Wollaston Beacon Hill

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

There are earthwork remains

NameWollaston Beacon Hill
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough
Modern AuthorityNorthamptonshire
1974 AuthorityNorthamptonshire
Civil ParishWollaston

Beacon Hill is a well preserved example of a motte castle lying at the heart of an existing village. Although partially excavated, the site demonstrates high potential for the survival of structural evidence of the 12th century castle and its immediate precursor. The substantial ditch to the south is in excellent condition and will retain contemporaneous environmental evidence.

Beacon Hill motte castle lies in the centre of the village of Wollaston, just to the south of the church. The conical mound of the motte is over 6m high, with a base diameter of approximately 60m and a flat summit about 24m across. The motte ditch is still apparent on the south side and, during small scale excavations in 1961-2, the ditch was found to be up to 3.5m deep. Pottery of the 12th century was also discovered, together with the remains of a 12th century stone building which stood on the summit. This building is considered to be the remains of an early stone castle, which was destroyed soon after it was built, and traces of an even earlier structure were found beneath it. It is also known that a post mill was sited on the motte in the 13th to 15th centuries. There is no record of a bailey being attached to the castle but this may have been destroyed by later building on the site. (Scheduling Report)

Motte (SP 90856293; Fig. 161), known as Beacon Hill, in the centre of the village, 150 m. S. of the church, on Great Oolite Limestone at 76 m. above OD. In the 18th century it was also known as Mill Hill. It consists of an oval mound, 50 m. across from E. to W. and 60 m. across from N. to S., 5 m. high, with a flat top 25 m.–35 m. in diam. There are traces of a ditch on the S. side. There are no earthworks to indicate a bailey but a curving building-line of existing houses on the N

side of the mound, shown more clearly on a map of 1774, (NRO) before modern alterations, suggests the former presence of a small bailey not more than 30 m. across at its widest point. The mound was excavated in 1961–2 when a stone building, dated to the 12th century, was discovered on the summit. This was apparently destroyed soon after construction. Traces of an earlier structure were found under the mound. In the 13th century a post mill was erected on the summit (Whellan, Dir., 431; J. Bridges, Hist of Northants., II (1791), 199; VCH Northants., IV (1937), 58; Med. Arch., 14 (1970), 176). (RCHME)

Northamptonshire : Wollaston (SP908629). A motte-like mound called Beacon Hill was investigated in 1961-2 by H. N. Hall and N. Nickerson. In the latest (12th century) stage a stone building, destroyed soon after construction, stood or top. The evidence is consistent with the mound being part of an 'anarchy castle'. An earlier compacted earthwork was found. In the 13th century a post-mill was erected on top. A section of the ditch and a fuller account will be given in J. Wolverton and Dist. Archaeol. Soc., IV (1971). (Med. Arch. 1970)

Gatehouse Comments

What was the form of the 'stone building' found in 1961-2? Was this a small square tower such as found recently at Newnham, Kent or Radcot, Oxfordshire? Whilst the 1069's investigation dated this stone building as C12 and suggested this was an 'anarchy castle' it may well be the motte was constructed shortly post-Conquest since it would be unwise to build a masonry building on a mound which had not had a long period to stabilize.

- 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 ReferenceSP908629
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

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


  • 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. 254-5
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 83
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 318
  • RCHME, 1979, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northampton Vol. 2: Central Northamptonshire (HMSO) p. 180-1 online transcription
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1961, Buildings of England: Northamptonshire (Penguin) p. 464
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1937, VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 4 p. 58 online transcription
  • Downman, E.A., 1906, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Serjeantson, R.M., Ryland, W. and Adkins, D. (eds), VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 2 p. 408 online copy
  • Whellan, Wm, 1849, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Northamptonshire (London) p. 887 online copy
  • Bridges, John, 1791, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 199


  • 1971, Journal of the Wolverton and District Archaeological Society Vol. 4
  • (Hall and Nickerson), 1970, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 14 p. 176 online copy


  • 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. 571-74