Sherburn in Elmet Castle Hill

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameSherburn in Elmet Castle Hill
Alternative NamesSherborne
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishSherburn in Elmet

Embanked enclosure measuring 47m by 25m seen on aerial photographs of 1967. Suggested on the basis of documentary sources to be the possible site of a medieval castle. There is no archaeological evidence to assign this monument to a particular period and the earthworks may be largely spoil from drain clearance. (PastScape summary)

Robert de Greneway is associated with grants of land in Abbeholm (a) in 1228 referring to "Castell-toft". At the confluence of "Greendyke" and Selby Dam there is a spot still called Castle Hill. The reason of its existence I cannot explain. This however, is no doubt the land referred to as "Castell toft". At the time of the enclosure of Rest Park in 1222 some portion of Rest Park belonged to the .. manor of Abbholm." (Wheater).

In 1383 Archbishop Alexander Neville was granted a licence to embattle his manor of Rest and erect a fortlet there Castle Hill may be the site of the 'fortlet' mentioned in the above licence. It is sited in Rust Park about 1/2 west of the Manor House. If the association of Castle Hill with Castle-toft, 1228, is correct, it is difficult to see the connection with the fortlet of 1383 (Thompson).

The remains of an earthwork situated 25 ft. above sea level upon a flat plain. In construction the work appears to have originally consisted of a broad rampart with accompanying external ditch, however, farming and the construction of a cart track have greatly mutilated the whole, and extant features now remain only of a spread bank with, on the north and south faces, a slight ditch. The best preserved portion of the work is at the north-eastern corner where the features are more pronounced than elsewhere. No indications could be found of an internal structure, nor could an original entrance be determined. There is an ample local water supply. No conclusions could be drawn as to the purpose of the work or its period of construction

The feature formerly published as forming a portion of this antiquity i.e. west of the drainage ditch is in fact spoil from consecutive ditch clearings (F2 FDC 20-JUL-59).

Castle Hill must be the Swythemund-'burnt mound or embankment' mentioned in 1283 and 1304 which suggests that an old habitation was burnt down. The name was afterwards used for the more northerly farmstead at North Sweeming mentioned as Northswymond in 1509 (Smith).

The embanked enclosure recorded by the previous Authorities is visible as an earthwork on vertical photographs, dated 1967. Internally the enclosure has dimensions of 47 m by 25 m. The enclosure is approximately rectilinear, the north-east and south-east corners are slightly rounded; the other two corners have probably altered in character because of the trackway which now crosses the enclosure, close to the western end. Later photography suggests the enclosure is now levelled and seen as a soil mark. The ordinance survey record card for this site notes early antiquarian speculation that it is the remains of a twelfth century motte castle linked to some contemporary documentary references. The record card ends with an OS Surveyor's field note that it is in fact largely spoil from drain clearance. A medieval date for the site is considered to be unlikely and even if the site is the remains of a motte castle, it has been so badly truncated by a farm track that it is unlikey to qualify for scheduling due to its poor survival. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

On the 1850 OS map this mound has unusual elongated D shape divided by small brook. The identification of the recorded 'castle toft' with this earthwork is speculative and that place-name may well refer to a field in the demesne of the manor house in the village (Hall Garth).

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSE530333
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 532 (possible)
  • Le Patourel, H.E. Jean, 1973, The Moated Sites of Yorkshire (The Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph Series 5)
  • Smith, A.H., 1961, The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Part 4 Barkston Ash, Skyrack, and Ainsty Wapentakes (English Place-Name Society 33)
  • Wheater, W., 1882, The History of the Parishes of Sherburn and Cawood p. 10-12 online copy


  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 216 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Thompson, A. Hamilton (ed), 1932, Yorkshire Deeds Vol. 7 (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 83) p. 206


  • 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. 621 online copy