Sowerby Castle Hill

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameSowerby Castle Hill
Alternative NamesHell Croft
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityCalderdale
1974 AuthorityWest Yorkshire
Civil ParishHalifax

The earthwork remains of Castle Hill castle are well preserved and a rare surviving example of this type of monument in West Yorkshire. The site retains important archaeological and environmental deposits particularly in the matrix of the castle mound, in the fill of the ditches and on the old land surface buried beneath the mound. Taken as a whole Castle Hill castle will contribute significantly to our understanding of the social and economic status of the castle and its position in the wider medieval landscape. The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a motte castle which is situated on the north facing slope of the Calder valley. The castle sits on a small terrace and has commanding views both east and west along the valley. Its position, on the northern edge of the village of Sowerby, gives it a physically prominent position within the settlement. The monument survives as a series of earthworks which include a sub-circular mound with a surrounding ditch. The mound measures approximately 20m in diameter and survives to a height of about 1m on the north side and 0.5m on the southern side. The ditch is 8m wide and survives to a depth of 0.5m. A break in the outer bank of the ditch on the south west side indicates the position of a causeway, although some erosion is evident in this area. The mound is the site of a castle which is thought to have belonged to the Earls of Warren. The name Castle Hill has been used to describe the site since 1309. (Scheduling Report)

The low mound at Castle Farm, Sowerby, traditionally said to be that of Sowerby Castle, was examined in 1911 by the owner, Mr. J.E. Rawson. No foundations were found, and it seems probable that it has been formed by tipping excavated material (YAJ, 1913)

The mound here is not big enough for anything except a mere hutment, and if there was a castle of any kind in the vicinity it may have been upon the site of Castle Hill Farm SE 02 SW 26 (Kendall, 1926). This flat topped mound is approximately twenty metres in diameter, and 1.7m and 0.7m high on the northern and southern sides respectively. The mound is surrounded on all but the western side by a well defined, dry ditch, which has an average depth of 0.5m. The break in the west may indicate the position of an original causeway, as the remainder of the ditch is well preserved. There is, however, no obvious approach to the site from here, or any other direction (Field Investigators Comments–F1 RWE 05-DEC-60). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The rather fine C17 Sowerby Hall may well sit in the site of the bailey of the castle and may well be a replacement for an earlier Hall. The mound and any bailey enclosure can never have been very strong and the mound probably just functioned to show the knightly status of the sites owner.

- 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 ReferenceSE040233
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

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  • Smith, A.H., 1961, The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Part 3 Morley Wapentake (English Place-Name Society 32) p. 146
  • Crabtree, 1836 A concise history of the parish and vicarage of Halifax p. 401 online copy
  • Langdale, Thom., 1822, A Topographical Dictionary of Yorkshire p. 411 online copy
  • Watson, J., 1775, The History and Antiquities of The Parish of Halifax, in Yorkshire (London: T. Lowndes) p. 117-19 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
  • Kendall, H.P., 1926, 'The Forest of Sowerbyshire' Halifax Antiquarian Society Papers p. 97-8
  • 1912-13, 'Report of the Earthworks Committee' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 17