Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are no visible remains

Alternative NamesAldrey; Alrehede
Historic CountryCambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishHaddenham?

Castle at Alrehede/Aldreth was constructed in 1071 and held against King Stephen between 1140-1143, in which year it was captured. Built by William I in campaign against Hereward. Renn suggests either Belsar's Hill or Braham as possibilities. PastScape gives general location of Aldreth village.

A wooden fortress is said to have existed at Aldreth according to C13 historian, Matthew Paris. It was known as "Hereward's Castle". It also recorded that a castle was built at Aldreth by Nigellus, Bishop of Ely, as a defence against King Stephen (1135-54) (Evelyn-White). The castle of Alrehede is mentioned by the 'Liber Eliensis' in connection with the defence of the Isle of Ely in 1069-71. It was refortified in 1139. "Identification is doubtful but a suggested site is Belsar's Hill, Willingham" (TL 47 SW 24)" (Renn). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Modern drainage has made major changes to the landscape since the C11/C12, but the line of the Aldreth causeway, through what would have been impassible marsh, remains very clear and the fortification clearly controlled this. Belsar's Hill overlies and controls one end and Aldreth village lies at the other end. As habitable space is limited any fortification at the Aldreth end of the causeway could well have been built over. Since the castle is repeated referred to as Aldreth, rather than Willingham, there is a distinct possibility of a lost fortification at the village. There is no reason that there should not have been fortifications at both ends of the causeway, although such duplication has a cost. Braham can be rejected as a possible site. The documentary evidence makes it certain as there being some structure controlling the Aldreth causeway, although the term brethasch, used in 1173, might not necessarily mean a fortification. A toll was due for use of the causeway so a toll collector and toll booth of some sort must have existed. Given map reference is point were Aldreth Causeway ends but location of the 'castle' remains uncertain.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL444732
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  • Lowerre, A.G., 2005, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges Ltd: BAR British Series 385) p. 231
  • Pugh, R.B. (ed), 2002, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 4 p. 143 online transcription
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 14
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 89
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1948, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 2 p. 381-97 (History)
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 95, 149-150 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 250 online copy


  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Lethbridge, T.C. and O'Reilly, M.M., 1934, 'Archaeological notes' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 34 p. 90-2 online copy
  • Lethbridge, T.C. 1931, 'An attempt to discover the site of the Battle of Aldreth' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 31 p. 155-6 online copy
  • Evelyn-White, C.H., 1901, 'The Aldreth Caseway, its bridge and surroundings' Transactions of the Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Archaeological Society Vol. 1.1 p. 21 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Fairweather, Janet (ed), 2005, Liber Eliensis: a history of the Isle of Ely from the seventh century to the twelfth (Boydell) p. 229, 390, 403
  • Madden, F. (ed), 1866, Matthæi Parisiensis, monachi Sancti Albani: Historia Anglorum Vol. 1 p. 15 online copy
  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 66 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Château Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription >])


  • Lowerre, A.G., 2004, Placing Castles in the Conquest. Landscape, Lordship and Local Politics in the South-Eastern Midlands, 1066-1100 (PhD thesis: Boston College) p. 483