument Types

Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 1010713: BINBURY MOTTE AND BAILEY CASTLE

Full description

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[TQ 8115 6023] Motte & Bailey [NR]. (1) Binbury Castle consists of an oval artficial mound 35 feet high, surrounded by a ditch. A courtyard protected by a stone wall existed on the south-east, portions of the wall remain, also a small tower, but there is no trace of a rampart and ditch to the bailey. On the west side is a small outer rampart or scarp [AO/61/285/6] (2) There was a Norman Motte & Bailey castle here. To the east of the remaining mound are some remains of a medieval manor house. (3) Binbury Castle is situated on the northern slope of the N. Downs, its remains are scanty and consist of a large oval mound, the summit of which measures 95 ft. by 160 ft. and it is surrounded by a deep ditch about 60 ft. wide. The mound has been somewhat reduced in height, and its material used to fill up the ditch enclosing the bailey, the site of which is occupied by the Manor House of Binbury and its farm buildings. It is classed as an earth and timber motte and bailey. (A short history of the Manor of Binbury is given). (4) Binbury Castle comprises a fine motte which retains the majority of its enclosing ditch. The bailey is no longer traceable except on the NE side where, on the line of the curtain wall at the point where the bailey joined the ditch of the motte, there is a mural tower. (The remains of a mediaeval manor-house - T4). This is oblong on plan measuring 4.5m x 3.3m internally, and stands to a height of about 7.5m; its walls of knapped flint with ragstone quoins are 1.9m thick. It is heavily buttressed on its NE face and altered elsewhere by the insertion of brick chimneys and various building additions. The remains of the curtain wall are visible on its SW wall and are traceable as footings for the few metres NW from there to the edge of the ditch. The site lies within the boundary of a disused airfield and although the barns are still in use the farmhouse proper - Binbury Manor - has been demolished. GP AO/61/73/1 Tower from S.W. (5) Published 25" survey correct. (6) Binbury Castle. Scheduled No 186. (7) Additional bibliography. (8-11) Very overgrown. A grant was made in 2000 of £30,000 towards the consolidation of the site which has been completed. (19)

It has been suggested that the site may have started out as a fortified holding of the late Saxon period. The motte and bailey castle was probably built after Domesday and before c.1130. It could have served as effectively a fortified hunting lodge. (20)

From the National Heritage List for England:
The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on a gentle north- facing slope on the northern edge of the North Downs, lying within the boundary of a disused military airfield. The castle survives as earthwork remains which include a substantial earthen mound, or motte, surrounded by a large moat. To the south east are the remains of a formerly walled bailey within which lie the upstanding remains of a tower, thought to represent a mural tower. The motte survives as an oval earthwork mound which stands to a height of c.5m above the surrounding ground level. The mound has a flat top which measures c.40m north east/south west by c.28m across. Built into the mound are World War II air raid shelters. These have brick entrances in the side of the mound; the main chamber is constructed from steel and concrete situated at approximately ground level, with a brick ventilation shaft. Surrounding the motte is a moat which, although partially infilled, is still visible to a depth of c.4m and up to c.18m wide to the north, west and south. To the east of the motte the moat has been deliberately infilled and now survives as a buried feature. Lying beyond the infilled moat on the south east side of the motte is the castle bailey. This area was originally enclosed by a wall but the only upstanding masonry remains which now survive are the ruins of a possible mural tower which was incorporated into a later medieval manor house which is a Grade II Listed Building. This is included in the scheduling. The wall survives to a height of c.7.5m at this point and is built of flint and ragstone. Elsewhere the line of the bailey wall is visible as a terrace which runs south from the tower with a drop of c.1m to the east. There is a second slight terrace further west, with a drop of 0.5m on the east side, possibly indicating the line of an internal division within the bailey. Situated on the outer bank of the moat in the north west corner of the monument is a concrete bunker also dating to World War II. Excluded from the scheduling are the warehouse, fences and fence posts, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Despite disturbance caused by the wartime military use of the site, Binbury motte and bailey castle survives comparatively well. The summit of the motte and the area of the bailey have remained largely undisturbed and contain archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was located. Walled baileys are unusual in motte and bailey castles, although this is one of two examples to survive within 2km, the other being Thurnham Castle. Archaeological and documentary evidence from both these sites will give an insight into the construction of this particular form of bailey and its use, as well as the economy and way of life of the inhabitants of the sites. (21)


<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> VCH Kent 1 1908 422 illus (I C Gould) (OS Card Reference). SKE50888.

<3> MHLG Hollingbourn RD Kent Nov 1960 85 (OS Card Reference). SKE47122.

<4> Memorials of Old Kent 1907 180-2 (ed P H Ditchfield) (OS Card Reference). SKE46882.

<5> F1 CFW 20-JUL-61 (OS Card Reference). SKE42668.

<6> F2 ASP 12-JUL-63 (OS Card Reference). SKE43104.

<7> DOE (IAM) AMs Eng 2 1978 112 (OS Card Reference). SKE40688.

<8> Norman Castles in Britain 1973 110 (D F Renn) (OS Card Reference). SKE47672.

<9> The Builder 27 1869 350 (OS Card Reference). SKE50155.

<10> The Builder 32 1874 625-6 (Clark) (OS Card Reference). SKE50156.

<11> Some Kentish Castles 1907 31-3 (H Sands) (OS Card Reference). SKE49506.

<12> Castellarium Anglicanum 1 1983 235 (D J Cathcart King) (OS Card Reference). SKE38606.

<13> Bldgs of Eng-NE & E Kent 1983 478 (J Newman) (OS Card Reference). SKE38121.

<14> Arch J 46 1889 206 (G T Clark) (OS Card Reference). SKE36639.

<15> Field report for monument TQ 86 SW 2 - November, 1961 (Bibliographic reference). SKE4615.

<16> Field report for monument TQ 86 SW 2 - July, 1963 (Bibliographic reference). SKE4616.


<18> Scott Wilson, 2002, Proposed Development on Land at Waterbrook: Environmental Impact Assessment (Unpublished document). SKE8134.

<19> Castle Studies Group, 2003, Castle Studies Group Newsletter 16 (Serial). SKE12008.

<20> Alan Ward, 2012, Binbury Castle, Thurnham, Nr. Maidstone, Kent Archaeological Review 189: 208-221 (Article in serial). SKE25111.

<21> English Heritage, Register of Scheduled Monuments (Scheduling record). SKE16191.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: VCH Kent 1 1908 422 illus (I C Gould).
<3>OS Card Reference: MHLG Hollingbourn RD Kent Nov 1960 85.
<4>OS Card Reference: Memorials of Old Kent 1907 180-2 (ed P H Ditchfield).
<5>OS Card Reference: F1 CFW 20-JUL-61.
<6>OS Card Reference: F2 ASP 12-JUL-63.
<7>OS Card Reference: DOE (IAM) AMs Eng 2 1978 112.
<8>OS Card Reference: Norman Castles in Britain 1973 110 (D F Renn).
<9>OS Card Reference: The Builder 27 1869 350.
<10>OS Card Reference: The Builder 32 1874 625-6 (Clark).
<11>OS Card Reference: Some Kentish Castles 1907 31-3 (H Sands).
<12>OS Card Reference: Castellarium Anglicanum 1 1983 235 (D J Cathcart King).
<13>OS Card Reference: Bldgs of Eng-NE & E Kent 1983 478 (J Newman).
<14>OS Card Reference: Arch J 46 1889 206 (G T Clark).
<15>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 86 SW 2 - November, 1961.
<16>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TQ 86 SW 2 - July, 1963.
<17>Photograph: TOWER AT BINBURY CASTLE FROM THE SOUTH WEST. OS61/F73/1. Black and White. Negative.
<18>Unpublished document: Scott Wilson. 2002. Proposed Development on Land at Waterbrook: Environmental Impact Assessment.
<19>Serial: Castle Studies Group. 2003. Castle Studies Group Newsletter 16.
<20>Article in serial: Alan Ward. 2012. Binbury Castle, Thurnham, Nr. Maidstone. KAR 189: 208-221. Kent Archaeological Review 189: 208-221.
<21>XYScheduling record: English Heritage. Register of Scheduled Monuments. [Mapped feature: #864 Castle, ]