ringwork © 1995-2011 Marvin Hull
The definition of a ringwork is an earthen fortification similar to a motte but consisting of an area encircled with lower earthen walls and an enclosing ditch, topped by timber palisades. The earliest medieval castles in Britain were mainly constructed of earth and timber, and were either a ringwork or motte and bailey type. Both forms were mostly built in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Ringworks could vary in form, but were generally circular earthworks, each consisting of a bank and ditch, or they might be D-shaped where a natural scarp formed part of the defenses.


Just in England alone, 200 ringwork castles are known from the period of 1066 to 1215. Interestingly, Glamorgan has the highest concentration of castle ringworks in Wales, and the region also features more ringworks than motte castles. In total, some 28 ringwork castles have been identified for Glamorgan. Scotland is also dotted with ringwork castles.

A ringwork must have been quicker and cheaper to throw up than a motte-and-bailey, and this factor undoubtedly accounts for such defenses being built when some castles were first constructed in Britain. Geological factors also dictated the type of castle that could be built. Ringworks seldom had baileys, but some ringwork castles were developed into motte and bailey castles or major stone castles.

The earliest known excavation of a ringwork in Britain was that of Bishopston Old Castle in 1898. It is located in Glamorgan, Wales.

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