Shifting Border, Shifting Interpretation: what the Anglo-Norman Castle of Dodleston in Cheshire might be trying to tell us about the eleventh-century northern Anglo-Welsh Border

Rachel Swallow


This chapter follows on from research and publication by this author on the form and placing of Anglo-Norman castles situated within the northern Anglo-Welsh medieval borderland, recently interpreted and newly termed the Irish Sea Cultural Zone (Swallow 2016). This interpretation argues for the Anglo-Normans’ reuse of pre-existing monuments dating from the prehistoric and Romano-British periods for the deliberate placing of their castle builds. Dodleston Castle was situated within the fluctuating borders of this frontier borderlands zone, and, it is argued, played a significant role in the continuity of strategic and commercial movement along the entirety of the Anglo-Welsh border and the Irish Sea Region. Within this context, and taking a cross-period and interdisciplinary research approach to re-examine the earthworks and landscape of Dodleston Castle in more detail than hitherto, the earthworks at Dodleston may reveal a meeting point of significance over millennia. It will be demonstrated, for instance, that Dodleston’s earthworks likely represent an Anglo-Saxon assembly site situated at the meeting points of important medieval administrative boundaries within the Irish Sea Cultural Zone. By considering the wider spatial significance of Dodleston beyond the temporal confines of the Anglo-Norman period, it is therefore possible to understand better, and reinterpret, the form of the castle earthworks as they exist in the landscape today.


Anglo-Norman; borderland; historic landscapes; Anglo-Welsh; castles

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