EARL SHILTON CASTLE
Earl Shilton Castle, which was originally known as Sheltone Castle, was a motte-and-bailey fortification raised in the late eleventh or early twelfth century. Its hilltop location made it an ideal site for commanding the route to Leicester and for overseeing activity in the adjacent forest. The castle went out of use in the late twelfth century.
At the time of the Norman Conquest Earl Shilton was known as Sheltone, meaning "settlement on a hill", an apt description given its commanding views over the region. Although only a small hamlet at that time, its importance increased circa-1068 when William I established a major fortification at Leicester, just eight miles north-east of the site, in order to secure control of the East Midlands. Earl Shilton Castle might have been raised at this time as one a series of fortifications to secure the town's hinterland. Alternatively, it might have been raised in the first half of the twelfth century, perhaps circa-1107 when Robert de Beaumont was created first Earl of Leicester or in the 1140s as the country descended into the Anarchy, the civil war between Stephen and Matilda.
The castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The flat top circular motte would have been enclosed by a timber palisade whilst the base of the mound was protected by a ditch. The Inner Bailey extended to the west probably occupying the footprint of the current churchyard. An Outer Bailey probably occupied part of the site of the Queen Elizabeth Hall Field Park and may have been a later addition to the castle when it expanded from being a purely defensive site into a manorial one.
Whenever the castle was actually raised, the value and size of the associated manor grew significantly in the latter half of the eleventh century. By the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086, at which point the manor was owned by Hugh de Grentmesnil, its value had increased over ten times compared to at the time of the Conquest. This was probably due to its proximity to the Forest of Leicester, also known as Shilton Wood, which would have been a valuable asset and was perhaps administered from the castle.
The castle probably went out of use in the late-twelfth century. The settlement became known as Earl Shilton in the thirteenth century, taking its name from Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. A gatehouse folly was added in the mid twentieth century.
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Earl Shilton Castle consists of the badly mutilated earthworks of a motte-and-bailey castle. The remains are located in a public park but the commanding views afforded by the site are largely obscured behind modern housing.
Earl Shilton Castle Motte. The castle's motte survives but has suffered significant mutilation from landscaping.
Motte Summit. The summit of the motte.
Motte Ditch. The motte was originally surrounded by a ditch, slight traces of which survive. Originally the ditch was much wider and deeper.
Folly. A gatehouse folly was added to the castle earthworks in the mid twentieth century.
St Simon's Church. The church occupies the site of the castle's Inner Bailey.