Armley Giants Hill

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are no visible remains

NameArmley Giants Hill
Alternative NamesCastlearmelay; Castelarmley
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityLeeds
1974 AuthorityWest Yorkshire
Civil ParishLeeds

Motte and bailey existed at Giant's Hill, Armley in 1300, when it was called Castlearmelay. Destroyed by 1776. (PastScape)

On the southern bank of the River Aire to the east of where it is crossed by the modern Viaduct Road lay Giant's Hill, a massive earthwork but no-one seems to be sure what it was. Ralph Thoresby, writing in the 1690s, describes the earthwork as having two parts. One was a circle 20 perches round (100 metres). The other was a square earthwork, each side being 30 perches (150 metres) in length. Thoresby thought that this was a Danish fortification, but later historians think that Giant's Hill was probably a motte and bailey castle built by one of the Norman overlords of Armley. This view is supported by a document of 1300 which refers to a place called Castelarmley, which suggests that there was a Castle there at the time. The name Giant's Hill comes from a local tradition that the earthwork was inadvertently made by a giant who was throwing a rock across the river. To balance his weight, he stepped backwards and put his foot down heavily in the mud and earth. The footprint which he left behind was known from that time as the Giant's Hill and the stone he threw landed in Burley on the opposite side of the river where it was know as the Greystone. Sadly the Giant's Hill was destroyed by the building of the canal in the 1770s and by subsequent factories built on the site. With it went one of the few remaining traces of medieval Armley. The only thing to mark its passing is the romantic tale of the Armley Giant. (Dave Weldrake)

Gatehouse Comments

It should be noted the location, on the bank of the Aire would be typical for a Danish winter encampment, with space for longships to be safely moored and/or drawn up onto the river bank. Therefore, it may be the site originated as a Danish Camp later being adapted, by the construction of a motte, into a castle.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSE279340
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  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 16
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 529
  • Smith, B., 1983, 'Was there a castle at Armley?' in Armley Society (eds), Armley Through the Ages (Leeds: Armley Society) p. 6-7
  • Faull, M.L. and Moorhouse, S.A., 1981, West Yorkshire Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 (West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council) p. 736-7, 741


  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 214 online copy


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
  • Creighton, O.H., 1998, Castles and Landscapes: An Archaeological Survey of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (PhD Thesis University of Leicester) p. 759 online copy