Ripon Ailey Hill and All-hallows Hill

Has been described as a Rejected Timber Castle (Motte)

There are earthwork remains

NameRipon Ailey Hill and All-hallows Hill
Alternative NamesAilcy Hill; Hilshow; Ilshow; Helsey Hill
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishRipon

Ailey Hill is a large mound, which has been identified as a barrow or a motte. It is the subject of a number of local traditions, linking it with a Dark Age monastery or a Dark Age battle. Trial excavations by B.W.J.Kent and H.J.Stickland, in 1937, indicated that the mound is of morainic origin - undisturbed gravel was found three feet below its surface. Anglian and Md. burials found on the slopes are perhaps reburials of charnel-house bones from the Minster (Wood; Allcroft). There are no artificial earthworks associated with this natural hillock and no evidence of its possible use as a motte (F1 RWE 17-MAY-62). (PastScape)

Listed as a Civil War site on the basis of the morphology of the East side of the hill. Allcroft has suggested that the East side of the hill is a later modification with bastion-like platforms. However, the 1986-7 excavations included those areas and no trace of Civil War activity was noted. (PastScape ref. Fort, 1987)

Gatehouse Comments

Camden writes that this was reportedly cast up by the Danes. Leland writes 'On the edge of Ripon, on its ENE side, may be seen a large artificial Earthen mound thrown up in a flat field. This is now called Ilshow Hill, and in all probability was an important fortress during the British period. All-hallows Hill is the name given to another mound, like the motte of a castle keep. This stands on the edge of a field behind the bishop's palace, right at the northern end of the town. Their positions mean that each mound is sited opposite the field of view of the other.' Extensively excavated by Hall and Wyman and found to be a early medieval burial site with no evidence of later medieval occupation. This is a fine example how natural hills, particularly those near important sites (such as Ripon Minster), can be misinterpreted as historic monuments (with histories usual based on received wisdom and particular interest/bias of the writer).

- 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 ReferenceSE317711
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

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  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 82
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 524
  • Wood, E.S., 1952, Archaeology of Nidderdale p. 46-7
  • Allcroft, A. Hadrian, 1908, Earthwork of England (London) p. 423-4 online copy


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 556-8
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 82 online copy


  • < >Hall, R.A., and Whyman, M., 1996, 'Settlement and Monasticism at Ripon' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 40 p. 62-151 online copy < >
  • 1987, Fort : the international journal of fortification and military architecture Vol. 15 p. 57
  • 1905, Yorkshire Notes and Queries Vol. 1 p. 217-8


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) (rejected as burial site ) Available at Durham E-Theses Online