Rampton Giants Hill

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Siege Work

There are earthwork remains

NameRampton Giants Hill
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishRampton

Giants' Hill is a strongly moated site, comparable in form to Burwell Castle (TL 56 NE 1). It consists of a rectangular island 150 feet long and 135 feet wide, surrounded by an extensive wet moat fed from a large land drain to the east. The moat is 50 feet wide on the north, east and south sides, but is 120 feet wide on the west. There is a low causeway at the south west corner. Along the outer edge of the moat to the north there is a mound of earth 150 feet long, 45 feet wide, and rising from 6 feet high at the east end to 12 feet high at the west. Outside this are several small banks which look like old enclosures. As at Burwell, the long bank probably represents spoil from the moat. The island site has been raised 2 to 4 feet above ground level. The site probably represents one of the castles begun by Stephen in the 12th century to contain Geoffrey de Mandeville, and abandoned unfinished in 1144 when Geoffrey died. There is no sign that any stone structures were ever raised on the island. (PastScape–ref. VCH, 1948)

This site lies immediately east of Rampton village, near the fen edge, on Ampthill Clay at five metres above O.D. It is the remains of an unfinished castle, dating from the mid-twelfth-century Civil War between King Stephen and Geoffrey de Mandeville.

In 1143 Geoffrey de Mandeville, who had fallen from power, seized the Isle of Ely and from there proceeded to devastate the surrounding countryside. In an attempt to contain him the King ordered the erection of a number of temporary castles along the fen edges. Burwell Castle is known to have been one of these and others perhaps existed at Swavesey and Cottenham. In August 1144 de Mandeville attacked the still incomplete castle at Burwell and was mortally wounded. The rebellion then collapsed and all the castles were abandoned. It has for long been assumed that Giant's Hill was also unfinished when it was deserted and the new survey confirms this

Many of the features noted at Burwell are repeated here and the survey shows that this castle, like Burwell, was actually constructed on the sites of earlier houses which were perhaps demolished to make way for the fortress.

The castle consists of a roughly rectangular, flat-topped mound, with markedly curved south and east sides, up to 15 metres above the adjacent land. It is surrounded by a deep flat-bottomed moat or ditch up to two metres deep. This ditch is partly blocked in the south-west corner by a large sloping- causeway or ramp. It is not possible to ascertain whether this ramp has been produced by the dumping of soil or if it is the natural ground surface left undug by the builders. However by analogy with Burwell Castle it is likely to represent the route by which earth was being taken onto the mound when the work was stopped.

Within the surrounding ditch on its west side are low scarps no more than 0.25 metres high. These features occur at Burwell and there excavation proved them to be the result of the work being abandoned before the ditch was completed. Immediately north of the castle is a large irregular mound 15 metres high lying along the edge of the moat. At its west end it takes the form of a series of uneven mounds, apparently the result of dumping spoil. Uneven mounds such as these also exist at Burwell, on a larger scale, and all must represent the piling up of earth dug out of the adjacent ditch prior to its intended removal. The mound lies on top of, and clearly post-dates, two small rectangular embanked enclosures, the southern ends of which are buried under the mound. Immediately west of these is a larger ditched enclosure whose irregular south side also indicates that it once extended further south and has been cut by the moat. To the west of the castle are the remains of three more rectangular closes, separated by shallow ditches, and bounded on the north by a larger ditch up to one metre deep. These closes may also represent crofts of former houses, though no trace exists of any buildings within them. The realignment of the modern road to the south, which took place in 1852 during the enclosure of the common fields of the parish, may have destroyed any house sites which existed. (Brown and Taylor 1977)

Gatehouse Comments

Giant's Hill was later, very probably, the site of Lisles manor house. It is recorded that in 1942 the Home Guard dug trenches on the inside of this earthwork and exposed the foundations of walls built of rubble and bricks which appeared to be C15.

- 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 ReferenceTL430680
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  • < >Duncan Wright, Steven Trick and Oliver Creighton, 2016, 'Rampton, 'Giant's Hill', Cambridgeshire' in Duncan Wright and Oliver Creighton (eds), Castles, Siegeworks and Settlements Surveying the Archaeology of the Twelfth Century (Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd) p. 118-129 < >
  • 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. 233
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 22
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 13 (slight)
  • Wright, A.P.M. and Lewis, C.P. (eds), 1989, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 9 p. 212 online transcription
  • Taylor, Alison, 1986, Castles of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 40
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 289
  • Phillips, 1948, in Salzman, L.F. (ed), VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 2 p. 37 (plan)


  • Autumn 2004, South Cambs Magazine p. 31 online copy
  • Brown, A.E. and Taylor, C.C., 1977, Cambridgeshire earthwork surveys: II. Rampton: Giant's'Hill' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 67 p. 97-9 online copy
  • Lethbridge, T.C. and Tebbutt, C.T., 1951, 'Excavations on the castle site known as "The Hillings" at Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 45 p. 48-61 online copy
  • Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-7


  • 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. 495-6
  • Seymour, L., 2000, A Monument in its Landscape: Giant's Hill, Rampton, Cambridgeshire.