Eddisbury Town Defences

Has been described as a Possible Urban Defence, and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameEddisbury Town Defences
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCheshire
Modern AuthorityCheshire
1974 AuthorityCheshire
Civil ParishDelamere

The excavation of Castle Ditch, Eddisbury, was carried out under Varley from 1936 to 1938. Four areas were excavated and a number of sections cut through the defences which suggested the following constructional sequence:

Phase 1: The erection of pre-rampart palisade defences, probably pre 250 BC.

Phase 2: The construction of the original univallate hill-fort around the eastern half of the hill, about 200-100 BC.

Phase 3: The reconstruction of the hill fort by an extension westwards and transforming Eddisbury Hill into a bivallate contour work, AD 1-50.

Phase 4: The complete destruction of the hill fort by the Romans in the late 1st century AD.

Phase 5: The re-occupation as an open site in the Dark Ages, 4-6th century AD.

Phase 6: a. The first Saxon occupation of the site attested by a hut dated 6th-8th century AD.

b. The re-erection of the defences in the 10th century AD which is possibly the AD 914 burh of Aetheflaeda.

Phase 7: The mediaeval and modern occupation. (See SJ 56 NE 2) (Varley 1950).

Forde-Johnston reinterprets the constructional sequence (Johnston 1962).

An Iron Age bivallate contour hillfort on Eddisbury Hill measures, overall, 380.0m NW-SE by 200.0m transversely. On the NE side, where best preserved, the inner rampart is 15.0m in width, 0.6m high internally, 4.0m externally and the inner ditch, 10.0m wide, 0.5m deep. The outer rampart is 16.0m in width, 2.0m high internally, 5.5m externally. There is no outer ditch. Either side of an inturned entrance at the NW end of the work and along the SW side, the defences have been reduced by ploughing and other agricultural activities, to little more than steep-faced scarps but also incorporate natural steep slopes of outcrop sandstone, particularly on the S and E

There is a small, probably original entrance at the SE end, cut through the natural sandstone outcrop. The former NW side of the fort, before extension westwards, is bounded by a normal field hedge bank, but there are no traces of the original earthworks here.

Published 1:2500 survey, 1970, correct (Ordnance Survey Field Investigation ASP 12-MAR-76).

(SJ 5534 6933) In 1987 the RCHME carried out a Level 3 analytical earthwork survey of Castle Ditch, Eddisbury hillfort and Burh. The monument is essentially as previously described, but the field evidence does not support Varley's claims that the first hillfort was univallate and confined to the eastern part of the hill and was later expanded and strengthened. The ramparts have been more extensively damaged by quarrying than previously recognised. Evidence for the rebuilding of the N defences was observed in the earthworks in a marked steepening of the rampart near its top. This relates closely to the evidence recorded by Varley for the rebuilding of this site as part of the Aethelfleadan occupation of Eddisbury. The site was surveyed by the RCHME at 1:1000 scale; plans and supporting text are available from the NMR archive (RCHME Field Investigation WRWN 26-FEB-87).

SJ 552 694. Eddisbury. Listed in gazetteer as a multivallate hillfort covering 3.1ha (Hogg 1979).

SJ 5534 6933. Eddisbury hillfort, Delamere, E of Old Pale Farm. Scheduled RSM No 25692. The fort is of a type familiar on the Welsh side of the Marches but unusual in Cheshire. It has additional value as an example of reoccupation after the departure of the Roman army and as such is rare indeed (Scheduling Report).

Publication of the RCHME survey, with additional documentary research. The absence of material from the excavations means that it is impossible to confirm Varley's assertion of reoccupation in the Roman and post-Roman period. Eddisbury is documented as a burh in 914 but was never a mint, and may have been replaced as a burh by Runcorn which was built in 915. Furtehrmore it is difficult to support Varley's conclusion that there was originally a small fort which was later enlarged, and that the southern defences were continuous. on the line he suggested (Cocroft 1989).

In May 2000, English Heritage carried out a desk-top assessment and Level 1 field survey of Old Pale Farm; Castle Ditch falls partly within the bounds of this area. The monument remains as described by RCHME Investigation 1987. Hogg's estimate of the area is probably c.0.5ha too little considering the damage done by quarrying recorded by Source 9. The quarries which impinge on the northern side of the hillfort (possibly the source of building stone for Vale Royal Abbey) and probable medieval field boundaries at its south-eastern end were allocated new NMR numbers to enhance the record. An excellent large scale plan of the monument is included on the OS 2-inch surveyor's draft of 1839. The EH survey suggests that the prehistoric field system alleged to exist on the northern side of the hill, detected by NJ Higham on his 1987 aerial photographs, can probably be dismissed as being either geological or post-medieval in origin. (PastScape)

Creighton and Higham write 'no significant above ground remains of former medieval town defences or gates at …Eddisbury' Presumable this is the C10 burghal fort built with an Iron Age hill fort, which is Bond's list of 'New Anglo-Saxon burghal forts of no later urban significance'.

Gatehouse Comments

In 914 AD Eddisbury is documented as a Saxon burh, although it was probably only short-lived since there was no mint there. However, the hillfort has considerable above ground remains and Creighton and Higham may be referring to something else though it is unclear as to what. The assumption may have being made that the Burh documented in 914 was a communal defence. Gatehouse is not certain that all burhs recorded in the ASC were intended as communal sites. Some may have been fortified private lordly sites and this may have been the case here. The site was reused as a royal hunting lodge (see The Chamber in the Forest) showing the Iron Age fort was suitable for such use. However, some of the burhs may have been built as pure military camps with no significant communal or lordly residence and the pre-existing Iron Age earthworks would have made this site particularly suitable for such a function.

- 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 ReferenceSJ553693
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 157 (slight)
  • Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 92
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 266
  • Cocroft, W.D. et al, 1989, 'Castle Ditch hillfort, Eddisbury, Cheshire, reconsidered : the excavations of 1935-38 in the light of recent field survey' in Bowden, M. et al (eds), From Cornwall to Caithness: some aspects of British field archaeology: papers presented to Norman V. Quinnell p. 129-35
  • Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 online copy
  • Harris, B.E. and Thacker, A.T. (eds), 1987, VCH Cheshire Vol. 1 p. 250, 288
  • Hogg, A.H.A., 1979, British Hillforts: an index (BAR British Series 62) p. 154
  • Dodgson, J.McN., 1971, The Place-Names of Cheshire, Part 3 (English Place-Name Society 46) p. 213
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 204
  • Ormerod, G., 1819, History of the County Palatine and city of Chester (London) Vol. 2 p. 1, 3 online copy


  • Johnston, J.F., 1962, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Vol. 72 p. 23-5
  • Varley, W.J., 1950, 'Excavations of the castle ditch, Eddisbury, 1935-1938' Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Vol. 102 p. 1-68
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 201 (Clark wrongly presumed a mound here) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Anglo-Saxon Chronicle C 914