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Crookbarrow Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cruckbarrow Hill; Crokbarwe; Crockebergh

In the civil parish of Whittington.
In the historic county of Worcestershire.
Modern Authority of Worcestershire.
1974 county of Hereford and Worcester.
Medieval County of Worcestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SO874523
Latitude 52.16870° Longitude -2.18471°

Crookbarrow Hill has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The motte castle at Crookbarrow is a good example of this class of monument, which has taken advantage of the defensive and symbolic strength of a natural feature. The mound will retain details of its method of construction, which may include post holes and foundations for its wooden or stone tower and other structures which surmounted it. Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England, exhibiting a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. Their wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosed one or more islands of dry ground containing domestic or religious buildings. The provision of a moat was often intended as a status symbol rather than for defence. Moats form a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status around the countryside. The moated site at Crookbarrow Farm will retain evidence for the structures which occupied the platform, including post holes which will survive below ground. Evidence for features such as a bridge will be preserved in the ditch deposits, which will also retain environmental evidence for the activities which took place there. In its commanding position overlooking the Severn Valley and southern approaches to Worcester, the motte forms part of the wider picture of the medieval defences of the county. The proximity of the moated site and the construction of Crookbarrow Farm in the 17th century illustrate the continuation of lordly occupation in the vicinity through the post- medieval period. The agricultural remains and trackway provide evidence of the more humble aspects of economic life at a manorial settlement, and the separate elements enhance interest in the monument as a whole. The site thus contributes on several levels to our understanding of the political and social organisation of medieval Worcestershire. Crookbarrow itself is a prominent local landmark, clearly visible from the two major roads which pass nearby.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a motte castle situated on the summit of Crookbarrow Hill, the earthwork and buried remains of a moated site adjacent to the north east, and associated remains of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation. Crookbarrow Hill is a natural knoll c.3km south east of Worcester, which rises roughly 20m above the Severn Valley. Such a prominent feature in the landscape would have provided a focus for the area's earliest inhabitants, and a Neolithic scraper found near the site in 1886 indicates it has seen activity since prehistoric times. In the medieval period the motte was formed by enhancement of the summit of the knoll through artifically steepening the upper parts of its naturally steep sides, an effect which is now most clearly visible on the north face of the mound. The resulting material was used to create a roughly oval summit, measuring c.75m WNW-ESE by c.40m transversely. A terrace along the north and west sides of the mound, just below the summit, is probably the site of a palisade or walkway around the motte. Along the top of the mound are a number of roughly square depressions, averaging 3m-4m in diameter, which represent the remains of the structures which occupied the motte. The motte at Crookbarrow Hill is associated with large areas of ridge and furrow, linear earthworks resulting from prolonged ploughing in the medieval period. The best preserved of these lie to the north and west of the knoll, aligned roughly north west-south east. Agricultural activity has also resulted in the upcast of a substantial earthen bank, or lynchet, at the foot of the knoll, which has been planted with trees and which acted as a field boundary in the post-medieval period. This lynchet is most prominent around the west and south west sides of the monument, where a now disused trackway runs inside it at the base of the knoll. Parts of the track, lynchet, and the ridge and furrow are included in the scheduling, in order to protect their stratigraphic relationship to the motte, through which evidence for continuity and variety of landuse at and around the site is preserved. At the foot of Crookbarrow Hill, on the north east side, are the remains of a sub-rectangular medieval moated site. The western arm of the moat is no longer visible at the surface, although it will survive as a buried feature. The south west corner of the enclosure is now occupied by Crookbarrow farmhouse. The south east, and north arms of the moat ditch survive up to 10m wide, and the south eastern corner is up to c.2.5m deep. The cracked clay bottom of the moat suggests the ditch retains water in all but the driest periods. Modern use of the north eastern parts of the ditch as a beast pond has produced a very steep profile to the moat sides. Masonry is visible in places in the bottom of the ditch, and probably indicates a revetment wall. In the south west corner seven large sandstone blocks have been set into the inside edge of the ditch. These wedge shaped stones, which have tool marks on their surface, are probably voussoirs, or parts of an arch or doorway of an earlier house on the moated platform. The collapse of a modern structure adjacent to these blocks has revealed a stretch of walling which may represent the foundations of an earlier structure, or part of the revetment along the ditch edge. The area enclosed by the ditch measures roughly 45m south west-north east, and its western end is now occupied by the farmhouse and garden, and buried features relating to its original use will survive further to the west. Immediately north east of the moat is another area of ridge and furrow, this time aligned south west to north east, which has been truncated by construction of the moat. A 10m wide strip of these remains is included in the scheduling in order to preserve their relationship with the moated site. The monument is associated with the site of a medieval settlement which was archaeologically excavated in advance of the widening of the M5 motorway, which passes within 150m of the site. Crookbarrow Manor is first mentioned in 1314, when it was held in demesne by Alexander and Elizabeth de Montfort. (Scheduling Report)

Hal Dalwood comments:
1) Hooke points out that the placename element 'cruc' indicates that a hill looked like a burial mound to the local British speaking inhabitants, as well as the Anglo-Saxons. She cites also Crutch Hill, north of Droitwich; this is also a "barrow-shaped" hill (Hooke, 1998, fig1).
2) The name refers to the shape of the hill rather than the function. The Anglo-Saxon word 'hlaw' (now found as the placename element "low") seems to have had a more narrowly-defined sense of known burial mound/barrow, rather than just "barrow-shaped".
3) The fact of the British place-name element 'cruc' in the name must mean that this landmark was recognised as barrow-shaped in the period before the 7th century and by inference much earlier (other placenames with British place-name elements include Malvern and Bredon.
4) The combination of the place-name and the geological survey information indicate that Crookbarrow is a large artifical mound (c350m x 250m) and that it was built in the early medeival period at the latest. A pagan Anglo-Saxon barrow is a possibility (cf Taplow, Buckinghamshire), which are sometimes quite large, but Crookbarrow is outside the central area of pagan Anglo-Saxon settlement. A prehistoric monumental mound seems more likely. The type site is Silbury Hill (Wiltshire) which is much larger, but EH list a total of four examples in the Monument Class Description for monumental mounds. (Worcestershire and Worcester City HER)

This mound seems to have considered to be a burial mound by all observers (including pre-Conquest Saxons) except the writer of the scheduling report. None of the usual castle studies authors seem to have considered this to be a motte. However, an origin as a burial mound does not exclude later use as a motte. The tenurial history of the manor, as a knight fee sub infeudated of Worcester Priory, is not suggestive of a new castle site, certainly not with a motte this size, but would not be inconsistent with use of a pre-exisiting mound as a symbol of the knightly status of the sub-tenant. The adjacent farm is moated and could have started as a bailey.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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