Groby Castle Hill

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

There are earthwork remains

NameGroby Castle Hill
Alternative NamesTourhull; Grobi
Historic CountryLeicestershire
Modern AuthorityLeicestershire
1974 AuthorityLeicestershire
Civil ParishGroby

Medieval motte and bailey castle surviving as an earthwork. The Castle was built in the late C11 by Hugh de Grantmesnil and was destroyed in 1172. Excavations in 1962-3 showed the motte was built around an existing stone structure of function, possibly a tower. Fishponds to north destroyed by road by-pass. The oval castle motte is 5 to 6m high with a flattish top and measures 38m east to west and 25m north to south. To the east is a flat bailey area extending for 20m and enclosed by a ditch surviving for a length of 35m and 15m wide and 2m deep. On its outer east side it has a slight bank 1m high. (PastScape)

Norman Castle (built c.1086) with a possible Saxon manorial precursor. The castle was apparently destroyed by order of Henry II in 1176 and seems to have been replaced by a more impressive castle before a manorial complex developed to the south in the C13th.

The site is essentially a Norman castle that remained an important manorial complex throughout the medieval period.

The motte survives behind Groby Old Hall next to the A50 bypass. It is c.30m across and 7m high. Little survives of the bailey but a map of 1757 shows an elogated oval enclosing the motte and an area to the west. The motte has a gazebo on it.

The building of the castle is said to have been by Hugh de Grantemesnil and it was destroyed by order of Henry II in 1176. Ditches were filled with earth by Thomas, 2nd Marquis of Dorset, intending to make a herbere out of it. Nichols also mentions 'a very antient stone wall' some 10-15 yards long c.100yds above the site of the keep.

In 1962/3 excavation took place in advance of the bypass. The bailey ditch was rock-cut and very deep. The motte had been built around a stone building 20' by 16', with walls standing at least 6'-7' high. This tower, predating the medieval castle may be an Anglo-Saxon tower, perhaps representing a late Saxon manorial precursor to the castle site

The material (including pottery) is in the HBMC stores and the excavation is unpublished (Creighton 1997).

Following a survey in 1984 Groby Castle was described as, "a kidney-shaped mound, up to 7 metres in height, which used to be surrounded on its north and east sides by a semi-circular section of bank flanked by inner and outer ditches" (Hartley 2008).

Geophysical survey work was carried out by the Time Team in 2010. The three sides of the keep were well defined. The northern side had been quarried away. Breaks in the response were thought to relate to the stairs and a doorway recorded during the 1960s excavation. There appeared to be revetment stones and a possible structure extending to the south of the keep (Adcock and Wood 2011).

Trial trenching by the Time Team, following the geophysical survey, did not find any evidence for Saxon activity on site. It was thought that the keep was built in the C12th/C13th following the demise of the first castle. Two trenches were opened up on the motte; they recorded the stone keep, built directly onto the bedrock, wth the motte built up around it. A large outer wall was constructed around the keep. There was no evidence for the destruction of the castle - the northern wall of the keep was quarried away during the post-medieval period. (Also, there are C18th images showing a building still standing.) A trench across the bailey, to the east, recorded banks and an outer ditch. The ditch appeared to have been backfilled in the late C15th/C16th, presumably so that a garden could be laid out for the newly built Groby Old Hall (Wessex Archaeology 2011).

A watching brief undertaken in 2011 to the east of the site, adjacent to the farmyard but within the Scheduled Monument, noted a demolition layer dating to the 19th or early 20th Century. This layer became softer and noticeably sank towards the eastern part of the stripped area, coinciding with the alignment of the castle ditch and confirming the ditch continued into the proposed development area (Richards 2011). (Leicestershire and Rutland HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Now largely destroyed and some of the bailey perimeter beneath embanked road. Creighton speculates, based on Davidson's excavations in the mid 60s, that the motte was built over a pre-existing, already somewhat ruinous, Saxon residential tower and represents a continuity of use of a manorial site. The TimeTeam excavation (of just three days) found no evidence of a Saxon tower or earlier site, although a timber thegnal site remains probable. The bailey enclosure is suggested to have included a large chapel. The motte was found to been thrown up around C12/C13 tower (as at Lydford, Devon) although no effort seems to have been made to identify the form of the motte and it is not know if motte was revetted (as at Farnham, Surrey). The site had a major episode of demolition and reconstruction c. 1300 as a great manor of the Ferrers/de Grey family within the bailey. The Time Team investigation did much interesting geophysics giving some idea of the layout of the C14 manor. A Close Roll entry of May 1344 describes the manor and notes a garden called 'le Tourhull' (Towerhill), an ancient ditch called 'le Slade' and a house called 'le Baillyfeshous'. The motte top is flat and could have had a small compact pleasure garden on it. While it is certain there was a castle of some form on the site in 1175 and even a Saxon thegnal manor (although if so probably of timber buildings) it is not impossible the motte thrown up against the tower is a late C13 feature designed to make that tower look like a tower on an ancient motte. That is the works of c. 1300 actually included the construction of a motte designed to give, or re-establish, 'ancient' kudos to the site. Equally it may be the excavation report that the motte was thrown up against the tower is somewhat misleading and the tower was built within an existing motte (but going down to the bed rock)

- 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 ReferenceSK523076
Latitude52.663990020752
Longitude-1.22684001922607
Eastings452390
Northings307640
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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 49.03" Longitude -1° 13' 38.91"

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Laitude 52° 39' 50.23" Longitude -1° 13' 38.23"

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Laitude 52° 39' 50.23" Longitude -1° 13' 38.23"

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Books

  • Michael G Shapland, 2017, 'Anglo-Saxon towers of lordship and the origins of the castle in England' in Dawn M Hadley and Christopher Dyer, The Archaeology of the 11th Century Continuities and Transformations (Routledge) p. 104-119
  • Knox, Richard, 2015, 'The medieval fortified sites of Leicestershire and Rutland' in Medieval Leicestershire: Recent research on the Medieval Archaeology of Leicester (Liecestershire Fieldworks 3) p. 123-42
  • Hartley, Robert F., 2008, The Medieval Earthworks of South-West Leicestershire Hinckley and Bosworth (Leicestershire Museums Archaeological Fieldwork Monograph 2) p. 21 (plan)
  • Cantor, Leonard, 2003, The Scheduled Ancient Monument of Leicestershire and Rutland (Leicester: Kairos Press) p. 32
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 35
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 141 (slight)
  • Salter, Mike, 1993, Midlands Castles (Birmingham) p. 47
  • Woodward, S., 1984, The Landscape of a Leicestershire Parish: The Historical Development of Groby (Leicestershire Museums, Art Galleries and Record Service) p. 20-1
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 253
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 238
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 196
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Wall, C., 1907, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm, (ed), VCH Leicestershire Vol. 1 p. 258-9 (plan) online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 1 p. 413 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 351 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 280
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 17, 18 online copy

Journals

  • Richards, Gerwyn, 2012, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 86 p. 224
  • Speight, Sarah, 2008, ''Castles as Past Culture: Living with Castles in the Post-Medieval World' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 385-94
  • Creighton, O. H., 1997, 'Early Leicestershire Castles: Archaeology and Landscape History' Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 71 p. 22-5 online copy
  • McWhirr, A.D. and Winter, M.J., 1978-79, 'Medieval Castles Additional Information' Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 54 p. 74-75 online copy
  • Cantor, Leonard, 1977-8, 'The Medieval Castles of Leicestershire' Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 53 p. 36 online copy
  • Hurst, G., 1964, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 255 download copy
  • 1963-4, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 39 p. 51 online copy
  • 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)
  • 1927, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 15 p. 196-201
  • 1902, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 9 p. 118-9 (a re-edition of JBAA article) online copy
  • Chalkley Gould, 1901, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 7 p. 55-6 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
  • 1870, Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 2 p. 320

Primary Sources

  • Stubbs, Wm. (ed), 1876, Radulphi de Diceto decani Lundoniensis Opera Historica. The Historical work of Master Ralph de Diceto, Dean of London (London, Rolls Series 68) Vol. 1 p. 404
  • Stubbs, Wm. (ed), 1867, Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi Benedicti Abbatis; Chronicle of the Reigns of Henry II and Richard I. A.D. 1169-1192 (London: Rolls Series 49) Vol. 1 p. 126 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1904, Calendar of Close Rolls Edward III (1343-46) Vol. 7 p. 373 online copy (requires subscription but searchable) [alternative online copy > http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/u?/FHMedieval2,55209]

Other

  • Time Team (Mike Aston et al), 2011, March 20 (1st broadcast), 'The House of the White Queen' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4)
  • Wessex Archaeology, 2011, Groby Old Hall Groby, Leicestershire Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment of Results (Wessex Archaeology 74151) online copy
  • Finn, N., 2009, Groby Old Hall, Markfield Road, Groby: Historic Building Assessment–contains some historical information about the castle online copy
  • Creighton, O.H., 1998, Castles and Landscapes: An Archaeological Survey of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (PhD Thesis University of Leicester) p. 96-99, 385-6 online copy
  • Cox, B., 1971, The Place-Names of Leicestershire and Rutland (PhD Thesis: University of Nottingham) p. 498
  • Davison, B.K., 1963, Excavations at Groby, Leicestershire (Unpublished site notebook; Leicestershire SMR)