WYBERTON: WYBERT'S CASTLE
The moated enclosure known as Wybert's Castle is situated half a mile to the east of the church of Wyberton on low-lying ground (Fig 82). Antiquarians, no doubt influenced by the colourful account of the origins of the settlement in the Pseudo-Ingulph Chronicle, have identified the site as the castle of the putative late ninth-century founder of Wyberton (1). However, little credence can be given to this interpretation. The name itself is late, for in the eighteenth century the site was known as Wells Slade (2). Excavations in 1959-1960 produced a small amount of pottery which suggested occupation in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries although there were sherds of unglazed Stamford ware which may be of 11th century date.(3) The complex, then, clearly relates to one of the many post-Conquest tenurial interests in the vill. In 1086 there were only two holdings: ten carucates and five bovates were soke of Count Alan of Brittany's manor of Drayton and were held in succession to Ralf the Staller and Edelric, and one carucate and three bovates were in the possession of Guy de Craon as a manor (4). This latter fee can be traced into the sixteenth century and seems to have had its nucleus in Tytton where most of its land was situated, but also extended into Boston west of the River Witham (5). Wyberton itself was entirely sokeland. Some was granted to the lords of surrounding manors, but as late as 1242 seven carucates and two bovates were still held directly of the earl of Richmond by 'freemen', that is sokemen (6).
Wybert's Castle is probably related to the estate of such a tenant. No reference to the site has been found in the medieval sources consulted, but the name Wells Slade suggests that it was the curia of the Wells family who had a manor in Wyberton in the fourteenth century (7). The estate was not held by military service or sergeancy, but in socage, and its lord was subject to all the customs of sokemen. Thus, on the death of Adam de Wells in 1310, the land was not taken into wardship, but was divided equally between his three sons who sued for immediate seisin despite their minority (8). Adam and his successors were clearly not sokemen themselves for they held extensive estates throughout the country, but it would seem that their manor of Wyberton had descended from tenants of such a status, and the form would suggest that it had its origin in a drengage or thanage. It is therefore not impossible that the holding is represented in Domesday Book by the ten bovates that Edelric held in 1066, for this tenement seems to have been a tenure of precisely this type (9).
Of the early history of the site nothing can be said with any degree of certainty, for further excavation is necessary to date the construction of the moat and determine its tenurial significance. But it is probable that its genesis marks a change in status of the tenant of the estate, and the work may thus have been undertaken by the Wells family or a predecessor who had risen above the level of ministerial tenure. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries there were stone structures on the site, together with glazed ridge tiles. It was originally suggested that the latter indicated occupation extending into the fifteenth century (10), but it has subsequently been established that this type of tile was being manufactured in Boston in the early 1300s (11). Nevertheless, there was fifteenth century pottery associated with rubble near some wall fragments. The reason for the desertion is not clear.
The earthworks, in almost four hectares of pasture, are in unusually good condition for the fenland, where many such sites survive only as slight mounds. The water-filled moat is bridged on the west side by a causeway, probably of recent date. The original entrance is more likely to have been on the north side, leading on to the road, where there is an area with no ditch at all (Fig 83). To the south of the mound a short length of north/south ditch may indicate a former subdivision of the site. Along three sides of the main enclosure, which stands over a metre OD, is a bank which may represent a former wall, although no traces of one were found in the two 1959-60 sections. The north-west corner of the field is low-lying with a pond abutting on the stream, although in the early aerial photographs two ponds can be seen (12). In the 1960 photograph shown here the gridded excavation is in progress (13). (Pl XI)
Marrat i, 115; Ingulph's Chronicle of the Abbey of Crowland with the Continuation of Peter of Blois and Anonymous Writers, trans H. T. Riley, London 1856, 40. The modern name is probably of late nineteenth-century origin.
2. LAO, Wyberton Acre Book, 1702; 'Medieval Britain in 1960', Medieval Archaeology 5, (1961), 327-8.
3. P. Mayes, duplicated sheet circulated to Nottingham University Extra-Mural class, Boston, c.1961.
4. Lincs DB, 12/68-9; 57/27.
5. BF, 194, 1006, 1011; RH i, 206a; FA iii, 242; CI vi, 375; CI vii, 408; CIM i, 242; Hallam, 50-1; CI Henry VII i, 448; iii, 440-2. Until the late fifteenth century official records identify the fee as Wyberton because Tytton was situated in that vill.
6. BF, 194, 1005-7, 1011.
7. CI v, 200, 366; CI vi, 92, 157; CI viii, 433-4; CI 188. It has been suggested that the de la Haye castle at Frampton, which is noticed in 1216, may be identical with the site at Wyberton (D. J. Cathcart King, Castellarium Anglicanum London 1983, 264). However, no reference to an interest in the vill has been found, and the castle is more likely to have occupied the site of the earthworks known as Multon Hall in Frampton where there are vestiges of a motte and where medieval pottery has been found. The word 'slade', a valley, is uncommon in the Lincolnshire fenland, although it occurs in a few place-names in the vicinity. An unnamed watercourse which passes west and north of the site joins the moat. The 'valley' is minimal, but sufficient, in this flat region, to account for the name.
8. CI vi, 92.
9. Lincs DB, 12/69.
10. Medieval Archaeology 5, (1961), 327-8.
11. P. Mayes, 'A Medieval Tile Kiln at Boston, Lincolnshire', JBAA 28, (1965), 86-106.
12. RAF, 106G/UK 1706 29 AUG 46 F/20"//514SQDN, 4119.
13. CCAP, ZW 63.