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Llysun Motte, Llanerfyl, Archaeological Survey 2013

The main earthworks with the motte on the right and the likely building platform to the left.

The main earthworks with the motte on the right and the likely building platform to the left. Photo CPAT 3749-0008.

Following an increase in stock erosion on the earthworks of Llysun Motte, near Llanerfyl, Powys (SJ 0315 100), Cadw commissioned the CPAT to conduct a survey of the monument, recording the surviving earthworks and the extent of the current erosion. Limited excavation and recording was also undertaken to assess the nature of any exposed archaeology and the potential impact of further erosion. The site is protected as a scheduled ancient monument (Mg 072).

The site is believed to be a Welsh fortification as the area was undoubtedly under Welsh control in the 12th century. The name Llysun is a variation of llys, a ‘court’ or ‘palace’. Though the precise location of the court, or indeed its date, is currently unknown, its clearly implies a Welsh rather than an Anglo-Norman context. The motte is situated around 200m south of a former deer park, ‘Llyssun Park’, assumed to be of medieval origin, though there is no corroborative evidence. This is shown in its entirety on an estate map of 1734 with its pale in place, and was recorded by the surveyor as 444 acres in extent. The motte and bailey is not itself depicted on the estate map, but its proximity to the park highlights its situation within a much wider medieval landscape.

The survey and investigations provide a detailed plan of the surviving earthworks and a record of the various erosion issues affecting the site, as well as identifying areas where potential archaeological deposits and features are currently exposed. The resulting data present a baseline for future monitoring and information which will assist in the general management of the monument.

The earthwork castle stands atop a natural glacial ridge with the motte at its eastern end, surviving to a height of around 4m and an overall diameter of around 20m. The level platform to the south-west measures 8m north-west/south-east by 12m north-east/south-west and is up to 2m high. This platform may have been occupied by a single large building, perhaps a hall, rather than a cluster of smaller buildings as one would expect to find on an adjoining bailey. A possible bailey lies at the south-west end of the ridge, measuring 13m north-west/south-east and 26m north-east/south-west. The ditch dividing the motte and platform presently survives to a depth of around 1.5m and is visible only on a north-north-west to south-south-east.

The 2013 earthwork survey of Llysun Motte

The 2013 earthwork survey of Llysun Motte.

The castle is likely to have been constructed largely by remodelling the glacial ridge, enhanced by the redeposition of glacial deposits to strengthen the motte. There is no obvious ditch which could have acted as a quarry ditch and it is possible that some of the redeposited material may have been derived from the large, level area to the south-west that could have formed a bailey. The defences consist of a series of natural and modified slopes that would probably have been surmounted by a timber palisade. A former river channel of the Afon Banwy runs along the southern side of the monument, perhaps accounting for the sharpness of the slope on this side of the ridge and providing a natural defence for the motte.

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