Kingsbury Castle, St Albans

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Possible Palace (Royal), and also as a Questionable Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameKingsbury Castle, St Albans
Alternative NamesCastro de Kyngsbury; Kyngisbiri
Historic CountryHertfordshire
Modern AuthorityHertfordshire
1974 AuthorityHertfordshire
Civil ParishSt Albans

Kingsbury Castle is the site of a fortified village, the origins of which go back to the Anglo-Saxon period. It is situated on a natural hill and covers an area of about 27 1/2 acres. It was surrounded by a steep scarp or rampart, varying considerably in height, formed by levelling the top of the hill and throwing the soil outwards. Before reaching the southern boundary, the rampart curves outward to the east, to form a projecting bulwark. The main area was levelled in the 10th century and the bulwark about 1152. There is no trace of a ditch and it is not certain if the settlement had a stone wall. The original entrance appears to have been on the south east at the point where Dagnell Street now enters the area (VCH; RCHME; Page 1905-6).

'Kingsbury' is one of the few 'bury' names in the county which go back to Old English times. The place anciently belonged to the Saxon kings and was bought by Alfric, afterwards abbot of St. Albans, from King Ethelred (EPNS).

Excavations were carried out in 1976 at 19 Hill Street (TL14250742) and found evidence of occupation and structures of probable post-Roman date. Several types of features were identified, namely postholes and stakeholes, timber slots, gullies, pits, shallow depressions and a hearth, and several phases of occupation were noted. The only finds associated with these features were of Roman date and were all in a very worn or residual condition, and consisted almost entirely of potsherds and fragments of tile and brick. A few Medieval sherds were also found. The paucity of finds suggests a post-Roman date for the structures. (Saunders and Havercroft 1978)

An adulterine castle was built on the site and destroyed in 1152 (Renn). (PastScape)

The Kingsbury earthwork probably represents the site of the municipium; its position suggests that it was occupied before that of the monastery

Although called a castrum in 1381, it appears to have been open settlement constructed by levelling a hillock and throwing the spoil outward to form the steep scarps now visible behind the houses in Fishpool Street, Branch Road and Verulam Road. Tree trunks are said to have been found in the northern scarp. Finally, between 1151-4 the propugnaculum vel municipium in medio fere vici was levelled, ploughed and sown. (Renn)

Gatehouse Comments

An interesting example of the wide and varied contemporary use of the term castrum. The 'adulterine' castle destroyed in 1151 reads like a reuse of old earthworks by a small gang of criminal armed men as a base for terrorising and extorting the local area when royal authority was absent during the Anarchy. How much new building this gang did may be questionable, although some new palisades are not unlikely. The Saxon palace was out of use well before the C11 and can reject as a palace as categorised in Gatehouse. It seems unlikely the village defences were in active use post-Conquest although clearly they still remained if occupied in 1150.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL141074
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of The Thames Valley and The Chilterns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 48
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 221
  • Renn, D.F., 1971, Medieval Castles in Hertfordshire (Chichester) p. 3
  • Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. and Stenton, F.M., 1938, The place-names of Hertfordshire (English Place-name Society 15) p. 89-90
  • RCHME, 1910, An inventory of the historical monuments in Hertfordshire (London: HMSO) p. 192 online transcription ([plan >])
  • Montgomerie, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Hertfordshire Vol. 2 p. 123-4 reproduced by Friends of Victoria Playing Field


  • Saunders, C. and Havercroft, A.B., 1978, 'Excavations in the City and District of St. Albans 1974-76' Hertfordshire Archaeology Vol. 6 p. 1-15
  • Page, Wm, 1905-6, 'Kingsbury Castel' St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society Transactions (new ser) Vol. 2.2 p. 148-56 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. 205 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Riley, H.T. (ed), 1867, 'Gesta Abbatum Monastrii Scanti Albani' in Chronica Monasterii S. Albani (Rolls Series 28) Vol. 1 p. 23, 121-2 online copy
  • Riley, H.T. (ed), 1869, 'Gesta Abbatum Monastrii Scanti Albani' in Chronica Monasterii S. Albani (Rolls Series 28) Vol. 3 p. 366 online copy