Orwell Toot Hill

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are no visible remains

NameOrwell Toot Hill
Alternative NamesThe Lordship
Historic CountryCambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishOrwell

There was said to be an earthwork on the hillside below Orwell church to the south of Fisher's Lane (Conybeare, Highways and Byways, 144.(sic)), where a mound named the Lordship stood in 1686 (estate map). (VCH)

Orwell itself lies, as usual, just off the road, on the southern slope of the hill. Half a century ago it was the prettiest of villages, with its eponymous "well," shaded by magnificent trees, gushing from the hill-side, in the midst of a prehistoric earthwork, just below the noble church. But, about 1870, the earthwork, unhappily, was found to contain "coprolites" (worth probably about £100 after the expenses of getting them had been paid). For this paltry sum the whole place was destroyed. Well, trees, earthwork, all are now gone; only the church is left, perched on its slope high above the village street. (Conybeare, 1910)

The village of Orwell takes its name from a spring about 150 yds. S.W. of the church at the foot of Toot Hill, a spur from a chalk ridge which runs parallel to and N. of the river Rhee. On an estate map of c. 1680 (now in C.U.L.) a mound is shown between the spring and the church on an approximately square parcel of some 1½ acres inscribed 'Lordship' (Plate 113). This mound, which may have been a small motte, was levelled c. 1883 to make way for a school. (RCHME)

Gatehouse Comments

Recorded as possible motte by King. Appears to be recorded in PastScape as 'site of Mill mound' at TL36475068, but this may well be a different mound. Cambs HER suggests location unlikely for a motte. Gatehouse suspects that there is confusion between two mounds here. A mound on the hill side recorded in the RCHME inventory, which was probably a mill mound, and earthworks in the village and by the church, destroyed c. 1870 which may well have been a motte, although Conybeare description may be more suggestive of a ringwork (a form of Norman castle not well known in 1910 and quite likely to be described as 'prehistoric'). The location and placename 'The Lordship' are highly suggestive of a manorial centre. The name Toot Hill now seems to be attached to the natural hill overlooking the village but the name 'Toot' is usually reserved for notable round and isolated mounds. The name may have transferred from a motte mound in the village or refer to a lost barrow on the hill top or the recorded mill mound (much of the hill has been quarried).

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL362504
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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 41 (possible)
  • Elrington, C.R. (ed), 1973, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 5 p. 241- online transcription
  • RCHME, 1968, An inventory of historical monuments in the County of Cambridgeshire. Vol. 1: west Cambridgeshire (HMSO) p. 188 online transcription
  • Conybeare, J.W.E., 1910, Highways and Byways in Cambridge and Ely (London) p. 256 online copy