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Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Balland's Castle, Penselwood
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Ballands Castle [No:22074]
Civil Parish: Pen Selwood
Grid Ref: ST 7534 3105 (ST 73 SE)
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Image: Image of HER 54381 - Photo by Somerset County Council (05 July 1984)
  HER 54381 - Photo by Somerset County Council (05 July 1984)

Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown but it should be visible from a public right of way. Please assume that the site is private property. [Information last updated on 16 December 2002]


The HER is currently being transferred to a new system. Please ask about this changed entry. {0}

The principal features of the earthworks are the motte and rectangular enclosure. The motte has been constructed from the N end of a slight N-S ridge and one enclosure occupies the full width of the ridge at the highest point. The summit of the motte is slightly higher than the interior of the enclosure and its position seems to have been chosen for ease of construction rather than maximum strength. It is linked to the enclosure by a scarp along the top of the ridge on the W and by a hedge bank on the E. It seems probable that the enclosure was a bailey but there is no evidence to support the VCH suggestion that it is of earlier date. The sloping inter space between the enclosure and the motte is small and may have been principally a link work rather than an inner bailey. {1}

The motte has steep sides and is surrounded by a slight ditch 0.25-0.5m deep and 7-9m wide. Height from the top of the mound to the bottom of the ditch is about 4-5m. The bailey is surrounded by a ditch scarped out of the hillside on the W. On the N side it has both an inner bank 0.25m high and an outer bank 0.25-0.5m high - here the ditch is 1.5m deep and 9m wide. On the E side this ditch is obscured by a small stream and a hedge. A cart track bisects the bailey in an E-W direction. No foundations can be seen. Motte covered with ash and oak trees with brambles, bracken and lush grass on the lower slope. Much badger activity on the N side. The bailey is largely covered with nettles and there is good grass cover on the banks - very slight cattle damage. {4}

Previously thought that the bailey was the site of a Saxon church (ST75363097) and that the motte was a tumulus (ST 75343105). {5}

Not a barrow but a Norman motte (marked on Ordnance Survey as Tumulus) {6}

Scheduled area revised on 10 July 1996 with new national number (was Somerset 286). {8}

The monument lies in a field of rough pasture but the banks and ditches are very overgrown with nettles and some brambles as well as bracken. Otherwise the cover is long grass. There is no trace of stock erosion although badgers are active in the motte. The owner believes that the site has been visited by metal detectorists but there was no sign of this at the time of the visit. {9}

Although this has been interpreted as a motte and bailey its position makes no military sense. It seems likely that the mound served as a 'tristra' from which hunters could shoot at deer driven past. When the forest contracted it became a lodge for the lieutenant of the forest, apparently occupied by Lord Stoughton in 1540 and was still standing in 1618. A house called Forest Lodge was built farther north in the C18, which may have replaced it. {10}

The three Norman castles near Pen Selwood (Cockroad Wood, PRN 53716, Ballands and Stourton, Wiltshire) occupy an area of both military and historical importance. {11}

The castle forms part of a group of three similar sites with Cockroad Wood (PRN 53716) and Castle Orchard (in Wiltshire). All are undocumented but it is possible that they are related to the subjugation following the uprising against Montacute in 1069. Several of the manors in the area show a distinct reduction in value between 1066 and 1086 as recorded in Domesday. {12}


0 Compiler comment - Webster, CJ (Chris). Somerset Historic Environment Record (12/02/2016). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained.
1 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 73 SE 9 (1966) Location: HER file. HER digital source: 1619.
2 Mention - Bothamley, CH. Ancient Earthworks. In Page, W. Victoria History of the County of Somerset. 2 (1911) at 466-532 (specifically 515-7).
3 Aerial photographs - RAF CPE/UK/1924 1254-5. (16/01/1947) Location: Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.
4 Detailed records - Algar, D (David). English Heritage Field Monument Warden (17/6/1983) Location: HER file. HER digital source: 37872.
5 Verbal communication - Dennison, E (Ed). Somerset County Council, Sites and Monuments Record (02/01/1985). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
6 Mention - Grinsell, LV. Somerset barrows, part 2: North and East. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  115 (1971), Supplement (page 110)
7 Aerial photographs - 5.89.12-13. (July 1984) Location: Historic Environment Service slide collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.
8 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council. (22/7/1996) Location: HER file.
9 Site visit report - Graham, A (Alan). English Heritage Field Monument Warden (16/9/1999) Location: HER file.
10 Description - Dunning, R. Somerset Castles.  (1995), 71. Copy held in Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.
11 Description - Prior, S. A Few Well Positioned Castles: The Norman Art of War.  (2006), 75-6. Copy held in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre. Class L232-36
12 Description - Creighton, OH. Early castles in the medieval landscape of Wiltshire. Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine  93 (2000), 105-19 (page 112). Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.

Record created in December 1984

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