Kirtling Towers

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameKirtling Towers
Alternative NamesCatledge Hall; Catlidg
Historic CountryCambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishKirtling

C16 Kirtling Towers is all that now remains of the ancient Kirtling Hall, originally built about the reign of Henry VI but the main part of the building was pulled down in 1801. The roof of the tower is flat and leaded, while the house has steeply pitched slate roofs with a gable parapet to the east. The gatehouse is of three storeys with the main south entrance blocked and the ground floor incorporated into the plan of C19 house. The gatehouse has four octagonal corner turrets above an embattled parapet. The two larger turrets are to the south, flanking the original entrance with a four-centred arch infilled with C19 window. Above is a fine two storey limestone oriel window. C19 house has similar detail to the gatehouse and is of two storeys. The house also has a closed, embattled porch. It stands on the site of a C13 castle and hall, which was built in C16 and survived until 1801. Prior to that, the site was occupied by a Saxon fortified house owned by King Harold. (PastScape)

Kirtling castle and its 16th-century successor Kirtling Hall stood next to the present house, Kirtling Tower, on a flat-topped spur in the centre of the parish. The Tower consists of the Hall's 16th-century gatehouse and a Victorian wing; adjoining it to the north is the site of the main part of the Hall, within three arms of a moat. That site was almost certainly occupied by a manor house or castle in 1086, when the park to its north already existed, and is likely to be that of a pre-Conquest manor house. The parish church, which includes 11th-century fabric and originally had a plan arguably characteristic of late Anglo-Saxon work, stands immediately north of the moat. The high rectangular mound on which the Hall was built may be the enlarged and reshaped earthworks of a Norman castle: Kirtling was the capital of Countess Judith's Cambridgeshire estates in 1086 and from the early 12th century a centre for the Tony family. Kirtling castle was first documented in 1219

It had a moat crossed by a bridge in 1260 and an encircling ditch and palisade in 1310. In 1337 it was described as a forcelet, which perhaps implies the absence of stone defences and keep. The wall was repaired in 1392. The only buildings recorded before 1400 are the 'ruined and wasted' houses reported in 1337, but the castle was inhabited at various times in the 13th and 14th centuries. In the early 15th century the buildings included hall, kitchen, and chapel, and the 'longhouse' outside the moat. In 1424 a new hall was built inside the moat for the earl of Warwick by a carpenter from Saxon Street using 100 oaks and 10 ashes from Kirtling park; it was to have a parlour, solar, and two chambers at its east end, and a pantry, buttery, and passage leading to the kitchen. By then there were clearly several other buildings within the moat. (VCH)

Recent, limited archaeological investigation has shown that there was Saxo-Norman occupation of the site, but it is unclear if this phase was associated with any the earthworks. The banks and ditches as they now stand date from the early Tudor period. (Lowerre ref. Boast 1991 and Miller 1992)

Gatehouse Comments

The moat which surrounds the site of Kirtling Towers is the largest surviving in Cambridgeshire.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL686574
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Copyright Mike Fitzgerald All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Mike Fitzgerald All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Mike Fitzgerald All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Mike Fitzgerald All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 417, 419
  • Lowerre, A.G., 2007, 'A GIS Analysis of the Location of Late-Eleventh-Century Castles in the Southeastern Midlands of England' in' Clark, J.T. and E.M. Hagemeister (eds.) Digital Discovery. Exploring New Frontiers in Human Heritage (Archaeolingua) p. 239-252 online copy
  • 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. 233
  • Wareham, Andrew, 2002, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 10 p. 65-7 online transcription
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 20
  • Miller, J., 1992, Archaeological Excavations at Kirtling Towers, Cambridgeshire (Cambridge Archaeological Unit)
  • Taylor, Alison, 1986, Castles of Cambridgeshire (Cambridge)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 40
  • Taylor, Christopher, 1973, The Cambridgeshire landscape: Cambridgeshire and the southern fens p. 152
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1967, VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 1 p. 398, 402-3
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1954, Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire p. 339
  • Phillips, 1948, in Salzman, L.F. (ed), VCH Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely Vol. 2 p. 33-4
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 299 online copy



  • 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)

Primary Sources

  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 118


  • 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. 492-5
  • Miller, J., 1992, Archaeological Investigations at Kirtling Towers, Cambridgeshire (Cambridge Archaeological Unit Report 56)
  • Boast, R., 1991, Archaeological Investigations at Kirtling Towers Moat, Cambridgeshire: an Interim Report (Cambridge Archaeological Unit Report 36)