Huntingdon Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameHuntingdon Castle
Alternative NamesHuntendonae
Historic CountryHuntingdonshire
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishHuntingdon

The Castle mount and bailey consisting of an oval motte with a half moon shaped inner bailey on the W. The earth works were much cut up by the construction of the railway (RCHME). "On the outside of the rampart, at the SE corner, close to where the railway cuts through, there is ..... the Castle Well .... whether it is really ancient .... it perhaps open to question" (VCH). Motte and bailey as described by RCHME, but with principal bailey on the E and remains of another to the W. within the main bailey against the NE embankment are traces of possibly two buildings, probably modern. The well has a modern brick and concrete top and is sealed. If it is ancient, being outside the bailey wall it was obviously not the principal source of water (First OS Archaeology Field Investigator 26/02/1970). Fieldwork has shown that the ramp and causeway which blocks the ditch of the motte and cuts through the top edge of the motte itself, cannot be contemporary with the early Medieval use of the castle. The motte also has a slight hollow in the top and this indicates that it was used as a gun battery in the 17th century. A section of the bailey rampart that has been raised to a height of 4.0m and widened to 25.0m and was probably similarly used in Civil War. Cannons set on these mounds would have covered the main river crossing of the Ouse (Taylor, 1974). Part of the southern rampart was examined in 1975. The rampart above the level of the bailey proved to be post-Medieval and presumably Cromwellian. It covered about 1.0m of loam containing much occupation debris of the Roman and Medieval periods. Below this were cut shallow graves containing skeletons lying east - west surrounded by coffin nails. There is no nearby church with which these might be associated but is is possible that a chapel stood in the castle bailey

(DoE excavations 1975) Built by William the Conqueror in 1068 to suppress the county and control the crossing of the Ouse, it passed to his niece, the Countess Judith, and through her daughter, Matilda, to the Scottish Kings after Matilda's marriage to King David I. When William the Lion joined 'the young king' in his rebellion against Henry II in 1173, it was besieged and captured by Henry II, who then ordered its demolition. (PastScape)

The castle consists of a large defensive mound or motte and a roughly rectangular bailey with rounded corners. The bailey retains evidence of stone buildings with grassed over wall footings surviving up to 0.3m in height. A chapel within the castle was granted to the Huntingdon Priory in 1327. A windmill was erected atop of the motte before 1807 and in 1875 the windmill was demolished. (Cambs HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Has a long standing tradition of earlier pre-Conquest origin. Edward the Elder may well have built some sort of defensive earthwork in Huntingdon c. 917 and this may be the bases of the castle which William will have strengthened and adapted into a Norman style motte and bailey castle. Attacked and destroyed 1173 and probably not used after this date as Cambridge Castle will have acted as the county administrative centre. Foundations of a masonry gatehouse found and Clark suggests a shell keep but seemingly no suggestion of a masonry curtain wall.

- 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 ReferenceTL240714
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Duncan Grey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 60, 277, 413
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 19
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 12-13
  • Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 133, 134
  • Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
  • Taylor, Alison, 1986, Castles of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 224
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 245-6
  • Taylor, C.C., 1974, Fieldwork in Medieval Archaeology (London: Batsford) p. 64-5
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 207
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 682
  • Page, Wm, Proby, Granville, and Ladds, S. Inskip (eds), 1932, VCH Huntingdonshire Vol. 2 p. 130-1
  • RCHME, 1926, An inventory of the historical monuments in Huntingdonshire p. 149-51 no. 6 (plan) online transcription
  • Inskip Ladds, S., 1926, in Page, Wm and Proby, Granville (eds), VCH Huntingdonshire Vol. 1 p. 288-90 view unattributed online copy
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 162-4 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 316-17 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 126-8 online copy



  • Brown, J., 2009, 'Huntingdon, Red Cross HQ, Castle Moat Road' in 'Fieldwork in Cambridgeshire 2008' Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society Vol. 98 p. 154 online copy
  • Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 309, 315
  • 1968, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 12 p. 175 download copy
  • Renn, D.F., 1964, 'The first Norman Castles in England 1051-1071' Château Gaillard Vol. 1 p. 125-132
  • Dickinson, 1963, CBA Group 7 Vol. 10 p. 2
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • 1937, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 1 p. 136, 141
  • Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 233-4 online copy
  • Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 85, 87 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. 206 online copy
  • Clark, 1874, The Builder Vol. 32 p. 432 (reprinted in MMA)
  • Country Life Vol. 108 p. 1579-81

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book online copy
  • le Prevost, A. (ed), 1840, Orderici Vitalis, Historiae Ecclesiaticae Vol. 2 p. 184, 185 online copy
  • Stubbs, Wm. (ed), 1876, Radulphi de Diceto decani Lundoniensis Opera Historica. The Historical work of Master Ralph de Diceto, Dean of London (London, Rolls Series 68) Vol. 1 p. 404
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 257
  • E36/150 (Survey of 1521) (calendared in Brewer, J.S. (ed), 1867, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII Vol. 3 p.508 No. 1286 online copy)


  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) esp. 141- 181 available via EThOS
  • English Heritage, 1995, Schedule of Ancient Monuments - 1995.
  • Cambridgeshire Extensive Urban Survey: Huntingdon. Draft Report 04/05/2004. online copy