• What was the Origin, Meaning or Definition of the Motte
  • Description of a Motte
  • What was the purpose of the Motte?
  • How did Motte help with defenses?
  • What was the Motte made of?

The Meaning and Origin of the word 'Motte'
The word for the mound is the 'motte' which was derived from the Norman-French word for 'turf'. Later the word 'motte' was changed into 'moat' and was originally used to describe the wet ditch.

Parts of a Castle
Castles Index 

Motte - Part of a Norman Castle
The Normans introduced the wooden Motte and Bailey Castle to England following their victory at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Norman timber Motte and Bailey castles were quickly replaced by permanent stone Norman castles. The Motte features in the castles built by the Normans.


Description of the Motte
The Motte was a man-made mound of earth on which a Norman tower, or Donjon, was built. It was surrounded by a ditch and a courtyard, containing other buildings, called a Bailey.

  • The Motte varied in size from:
    • 50 to 120 feet in height
    • 50 to 300 feet in diameter
    • The Tower on top of the mount, or motte, was usually three storeys high
    • The size of the Motte was influenced by whether it was necessary to impress the population both militarily and politically
  • The Motte of the Castle were constructed using earth
  • The process of excavating the earth to build the motte created a defensive ditch at the base of the motte
  • The Motte was crowned with a wooden tower which served as a look-out, an elevated fighting point and provided accommodation for the Noble. These wooden towers were later replaced with stone and were called 'Keeps'

The Layout of the Motte

  • Motte and Bailey Castles were built on top of hilltops, high ground or strategically defensive locations
  • Two mounds of earth were built:
    • A high and extremely steep mound was built called the Motte - it had very steep sides and a Tower was built on the top of it
    • A much shallower mound was also built on top of which was the Bailey. The Bailey was a defended yard which contained barracks, stables, livestock and other buildings for storing food, weapons and equipment
    • The process of excavating the earth to build the massive mound, which was the motte, and the shallower mound created a highly convenient defensive ditch at the base of the motte and surrounding the whole of the bailey!



Parts of a Castle

  • What were the purpose of the different parts of the Medieval Castle?
  • What was the difference between the parts of a castle called the Garderobe and the Wardrobe?
  • Identifying parts of a castle - Description, purpose and function of the  Moat, Dungeon and Portcullis
  • Description, purpose and function of the Barbican, Gatehouse, Crenellations and Drawbridge
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