Canterbury; The Dane John

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameCanterbury; The Dane John
Alternative NamesDungeon Hill, Dungan Hill; Dangon Hill
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishCanterbury

Roman barrow cemetery with possible Bronze Age origins. Only one survives as an earthwork, this was enlarged for use as a Medieval motte and bailey and a windmill mound. It was also used as a Civil War gun emplacement and incorporated into a public garden after 1790. (PastScape)

Excavations took place in 1981 prior to redevelopment on the site of the old City Council offices at 15A Dane John. The site was situated immediately adjacent to the west side of Dane Gardens, about 100 metres north of the Dane John mound. Extensive later disturbance had removed all but a few Roman deposits. The next major archaeological phase consisted of part of a large ditch, 17 metres wide, 3 metres deep and was probably part of the outer bailey ditch for the early Norman motte and bailey castle - the present Dane John mound probably being the site of the motte. In the late 12th or 13th century, the bailey defences were probably razed and the ditch partially backfilled. A number of features, including pits, wells and small ditches, were then dug in the area. The features were later truncated and disturbed. The partly backfilled bailey ditch was re-cut at this time with a channel at the sump. This new ditch, which may have been an open running sewer, might be the predecessor of the 'Black Ditch' or 'Black Dyke' which documentary sources describe as being an open sewer extant in this vicinity until the eighteenth century. The re-cut bailey ditch was progressively backfilled and virtually levelled by the sixteenth century. The area then became a garden throughout the 17th century and towards the end of this period part of the slope of the area was terraced and a trackway constructed. In the 18th century levelling up and terracing occurred. In 1790 the 'Dane John land' of which the area covered by the site was part, was leased by the City Alderman, James Simmons, who undertook to level the site and landscape the entire gardens

This landscaping was still in progress in the early 19th century. From around this time a large amount of dumping occurred on site, raising the level by about one metre. These deposits were cut by the foundations of Shakespeare's Terrace (Nos 12-15 Dane John) constructed at some time in the 1840's and by a boundary wall and brick-lined well. Sealing all of these features was a thick layer of 20th century dump deposits, over which lay the shallow foundations of the recent City Council offices. (PastScape ref. Frere et al, 1987)

Gatehouse Comments

Predecessor of Canterbury. Guy writes this mound is a burial mound and was never used as a motte. Most authors agree if it was used it life as a castle was short lived. To quote Armitage "The name Dane John is not so much a corruption (of Dungeon) as a deliberate perversion introduced by the antiquary Somner about 1640, under the idea that the Danes threw up the hill".

- 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 ReferenceTR146572
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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

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Latitude 51° 16' 29.8" Longitude 1° 4' 40.36"

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  • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS