The earliest habitation we know of in Sheering is the Eleventh Century ringwork or ring motte in the grounds of Sheering Hall. The remaining banks and ditches are partly obscured by later building and landscape gardening. This site has also been described as a Timber Castle.
These are the earthwork and timber castles of the motte and bailey or ringwork form which where the vast majority of castles of the early conquest period, of the Marches in the 11th and 12th centuries and of the period during the reign of Stephen known as the Anarchy.
They were generally fairly short lived, although some such castles survived for centuries, with the timber buildings and defences being replaced on occasions sometimes in timber and sometimes in masonry (Alderton Castle in Northamptonshire was shown in a Time Team excavation to have been built about 1070 and to still have been having high status visitors in the C15-a fine piece of enamels horse harness being found in the gatehouse).
Some of the smaller low mottes may have been adapted into moated manor houses, whilst others were abandoned and replaced by manor houses of a more comfortable and domestic nature. Timber castles varied greatly in size with some being massive constructions clearly deserving the term castle, whilst other were small mounds of minor knights. These small mottes are called ‘castle’ but this could be considered a rather loose use of the term.
An example of this kind of ringwork can be seen in Holwell.
The north east arc is overlaid by Sheering Hall and obliterated by landscape gardening. The west and south west arcs survive as a strong rampart about one metre in height above the interior with an outer ditch 4.5m deep from the top of the rampart. The ditch around the west side was and still is dry but on the south and east arcs there was a wet moat formed by diverting the Pincey Brook around the base of the rampart and retained by a bank 2m high on the south of the ringwork. This bay has been breached and the moat is dry. The interior of the work which must have measured about 70 metres in diameter but it contains no evidence on the surface of interior buildings.
Research and Resources
The Gatehouse – gazeteer of mediaeval fortifications and castles in England and Wales