Motte and bailey mystery

Castle Mound at Canons Ashby © NT/George Leroy

Castle Mound at Canons Ashby

Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire is famous for its beautiful Elizabethan manor house and gardens, and medieval Church, but recent archaeological surveys have shown something unexpected and exciting.

Archaeologists were expecting to find the remains of a village underneath a field, but surveying a mysterious mound they were amazed to find the remains of a castle.  It seems that there may be a Norman motte and bailey lying underground. We hope to be able to excavate a test area later in 2011 and will regularly update this website with details of the dig.

We know that in medieval times there are up to 41 houses on the site not too far from the castle, but by 1348 the community had declined due to the impact of the Black Death and enclosure.  When you walk over the village you will see traces of what was the main street, and lumps and bumps in the soil which were made from ridge and furrow farming.

See what you discover for yourself

Visitors can have a go at surveying the remains themselves using the ancient art of dowsing. Dowsing, using two ‘L’ shaped metal rods, may respond to subtle changes in soil formation and reveal where the foundations of buildings lie hidden underground.

It doesn’t work for everyone, perhaps 50% of people can make it work, but it is fun for everyone to have a go. This activity is contained in our outdoor ‘Tracker Pack’ available from Visitor Reception.