April 30, 2021

Darganfod-Discovery 2021: Dr Rachel Swallow

Dr Rachel Swallow, Honorary Research Fellow at University of Liverpool, on ‘A square peg in a round hole: new interpretations for the eleventh-century northern Anglo-Welsh border, as told by the misfit Dodleston Castle in Cheshire’.

A detailed archaeological survey of the earthworks of Dodleston Castle in Cheshire in 1995 by the then University College Chester (now University of Chester), prompted in turn a detailed and multidisciplinary study as part of my research on the castles of medieval Cheshire and their landscape settings in the Irish Sea Region.

Situated within the northern Anglo-Welsh border zone, Dodleston Castle has long been considered a regular form motte-and-bailey earthwork castle. However, the results of new research call for a revised classification: Dodleston Castle was instead a primary build ringwork castle, within the earthworks of which the subsequent build of a motte was inserted into a pre-existing rectilinear feature. This new interpretation indicates that the medieval castle possibly assumed a place of cross-period, cross-cultural, secular, ritual and religious significance within this medieval borderland territory.

A fresh examination of all available sources also serves to elevate Dodleston’s previously understated manorial status, to a significant pre-Norman assembly site and head of an Anglo-Saxon estate. Forming part of the wider landscape of the Irish Sea Cultural Zone (Swallow 2016), this paper concludes that the palimpsest of archaeological evidence at Dodleston Castle points to a reused place of multi-faceted significance over time, and that this reuse perpetuated a memory of communication in a Welsh borderlands landscape where the confluence of people and ideas was common (Swallow, forthcoming 2020).

Further reading:

Swallow, R. E., forthcoming 2020. Shifting Border, Shifting Interpretation: The Anglo-Welsh Border and Dodleston Castle, Cheshire, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 220

Swallow, R.E., 2016. Cheshire Castles of the Irish Sea Cultural Zone, The Archaeological Journal, 173(2), 288 – 341