Whitwood Ferry Hill

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameWhitwood Ferry Hill
Alternative NamesFairy Mount; Fairies Hill; Castle Hill
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityWakefield
1974 AuthorityWest Yorkshire
Civil ParishWakefield

A motte, now only 22 ft high, with faint trace of a ditch round it, and a small brook to the south which may have been utilized for the bailey ditch, are all that remains of Castle Hill, Ferry Hill, on Fairy Mount. The site, by the Calder at Whitwood, is partly occupied by a mineral railway (VCH, 1912). "Fairies Hill", a large mound at SE 3986 2489 answers the description above, but appears to be entirely natural. There is certainly no trace of a ditch round it now (F1 RWE 13-NOV-63). De-Scheduled (English Heritage De-Scheduling Amendment 27/1/93). (PastScape)

Natural mound allegedly utilised as a motte. Now descheduled. (PastScape)

A recent small evaluation at Fairies Hill in Whitwood confirmed the identification of this site as a Norman castle. One evaluation trench was placed to clip the edge of the motte and examine its construction. This trench confirmed that the earthwork was built from differing layers of material in the same way as the construction of Hastings Castle is shown on the Bayeaux Tapestry. (Constable 2007)

Gatehouse Comments

Is this the site of a river crossing point as the name suggests? There is no apparent landscape evidence for this being a crossing point but the landscape is considerable changed by coal pits and associated spoil. Roger (Peitevin) is recorded in Domesday book as holding Whitwood as a mesne lord in 1086. The township is described as Robert de Lacy's demesne in the foundation charter of Pontefract Priory. The authenticity of this charter is doubtful, but if the statement about Whitwood's status was correct, the township may have been resumed into demesne by the end of C11. Holmes has suggested that alternatively the grant to Roger Peitevin may have been abortive. This doubt about the township's early tenural history means that on present evidence it cannot be decided who was responsible for the construction of the earthwork castle at Fairies Hill. There appears to be no basis for the statement that the township was in Roger le Peitevin's tenure in 1166. A sherd of C12 or C13 pottery was found there in 1977. Recorded as a castle site by Leland. While there is good archaeological evidence some mottes were built in layers it is not at all certain that what is shown on the Bayeaux Tapestry is an example of this. Indeed it may well be that no motte at all is shown at Hastings but that what is pictured is men digging out a ditch below the existing Iron Age promontory fort bank, surmounted by a fence, with the 'layers' being merely decorative infill, the from dictated by the nature of embroidery.

- 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 ReferenceSE398248
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  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 109
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 528
  • Faull, M.L. and Moorhouse, S.A. (eds), 1981, West Yorkshire: an archaeological survey to A.D. 1500 Vol. 2 p. 561-2
  • Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield)
  • Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 42
  • Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 84 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 531
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 42 online copy


  • Constable, Chris, 2007, 'Earthwork castles in West Yorkshire Part Two' Archaeology and Archives in West Yorkshire Vol. 24 p. 5-6 online copy
  • Constable, Chris, 2006, 'Earthwork castles in West Yorkshire' Archaeology and Archives in West Yorkshire Vol. 23 p. 5-6 online copy
  • Moorhouse, S.A., 1978, 'The Yorkshire archaeological register 1977' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 50 p. 7-19


  • Info from Chris Constable, Historic Buildings Officer West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service 11/03/06
  • 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. 776 online copy
  • Armitage, Yorks Archaeol Soc MS 521, p. 60 (Armitage consider it a motte)