Belsars Hill, Willingham

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameBelsars Hill, Willingham
Alternative NamesBelassise; Alrehede
Historic CountryCambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishWillingham

Suggested site for vanished castle 'Alrehede'. Large pear-shaped ringwork "was formerly Belassise which suggests a post Conquest origin" (Renn).

This earthwork is 1 mile due E of the church. It stands on low ground at a height of 18ft OD, on the edge of Hempsal's Fen. In form it is nearly circular, with a longer diameter of 880ft running NW and SE, and a shorter diameter of 750ft. A single bank and ditch surrounds the whole area, in varying stages of decay. The original state of the work is best seen on the N side, where the overall width of the bank and ditch is 80ft, the bank contributing 53ft and the ditch 27ft to this. The depth of the ditch is from 2ft to 3ft,and it tends to be wet round the whole of the circuit. In its original condition it would have been a formidable obstacle. The bank is 7ft high at the best, but its condition varies greatly from place to place. On the NW it has been thrown down into the ditch for the distance of 60ft in comparatively recent times, giving easy access from the surrounding field. It is worst preserved round the E side, where it appears to have been spread over the inclosed area, since the ditch shows no sign of any other filling than the natural silting and is almost permanently wet. No trace of a certain original entrance exists. On the NE, close to the hedge of the Mod driftway which crosses the Inclosure, a marked causeway 24ft wide interrupts the ditch, but it has no certain appearance of being contemporary with the rest of the work. The driftway runs from SW to NE, almost along a diameter, and running from the ground W of Rampton direct to the Isle of Ely by Aldreth Causeway. The present line of the way goes right over the bank and ditch, which latter forms a slough in winter. The OS map of 1836 shows it passing round the E side. The whole of the Inclosure has been under the plough, and strongly marked series of ridges and furrows run across it from NW to SE

These vestiges are crossed by the present line of the driftway. Nothing has been found at Belsar's Hill to give a clue to the age of the work. The driftway which runs by it has certainly been in use since Norman times as a principal line of approach to the Isle of Ely, and it may be of a much higher antiquity. (VCH 1948)

Gatehouse Comments

Taylor and other authorities appear to considered it to be Iron Age univallate lowland fort. But Renn postulates this as having post-Conquest origin on bases of francophone name. Certainly use by Normans is a possibility.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL423702
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Calculate Print


  • Taylor, Alison, 1986, Castles of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge)
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 89
  • Phillips, 1948, in Salzman, L.F. (ed), VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 2 p. 45-6


  • Kenney, J. and Oswald, A., 1996, 'Belsar's Hill, Willingham, Cambridgeshire: A Survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 84 p. 5-14 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

  • Illingworth, W. (ed), 1818, Rotuli hundredorum temp. Hen. III et Edw. I (London: Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 407, 452 online copy