Almondbury Castle Hill

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameAlmondbury Castle Hill
Alternative NamesAlmanberia
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityKirklees
1974 AuthorityWest Yorkshire
Civil ParishHuddersfield

Early-mid C12 castle constructed on the Iron Age hillfort. The castle comprises three wards, and was partly constructed in stone. It was ruinous by the late C16. Visible now as an earthwork. The castle was surveyed by RCHME in 1995 and was excavated by Varley between 1939 and 1972, though little has been published. (PastScape)

Castle Hill, Almondbury is a good and well-preserved example of a slight univallate hillfort which developed into a small multivallate hillfort. Not only does it lie outside the main distribution, it belongs to an extremely small group of northern single-banked hillforts with an internal area of more than 1ha. It is, in addition, one of the very few small multivallate hillforts datable to the period before 400BC and is unique in that, during its multi-banked phase, the bivallate interior was surrounded by two outer earthworks set in places more than 30m apart. It also possesses other rare features, including an outwork, and its earliest ramparts preserve the pre- enclosure ground surface contemporary with earlier Prehistoric use of the site. A substantial part of the monument remains unexcavated, making it of great importance to the study of hillforts of these two types. Equally important are the well-preserved remains of the motte and bailey castle. Furthermore, in addition to the garrison and ancillary buildings whose remains survive in the bailey, the well-preserved earthworks of an associated medieval settlement are contained in the area adjacent.

Castle Hill is situated south of Huddersfield at Almondbury, on a hill top above the Holme Valley south of its confluence with the River Colne. The monument includes the remains of a late Bronze Age or early Iron Age univallate hillfort, a later Iron Age multivallate hillfort, a twelfth century motte and bailey castle and the site of a deserted medieval village

Evidence for the occupation and development of Castle Hill comes from a series of partial excavations carried out by W.J.Varley between 1939 and 1973. The earliest period of use was approximately four thousand years ago, as shown by the discovery of Late Neolithic flint tools and part of a polished stone axe. This predated the first hillfort by circa one and a half thousand years. The earthworks encircling the hill were constructed in stages over a period of roughly two hundred years. The earliest enclosure, dated by radiocarbon and thermoluminescence techniques to the late seventh century BC, consisted of an area of c.2ha at the south-west end of the hill enclosed by a single bank measuring c.3m wide. This first enclosure did not have an external ditch but the bank would have been surmounted by a wooden palisade. A simple inturned entrance bisected the bank that crossed the hill and had a small guard room to one side. Early in the sixth century BC, the first enclosure was surrounded by a wide, flat-bottomed ditch and the upcast was used to construct a new bank, also 3m wide, which roughly followed the line of the old bank but in places had a different alignment. In the mid-sixth century BC, this univallate hill fort was refortified and expanded to become a complex double- banked and ditched enclosure. New ramparts, of identical structure to the earlier, were built across the ends of the transverse ditch and were continued round the north-eastern half of the hill, effectively doubling the size of the enclosure. A new entrance was created at the north-east approach and the single bank and ditch of the original enclosure were reinforced by the addition of a second rampart. Post-holes at the front and rear of these defences were found to be contemporary and would have supported the timbers of a shelter attached to the rampart. Approximately one hundred years later this bivallate hill fort was fundamentally rebuilt. The inner rampart was widened and raised and now almost entirely consisted of two parallel drystone revetments separated by horizontal timber lacing infilled with shale and clay. A deeper V-shaped ditch was cut beyond the rampart and a short length of shale rampart was added parallel to the north-east extension. A longer stretch was built outside it and continued to the north-east entrance where an outwork was also added. This outwork shared the outer ditch of the latter rampart and created an oblique approach to the hillfort, carried along a holloway from the north- east. Two new banks, almost continuous and spaced wide apart, were built lower down the hill to entirely surround the complex. By the end of the fifth century BC, however, this multivallate hillfort had been abandoned. The vitrification of the inner rampart indicates that it was destroyed by fire at about that time, possibly during hostilities. The site does not appear to have been occupied again until the early twelfth century AD when the earthworks were modified and reconstructed to create a motte and bailey castle. A broad ditch, 27m wide and 9m deep, was cut across the top of the hill, south-west of the transverse ditch belonging to the original univallate hillfort. The upcast from the ditch was used to build a motte with a surrounding rampart. In the first half of the twelfth century, licence to fortify was granted by King Stephen and the timber palisade that would originally have surmounted the motte was replaced by a stone wall. The remains of timber buildings, and others of timber and stone, have been found on the motte. These had a number of functions and were accompanied by a 27m deep well in which was found well-preserved organic material of the medieval period in addition to medieval pottery and metalwork. Ancillary and garrison buildings, and pens for cattle and horses, would have occupied the bailey and the remains of these will survive in the south-western half of the site overlying deposits relating to the internal layout of the hillfort. The north-eastern half was, at this time, the site of a small medieval settlement which survived the abandonment of the castle by circa two centuries, being still occupied in the fifteenth century. This settlement was characterised by a row of dwellings on either side of a track that ran from the north-east entrance to the gap in the rampart of the univallate hillfort. Each building occupied a strip of land which lay at right-angles to the track and was separated from its neighbours by a shallow ditch. After the desertion of the settlement, Castle Hill remained unoccupied until the nineteenth century when a tavern was built that is still in use as a hotel and public house. In the interim it was twice used as a beacon hill, with one fire being lit there at the time of the Spanish Armada and another being prepared in the event of a Napoleonic invasion. Traditionally, in the past, it has been held to be the site of Camelot and, less fancifully, a Roman fort or the headquarters of the Brigantian Queen Cartimandua. These theories have been discounted, however, due to the complete break in occupation between the fourth century BC and the Middle Ages. (Scheduling Report)

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 ReferenceSE152140
Latitude53.6221618652344
Longitude-1.77198004722595
Eastings415250
Northings414070
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World 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
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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Books

  • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 92, 108, 110, 129, 179, 234
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 16
  • Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 32-3
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 301
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 512
  • Faull, M.L. and Moorhouse, S.A., 1981, West Yorkshire: An Archaeological Survey to AD1500 (Wakefield) Vol. 3 p. 737
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 178
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 89
  • Pevsner, N. (Revised by Radcliffe, Enid), 1967, Buildings of England: Yorkshire: West Riding (London, Penguin) p. 80
  • Ahier, P., 1946, The Story of Castle Hill, Huddersfield Throughout the Centuries, BC200-AD1945 (Huddersfield: Advertiser Press)
  • Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield)
  • Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 24
  • Whitaker, T.D., 1816, Loidis and Elmete (Leeds) p. 327-8

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Speight, Sarah, 2008, 'Castles as Past Culture: Living with Castles in the Post-Medieval World' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 385-94 (slight)
  • 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
  • (Varley), 1971, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 15 p. 149 download copy
  • Manby, T.G., 1968, 'Almondburt Castle and hill fort' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 125 p. 352-4
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Brooke, T., 1902, 'Castle Hill, Almondbury' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 16 p. 241-7 online copy
  • Chadwick, S.J., 1900, 'Excavations on the site of Almondbury Castle' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 15 p. 118-19 (minor excavation report) online copy
  • Armitage, 1900, The Bradford Antiquary Vol. 1 p. 396-403
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 214 online copy
  • Brooke, T., 1874, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 30 p. 232-3 online copy
  • Hills, G.M., 1874, 'Examples of ancient earthworks' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 30 p. 406-13 esp. 410-13 online copy
  • Walker, J.K., 1873, 'Almondbury in Feudal Times' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 2 p. 3, 8-10 (history only) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Barnes, P.M. (ed.), 1955, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fourteenth year of the reign of King John, Michaelmas 1212 (Pipe Roll 58) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 68)
  • Farrer, W. (ed), 1916, Early Yorkshire Charters Vol. 3 p. 146 online copy (Notitia of a charter of Stephen, confirming to Henry de Lascy in fee the castle of Almondbury. 1142-1154)

Other

  • 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
  • West Yorkshire Archaeology Service Geophysics Archive, 2002, Geophysical Survey online copy