Halton Castle Hill

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameHalton Castle Hill
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLancashire
Modern AuthorityLancashire
1974 AuthorityLancashire
Civil ParishHalton With Aughton

A hundred yards to the north-east of the parish church, upon the top of a lofty cliff on the other side of the little beck, towers a circular artificial mound of earth, which bears the name of the 'Castle Hill.' This and some adjacent earthworks are the remains of a small mount and court castle, which is very strikingly situated.

The site is nearly 200 yds. away from the present banks of the Lune, which runs through the flat meadows below. It is at an altitude of 100 ft. above the sea and 90 ft. above the river. It is situated at the extreme corner of a promontory, formed by the deep valley of the Cole Beck where it has cut its way to join the low-lying river. The ground falls almost precipitously for 50 ft. or so on the sides next the brook, the south-west and south, while to the south-east it is but slightly less steep. On the north side, however, it is only separated from equally high ground behind by a slight depression, and at less than 200 yards' distance the hill rises about 25 ft. higher. As long as weapons were short in range the position would be a magnificent one, and the command from the top of the mount complete; but with the advent of the long-bow it would not be at all secure. The view from the fortalice is extensive on every side except the north; it ranges both up and down the valley of the Lune and over the undulating ground across the river to the distant hills beyond; Lancaster is just visible to the south-west.

Halton mount is visibly artificial, and, as usual, circular and conical, with a truncated top ; it is about 1 00 ft. in diameter at its base, and rises 12 ft. above the level of the bailey, the top measuring about 35 ft. across. The fosse which once separated the mount from the bailey has been almost filled in by former ploughings, but it is still traceable by the curved depres- sion along its course, and is especially recognizable where the rampart of the bailey approaches the mount from the north

There is no fosse round the mount on its west, south, and south-east sides, where the steep, and in places almost precipitous, natural slopes, which were possibly artificially scarped as well, formed ample protection. The bailey lies to the north-east of the mount, and is crescentic in shape. The area of it and its defences and those of the mount taken together is hardly an acre. Its interior has apparently been raised artificially to a height of about 4 ft. above its immediate surroundings; this in order to command equally high ground near it on the north. The site shows traces of ancient ploughing, which has largely obliterated the former defences; but a rampart of varying height is still visible on the north-west and north sides, and is traceable on the north-east; the fosse outside this has evidently been well-nigh filled by former cultivation of the field, and is now only to be identified by a depression about half-way round, beginning from the west. The highest surviving portion of the rampart is now only 2 ft. in height above the level of the bailey, and 6 ft. above the ground outside, from which position it is best viewed. The hill upon which the castle is situated has been grazed for the past fifty years or more, and all its steep slopes, both artificial and natural, have become terraced by the continual tread of animals. This has also tended to obliterate the previously ploughed defensive earthworks. There are no signs of any masonry about the castle, and its palisades must, therefore, have been of wood.

The church of Halton, just across the beck below the mount, is rebuilt upon an ancient foundation, and there is a Saxon cross standing beside it.

The mount has been often described as sepulchral, and also as a Roman botontinus, but there is no doubt that it is a mount and court earthwork castle of the usual type. (VCH 1908)

The motte and bailey castle at Halton is one of a series of such monuments flanking the Lune valley and is thus of particular importance in contributing to an understanding of the post-conquest land settlement and development of the feudal system in the area. Its earthworks survive well and the lack of subsequent occupation on the site, particularly in the bailey, means that buried structural remains and environmental evidence will survive well.

The monument at Castle Hill consists of a truncated motte situated at the end of a promontory overlooking the River Lune. A concentric-shaped bailey lies to the NE and is separated from the motte by a shallow ditch. A rampart and ditch surround the bailey on the N, NW and NE side. The earthworks are well defined at this monument. During the 2nd World War a look-out post was built on top of the motte, the foundations of which still survive. A flagpole has also been erected on the motte. (Scheduling Report)

Castle Hill. A small motte and bailey castle situated at the extreme corner of a promontory. The motte is about 100ft in diameter at its base and rises 12ft above the level of the bailey, the top measuring about 35 ft across.

The ditch between the motte and bailey, almost filled in by ploughing, is still traceable. The crescentric shaped bailey lies to the north east, its interior has apparently been raised artificially about 4ft above its immediate surroundings. A rampart is still visible on the north and north west sides and is traceable on the north east - the ditch outside has been nearly filled by ploughing. Tracks made by grazing animals have tended to obliterate the previously ploughed defensive earthworks (VCH; Baines; Harrison; TCWAAS 1891; Ancient monuments list 1973).

The above description is substantially correct. The motte is 3.2m above the level of the bailey and the flat top of the motte is 9.5m in diameter, its slopes merge with the natural slope of the hill on the south and south west sides Traces of the ditch between motte and bailey are visible but not surveyable. On the north side of the bailey there is a slight ditch 0.3m deep.

On top of the motte the foundations of a 1939/45 war lookout post are visible, and there are some undressed stones in the banks of the motte and bailey, but no structural remains (F1 EG 02-DEC-53). (PastScape)

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 ReferenceSD499647
Latitude54.0768814086914
Longitude-2.76600003242493
Eastings349967
Northings464780
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved

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Books

  • Grimsditch, Brian, Nevell, Michael and Nevell, Richard, 2012, Buckton Castle and the Castles of the North West England (University of Salford Archaeological Monograph 2) p. 108
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Lancashire and Cheshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 26
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 136 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 245
  • Gibson, Leslie Irving, 1977, Lancashire Castles and Towers (Dalesman Books)
  • Gardner, W., 1908, 'Ancient Earthworks:- Lancashire South of the Sands' in Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), VCH Lancashire Vol. 2 p. 524-6 (plan) online copy
  • Harrison, W., 1896, An Archaeological Survey of Lancashire p. 12
  • Baines, E., 1836, History of the County Palatine and Duchy of Lancaster (London: Fisher, Son, and Jackson) Vol. 2 p. 607

Journals

  • Higham, Mary, 1991, 'The Mottes of North Lancashire, Lonsdale and South Cumbria' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 91 p. 79-90 (reprinted in Crosby, A.G. (ed), 2007, Of names and places: selected writings of Mary Higham (Nottingham: English Place-Name Society and the Society for Name Studies) p. 81-91) online copy
  • 1891, Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 11 Part 2 p. 311 (slight) online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 207 online copy

Guide Books

  • White, A.J., 1998, Norman Castles of Lunedale A History Trail (Lancaster City Museums) (Leaflet)

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