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Walkern Bury

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bassus Green

In the civil parish of Walkern.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.
Medieval County of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL305260
Latitude 51.91796° Longitude -0.10346°

Walkern Bury has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Despite the part infilling of the ditch, Walkern Bury ringwork remains well preserved and will retain valuable archaeological evidence relating to its construction and occupation. The interior of the ringwork is largely undisturbed and will retain buried evidence for the structures and other features from the period of occupation. The silts within the ditches (and the upcast silts forming a low bank around the southern perimeter) will contain artefacts related to the ringwork function and duration in use. The waterlogged areas, in particular, will allow the preservation of organic remains, including environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the ringwork was set. The later adaptation of the ringwork to form a component of a landscaped garden is also of note, especially the construction of the prospect mound on the north east side of the rampart. The Walkern Bury ringwork is thought to form part of a group of fortifications constructed on the eastern side of Hertfordshire during the Anarchy. Comparisons between these sites provides valuable insights into the nature of the conflict.
The medieval ringwork castle at Walkern Bury occupies a slight spur on the north side of the upper valley of the River Beane, approximately 1.25km to the south east of Walkern parish church. The ringwork is defined by an oval circuit of ditch and inner bank enclosing a natural knoll and measuring approximately 130m north to south by 100m east to west across the interior. The north western part of this ditch survives as a buried feature, having been infilled and overlain by agricultural buildings around the turn of the century. Elsewhere, the ditch averages 15m in width and up to 2m in depth, with deep deposits of humic silt in the base. To the north, adjacent to Walkern Bury Farm, a section of the ditch has been enlarged to form a pond and both this and a short length immediately to the east are water filled. Sections of the internal bank, doubtless built using upcast from the ditch and perhaps originally surmounted by a timber palisade, survive around the edge of the interior, ranging between 2.5m to 3.5m in width and up to 1.5m in height. An external bank, approximately 7m in width and 0.3m in height can also be traced around the southern half of the ditch circuit. This is thought to have resulted from periodic ditch cleaning, and therefore to contain artefactual remains originally deposited in the ditch during the period of occupation. The original access to the interior is believed to have been provided by a narrow causeway which spans the ditch at the most southerly point, and corresponds to a gap in the internal bank. The interior itself contains numerous undulations. Some of these contain modern brick and tile reflecting former tipping of builders' waste. Others, however, reveal fragments of masonry and large flint nodules and are thought to indicate the survival of buried foundations contemporary with the ringwork's occupation. A low mound, oval in plan (although partly removed by farm buildings on the western side) occupies the northern quarter of the interior. This mound, which may indicate the location of the principal building within the ringwork, may have resulted largely from the enlargement of the northern part of the moat to form an ornamantal pond either in the 1880s when the farmhouse was constructed, or during the life of an earlier house which occupied the same site. A small prospect mound located just outside the ditch on the north eastern side of the circuit, may also belong to this period of landscaping. The mound, which measures about 15m in diameter and 2m high, would overlook the pond and provide a vista across the present gardens toward the house. It represents an interesting later use of the ringwork as part of a formal garden arrangement and is included in the scheduling. The ringwork has been attributed to Hamo St Clare, whose manor at Walkern formed the centre of the St Clare barony in Hertfordshire. Hamo was an adherent of Geofrey de Mandeville during the mid-12th century civil wars known as 'The Anarchy', and the Walkern Bury ringwork may form part of a group of adulterine, or unlicensed, castles in this area including Anstey, Pirton, Great Wymondley and Therfield, constructed for the protection of manorial property during this turbulent period. As with the majority of unlicenced works, the ringwork was probably abandoned in the latter part of the 12th century as order was restored under Henry II. (PastScape)

Substantial ringwork with well preserved bank and external ditch. Probable 'adulterine' castle. At the north end is a large oval mound which could be the motte; this has been disturbed by the construction of the 19th century planned farmyard.
This was the manorial centre for the manor of Walkern, as the placename implies. The earthwork, and its water-filled ditch, are shown in detail on the later 19th century OS maps. This 'moat' was still water-filled around the east side of the ringwork, with a second curve northwards around the oval mound and into a pond between the house and the planned farmyard. Only this northern section now has water.
For a possibly related mound, see 2747, a circular mound outside the ringwork. For the manorial deer park, see 9986. (Hertfordshire HER)

Oval enclosure of bank and ditch, with some traces of a mound partly destroyed by farm buildings. Flint and rubble foundations have been seen. (Renn 1971)

Earthwork remains of a medieval castle. Possibly a motte and bailey though more likely a ringwork. The motte is possibly a prospect mound created when the remains became part of a garden in the 1880s. It is thought that the site might be an adulterine castle from the reign of King Stephen. (PastScape)

The suggestion that this was a castle of the Anarchy is a piece of received wisdom not supported by evidence. The scheduling report, as with many other sources, confabulates 'adulterine' castles and 'unlicenced' castles. There was no such thing as an 'unlicensed' castle. An adulterine castle was any castle that was tainted by being used in a rebellion against royal authority. The manor was held by a King's thegn before the Conquest and both the form (a ringwork) and the Bury name might suggest an early origin, possibly a thegnal burhgeat, although post-Conquest modification would seem likely.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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