Swavesey Castle Hill

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameSwavesey Castle Hill
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishSwavesey

Probably built by de la Zouch family in C13 as emergency against Barons in Isle of Ely who had burnt their corn etc. The area enclosed was bigger than ever needed for development in Medieval times (Ravensdale 1982-3)

No mention of Swavesey castle has been found before 1476, when William Copley held Castle croft of the rectory manor for boonworks and suit of court, services characteristic of tenures on that manor in 1279. It is therefore unlikely that the castle was built by the Zouches in the 13th century. It was not mentioned among the priory's original endowments and was more probably one of its acquisitions c. 1200. It was presumably derelict by c. 1200 when the croft, later known as Castle close, an enclosure c. 114 m. (375 ft.) square, was incorporated into the town defences. It may date, like Burwell castle, from the 1140s or may have been built during the campaign against Ely in 1070-1. (VCH 1989)

Gatehouse Comments

King writes "vestiges of large enclosure" which suggests the town rampart, but adds, in agenda, "a high mound may be a fragment of motte". Taylor writes castle was mound, now much robbed in one corner of town and gives plan. Recorded as probable medieval enclosure in PastScape. An unusual and much damaged site which seems to be interpreted in a different way by each individual who looks at it.

- 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 ReferenceTL359689
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  • Lowerre, A.G., 2007, 'A GIS Analysis of the Location of Late-Eleventh-Century Castles in the Southeastern Midlands of England' in' Clark, J.T. and E.M. Hagemeister (eds.) Digital Discovery. Exploring New Frontiers in Human Heritage (Archaeolingua) p. 239-252 online copy
  • 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. 233-4
  • Taylor, A., 1998, Archaeology of Cambridgeshire Vol. 2: South East Cambridgeshire and the Fen Edge (Cambridge) p. 86
  • Wright, A.P.M. and Lewis, C.P. (eds), 1989, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 9 p. 381-6 online transcription
  • Taylor, Alison, 1986, Castles of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 40, lxv
  • Phillips, 1948, in Salzman, L.F. (ed), VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 2 p. 41-2, 315-9
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)


  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 310
  • Haigh, D.. 1985, 'Excavation of the Town Ditch at Swavesey, 1984' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 73 p. 45-53 online copy
  • Ravensdale, J.R., 1984, 'Swavesey, Cambridgeshire: a fortified medieval planned market town' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 72 p. 55-8 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1881, 'The castles of England and Wales at the Latter part of the Twelfth Century' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 38 p. 258-76, 336-35 esp. 268 online copy


  • 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. 496-8
  • Cambridgeshire Extensive Urban Survey: Swavesey Draft Report 15/01/2001 online copy