At least eighteen castles are known in Norfolk, most of them built in the late 11th and 12th centuries in the decades following the Norman Conquest. They are an extremely varied group of monuments. As well as the magnificent royal castle at Norwich and the great aristocratic castles at Thetford, Castle Acre and Castle Rising, built by the Norman kings and by the noble families who served them, there are many smaller castles too. In many cases they survive only as earthwork remains, and often we do not know who built them, and when.
Middleton Mount is a motte (a mound upon which a castle keep once stood) that survives from one of these lesser castles. It has been in the ownership and care of the Trust since 2006. The Trust now works closely with Middleton Parish Council to ensure that the site is well managed and open for public access.
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Access and facilities
Visitors are welcome at any reasonable time. Middleton Mount is situated in the northern part of the village of Middleton at TF 5659 3166 (Ordnance Survey Explorer map 236), 5km east of King's Lynn on the A47 Lynn-Norwich road.
- by road: drivers entering Middleton on the A47 should turn left (from Lynn) or right (from Norwich) onto Station Road when they reach the village centre, next to the church. Proceed 700m along Station Road and then turn left into Arlington Park Road; turn left again into Mount View Close to find the site, which is reached by a gate. Visitors may park in Mount View Close. SatNav: PE32 1YA.
- by bus: Middleton is served by very frequent buses from both the Norwich and Lynn directions, principally by the First Eastern Counties X1 services. For up to date timetable information, please visit http://www.travelineeastanglia.org.uk. The buses set down outside the church, which is very close to the junction with Station Road. The walk to the site (directions above) will take about ten minutes.
An interpretation panel erected by the Trust at the site entrance provides information for visitors. There are no visitor facilities at the site but there is a pub (the Crown Inn) adjacent to the church and bus stop in the village centre, and another (the Gate) on Hill Road c. 500m north of the site.
More about Middleton Mount
Middleton Mount, like the nearby castles at Wormegay and Castle Rising, lies close to edge of the Fens. These places were all well situated both for controlling east-to-west routes and for overseeing the surrounding territory.
Plan showing the castle earthworks (NB north at bottom!)
The conical mound of clay is nearly 20m high. We do not know who built the castle, or when. In the 18th century Blomefield remarked on the earthwork but clearly knew nothing about its date or function. It was shown as a tumulus (or barrow) on early Ordnance Survey mapping, but by the 1930s it had been identified as a castle. The ditch that surrounds the motte may once have been twice as deep as it is today.
A timber keep once stood upon the motte. To the east of the motte, the grassed area which visitors enter when they first arrive at the site was once the castle bailey. This was an area enclosed by a bank and ditch which contained dwellings, stables, workshops and outbuildings.
Reconstruction of the entrance to the castle bailey in the eleventh century. Visible through the gateway is the motte, shown with a timber keep on top (Susan White)
The earthen defences surrounding the motte have now been flattened, but they have been recorded on air photographs and by excavation. This area was preserved from development when the adjacent housing estate was built in the 1980s. Excavations in 1987 found the remains of long, rectangular timber buildings and also some medieval pottery. There is now a high hedge roughly following the outer edge of the bailey ditch, which helps visitors to imagine the original outline of the castle.
Elsewhere in Norfolk, other small motte and bailey castles open for public access include Denton Castle (owned by the National Trust), Horsford Castle (near Norwich) and Mileham Castle.
Norfolk Heritage Explorer
For more information about Middleton Mount, visit the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website. www.heritage.norfolk.gov.uk/SingleResult.aspx?uid=MNF3394.
Higham, R. and Barker, P., 2004. Timber Castles, revised edition (University of Exeter)
Liddiard, R., 2005. 'Castles', in T. Ashwin and A. Davison (eds), An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, 3rd edition (2005: Chichester, Phillimore), 70-1
Ashwin, T., 1999. 'Middleton Mount excavations in and around the eastern bailey of Middleton Castle by Andrew Rogerson', Norfolk Archaeology XLIII, 645-56.