Castle Hymel, Fineshade

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameCastle Hymel, Fineshade
Alternative NamesCastle Hely; Humbel
Historic CountryNorthamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough
Modern AuthorityNorthamptonshire
1974 AuthorityNorthamptonshire
Civil ParishDuddington With Fineshade

The monument known as Fineshade Abbey consists of the earthworks of the motte and bailey known as Castle Hymel and of the priory which replaced it when the castle was demolished in about 1200. The motte lay on the higher ground to the east and the bailey lay on the western side of the site. There is no trace above ground of the priory but it stood on and around the location of the later house to the north of the site. The peripheral bailey of the castle was a semi-circular area lying to the west and north-west of the motte and now survives as earthworks. A long, curving bank up to 2.5m high running along the western edge of the site, above a steep valley, defines the extent of the bailey and below the bank the river runs into a large lake just north of the site. Within the bailey, platforms and depressions indicate the presence of former buildings. The priory was situated to the north of the castle motte within the northern area of the bailey. (Scheduling Report)

Fineshade Castle and Priory (SP 973976), on the E. side of a small brook in a steep-sided valley cut through limestone deposits, at 200 ft. above OD. The castle, known as 'Castle Hymel', is ill-recorded but apparently belonged to the Engayne family when it was demolished in c. 1200 to make way for the Augustinian Priory of St. Mary, founded by Richard Engayne who died in 1208. The priory was dissolved in 1536 and the conventual buildings were turned into a residence. These were demolished in 1749 and replaced by a large Georgian mansion which was pulled down in 1956, except for the stables and the S. part of the house. Traces of the castle still remain, but the whole area has been much altered by landscaping in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The local topography and such earthworks as exist suggest that the Castle may have been of the motte and bailey, or ring and bailey, type, with the motte or ring on the rising ground S. of the 18th-century house and E

of the stables, and with the bailey on the lower, flatter ground to the W. The best-preserved part is that which was presumably a section of the bailey rampart. This is a long curving bank up to 2.5 m. high running along the edge of a steep natural river cliff. At its S. end a gap which might be interpreted as an entrance is almost certainly a later cart-track. S.E. of the stables is another length of curved bank with an external ditch which may be the remains of the ring. (RCHME)

Almost yn the middle way I cam by Finshed, lately a priory of blak chanons, leving it hard by on the right hond; it is a 4. miles from Stanford. Here in the very place wher the priory stoode was yn tymes past a castel caullid Hely, it longgid to the Engaynes : and they dwellid yn it, ontylle such tyme that one of them for lak of childern of his owne began a priory ther, gyving them landes even thereabout : wherby after the castelle was pullid downe to make up the priory, so that now there remaynith almost no token that ever ther was any castel there. (Leland)

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 ReferenceSP972976
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • 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. 244-5
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 76
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 316
  • RCHME, 1975, An inventory of the historical monuments in the County of Northampton Vol. 1: North-east Northamptonshire (HMSO) p. 38-9 plate 6 online transcription ([plan >] and [plate >])
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 208
  • Cox, J.C., 1906, 'Religious Houses' in Serjeantson, R.M., Ryland, W. and Adkins, D. (eds), VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 2 p. 135-6 online copy
  • Bridges, John, 1791, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 307


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 329
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 22 online copy


  • 1988, South Midlands Archaeology: CBA Group 9 Newsletter Vol. 18 p. 60-1 online copy
  • Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 264 online copy
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 317

Primary Sources

  • Dugdale, William (Caley, J., Ellis, H. and Bandinel, B. (eds)), 1817-30 (originally pub. 1655-73), Monasticon Anglicanum (London) Vol. 6.1 p. 450 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. 530-31