Easby Castle Hill

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte Ringwork)

There are earthwork remains

NameEasby Castle Hill
Alternative NamesEasby near Stokesley; Borough Green
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishEasby

Norman motte castle, situated on a bluff east of the village of Easby on the edge of the North York Moors; it lies at the southern edge of the bluff, at the top of an almost vertical, 60m high scarp overlooking the River Leven and affording an excellent vantage point with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. The motte is a horseshoe shaped mound, 45m across, being 2.5m high on the northern side but less than 2m high at the edge of the bluff, where the stronghold will have been less vulnerable to attack. The top of the motte is slightly hollowed, sloping gently to the south, and three small disturbed areas mark the location of excavation trenches opened by Howell in 1903. The southern edge of the motte is formed by the precipitous natural scarp but elsewhere a 5m wide ditch surrounds it; the northern arm of the ditch has silted up over the years, being visible only as a slight depression at the base of the mound, although where it runs to the edge of the bluff the ditch is 1m deep. The castle had timber defences; Howell's trial excavations found no evidence of stone structures. The construction of the motte is attributed to Bernhard Balliol, Lord of the manor of Easby during the civil wars of the 12th century, and its remote location suggests that it served as a watch-tower or temporary refuge in time of strife. (Scheduling Report)

Castle Hill, Easby visited 4th Jan 1959. "It is not a normal motte and bailey, but an enclosure - horse shoe shaped, just over 100ft on the three sides. The ditch is 12 to 15ft wide. The site of Rev. Howell's dig in 1903 is still visible - a trial pit it seems, and it produced only a flint scraper at 4ft ... the bank is 10ft high at this point ...' (staff comments). This earthwork represents the remains of a small motte devoid of a bailey

It is defended on the south east by natural slopes, and elsewhere by a ditch the remains of which are visible only at the two points at which the ditch merges into the natural decline. The general slope of the mound, and a hollowing of the centre towards the edge of the declivity, suggests that the landslip has resulted in a collapse of the motte. This erosion has left the motte in such a form as to be incorrectly described by Hayes as an enclosure. The measurements given are, however, reasonably correct (Field Investigators Comments–F1 ECW 28-JUN-62). Probably adulterine motte at Castle Hill possibly erected by Bernard de Balliol, lord of the manor of Easby. The motte, now much mutilated, was dug into at the centre "some years ago", but nothing was found. (l'Anson, 1913) (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The scheduling report and National Monument record contain much received wisdom and speculation based on ideas of castles which have now been questioned. The site is isolated, of no strategic or economic value and does not have a bailey. There is no historical evidence of activity in this area during the Anarchy (although the contemporary chronicle reports have a South West bias). It is located near to and possibly within the park of Easby Hall to the West and there are Park place-names to the East. Re-examination of this site by castle studies and medieval park experts should be done as this may actually be a mound associated with hunting.

- 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 ReferenceNZ589084
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  • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 107, 219, 239
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 37
  • Jackson, M.J., 2001, Castles of North Yorkshire (Carlisle) p. 23
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 517
  • Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield)
  • Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 4


  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • I'Anson, W.M., 1913, 'The castles of the North Riding' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 345-7


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
  • Creighton, O.H., 1998, Castles and Landscapes: An Archaeological Survey of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (PhD Thesis University of Leicester) p. 592 online copy