Notes: Located in Mount Bures, a small hamlet to the south of Bures. No sign-posting but the motte can be seen just off the Hall Road. On-road car parking in vicinity of the church.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The remains of a large motte seemingly dating from the twelfth century. Wooden steps provide access to the top of the mound which offers impressive views of the surrounding countryside.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Site is on private land but with public access to the motte.
Mount Bures motte was probably built during the Anarchy - the twelfth century civil war over the English succession - as a lookout post and place of safety for the residents. It seems to have had little use and any structures on top were probably demolished early in the reign of Henry II.
HISTORY OF MOUNT BURES MOTTE
A manor has existed at Mount Bures since at least the Norman invasion when it was granted to Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and the Lordship placed into the hands of one of his sons, Roger of Poitou. It was originally believed he raised the motte but recent archaeological investigation has now suggested it actually dates from the early twelfth century. Accordingly it was probably built during the Anarchy - the civil war between King Stephen and Matilda, daughter of Henry I, over the right of succession to the English throne. The County of Essex was embroiled in the conflict for Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex switched sides on several occasions. Originally loyal to Stephen he, along with most magnates, defected to Matilda after the capture of the King at the Battle of Lincoln (1141). Later he returned his support to Stephen but fell out with the King in 1143, rebelled and was killed in a skirmish the following year. It was perhaps during these troubled times that the motte at Mount Bures was built in the vicinity of an important crossing over the River Stour.
Little is known about the motte at Mount Bures for it is not found in any surviving contemporary records. However the 2011 archaeological excavations revealed some information on the structure. The discovery of Bronze Age pottery suggests the motte might have been built on top of an existing burial mound. Even if so, this mound was significantly enhanced with earth excavated around the base to form a ditch around the motte and then held together by a thick clay casing. The archaeological investigations found no sign of a significant structure on top of the motte so it was likely Mount Bures was simply a lookout post and/or a final point of safety for the residents of the nearby settlement – there was probably a wooden tower or palisade but little else. No trace of bailey has yet been discovered but it possible that the small settlement may have been enclosed by a simple earthwork again probably topped by a wooden palisade. This has been mooted to be in the vicinity of the (later) church graveyard which would explain why no trace of a bailey survives.
The Anarchy was eventually settled with the agreement that King Stephen would rule for life and then be followed by Matilda's son, Henry II. He came to the throne in 1154 and immediately started to restore the much depleted Royal authority. In particular he ordered all castles built without Royal permission to be demolished or de-militarised and it is likely that Mount Bures went out of use at this time. Certainly no evidence of continued occupation was found during the 2011 investigations.