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Clifford: Newton Tump

HER no. 1401, OS grid ref: SO 2930 4410>

Three miles south-east of Clifford, on low-lying ground between the Merbach Hill and Little Mountain, this site guards the western entrance to the Golden Valley. Newton means "new farm". The settlement here may have replaced the one at Castleton which from then on became known as "Old Castleton". (Bruce Coplestone-Crow, Herefordshire Place-Names, British Archaeological Reports British Series 214, 1989, p. 56)

Description of the site today

The bailey forms a quarter-circle with the north and east sides straight and the west and south ones curved. A slight rampart and ditch surround it. The north-western side of the motte is completely enclosed and surrounded by a ditch.

The motte rises c. 5m above the level of the bailey, which has an entrance in the south. The motte is 28-32m in diameter and stands 5m above its encircling ditch. 

The ditch is up to 10m wide and increases in depth with ground slope from 1-2m north to south. A complex of ditches south of the bailey probably fed water to the bailey moat. The Bach Brook runs past the site to the north and may have been used to fill the ditches.

The ditch could also have been water-filled by means of diverting a spring 40m uphill to the south of the site. This was led by a contour-flowing channel into three side channels, one each leading into the west and east sides of the bailey ditch to flow downhill to the north arm and so to the brook. A third cut off the site on the west. There are also traces of a bank which subdivides the bailey into two wards.

The motte stands within the eastern corner of a D-shaped bailey, 80m across. A ditch up to 9m in width and 1.3m deep encloses the bailey. There are the remains of an inner rampart on the south and east sides, with a causeway entrance crossing the south side. 

South of the bailey are a series of lightly-defended platforms. The main earthwork covers an area of approximately 1.75 acres.

There is evidence of some buried foundations around the top of the small motte, which suggests that the keep was a polygonal tower similar to nearby Snodhill. Stone remains have also been found on the south-east corner and the eastern side, perhaps indicating a tower and gatehouse.

The stone on the motte is mentioned in the Victoria County History, and there are also signs of stone foundations in the bailey bank in a modern drainage cutting, which suggests that the bailey once had a wall around 1.5m thick. 

Foundation and history of the site

1086: At the time of the Domesday Book Clifford was in the hands of Ralph de Tosny, but the revenues and and ploughlands of the borough were collected by the Sheriff of Hereford. There were 16 burgesses, 13 smallholders, 5 Welshmen, 6 male and 4 female slaves, and the whole area had a value of £8 5s.

Clifford was later held by the de Cliffords.
It  has been suggested that the motte may have been built within a Roman fortlet because the shape of the bailey is so square, however there is little evidence to support this theory.

Considerable quantities of stone formerly on the site, including some diagonally-tooled stones in the moat, have now gone. This is another site that has been "tidied up". The several outer enclosures and formerly wet defences suggest an early castle, probably founded in the 11th century and with 12th century stonework.