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Castle Hill: slight univallate hillfort, small multivallate hillfort, motte and bailey castle and deserted village

A Scheduled Monument in Almondbury, Kirklees

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Latitude: 53.6229 / 53°37'22"N

Longitude: -1.7712 / 1°46'16"W

OS Eastings: 415228.115747

OS Northings: 414066.327067

OS Grid: SE152140

Mapcode National: GBR JV2K.B0

Mapcode Global: WHCB7.R6RF

Entry Name: Castle Hill: slight univallate hillfort, small multivallate hillfort, motte and bailey castle and deserted village

Scheduled Date: 30 March 1925

Last Amended: 10 March 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009846

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13297

County: Kirklees

Electoral Ward/Division: Almondbury

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Almondbury with Farnley Tyas Team Parish

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


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.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These include the
surfaces of the approach road, carpark, drives and paths up to and round the
monument, all modern walling and fencing, the Victorian Jubilee Tower which is
Grade II Listed, the buildings and fixtures of Castle Hill Hotel and the
buildings of the house on Hill Side, the safety grille over the well, the
Armada anniversary beacon, all modern steps up to and on the monument and the
telephone poles crossing the monument. The ground beneath these exclusions,
however, with the exception of that beneath the hotel which will have been
disrupted by cellarage, is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Slight univallate hillforts are enclosures defined by a single line of
earthworks located on or near the tops of hills. The scale of the earthworks,
which may comprise a rampart, a ditch and a counterscarp bank, is small. This
and the fact that they are not necessarily located on the highest or most
inaccessible hills but almost exclusively above river valleys, implies they
were not primarily defensive features but were sited for ease of communication
and access to the greatest variety of resources. Most slight univallate
hillforts were built in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Approximately
150 examples are recorded nationally, with only a small number lying outside
central southern England. In area they vary between l and 10ha though, again,
those at the upper end of the scale tend to be concentrated in the south.
Common features of the internal layouts of slight univallate hillforts include
the postholes, stakeholes and trenches of timber buildings, storage pits and
hearths, and small finds such as spindle whorls, wool combs, tools and
personal adornments. These are indicative of temporary or permanent
occupation though some slight univallate hill forts have been interpreted as
stock enclosures or redistribution centres. Slight univallate hillforts are
one of the rarer types of monument that characterise the late Bronze Age and
early Iron Age and, as such, are important for the understanding of the
transition between the two periods. All examples surviving comparatively well
and with the potential for the recovery of further archaeological remains are
considered worthy of protection.
A number of slight univallate hill forts were remodelled during the later Iron
Age to become more strongly defended and multivallate in form. Small
multivallate hill forts are those which have an internal area of less than
5ha, with the majority measuring between l and 3.5ha. All were built between
the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD though most originated in
the fourth to second centuries BC and only a small number date from the period
before 400BC. The boundaries of small multivallate hillforts comprise two or
more lines of close-set earthworks generally spaced at intervals of less than
15m, though wider spacing is known from a small sample. Each line will
consist of a rampart and ditch or a rampart only, and a large number also
possess counterscarp banks. The most favoured locations were the hills above
rivers and the construction of multiple earthworks is believed not only to
have been for protection but as a means of displaying power. Small
multivallate hill forts were permanently occupied and sometimes were the foci
for large areas of the surrounding countryside. A small number possessed
extra-mural settlements and most were connected with the processing of
agricultural produce and are likely to have controlled its distribution.
The internal structures of most small multivallate hillforts support the view
that they were places of high status, with finds such as weapons, Gallo-Belgic
coins and goods from distant locations demonstrating this and indicating a
period of social development characterised by increased competition between
different social groups. Similarly, although the primary function of multiple
enclosures may not have been defensive, the number of small multivallate
hill forts with vitrified inner ramparts, burnt entrances and hoards of
slingshot suggests an increase in raiding and possibly warfare. Small
multivallate hill forts therefore provide an important commentary on the
nature of settlement and social organisation in the Iron Age and, with only
c.100 examples known nationally, are one of the rarer classes of monument
belonging to the period. All examples with surviving archaeological deposits
are considered to be of national importance.
Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications of a type introduced into
Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or
rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower and
adjoined by an embanked enclosure, the bailey, which contained additional
buildings. Motte and bailey castles had several functions. They were
strongholds, acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations,
were often aristocratic residences and were the centres of local and royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, they generally
occupied strategic positions, dominating their immediate locality. Over 600
are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As such, and
as one of a restricted range of early post-Conquest monuments, they are
particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of
the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short time, they
continued to be built and occupied from the eleventh to the thirteenth
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.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ahier, P, The Story of Castle Hill, Huddersfield...BC200 - AD1945, (1946)
Brook, R, The Story of Huddersfield, (1968)
Varley, WJ, Castle Hill, Almondbury, (1969)
Manby, T G, 'Archaeological Journal' in Almondbury Castle And Hillfort, , Vol. 125, (1968)
Stephenson, C, 'Historic Almondbury' in Castle Hill, (1975)
Varley, W J, 'Hillforts' in A Summary of the Excavations at Castle Hill: Almondbury 1939-72, (1976)
Typescript in SMR file, Gilks, JA, Castle Hill,
Varley, W.J., RCHM Microfiche: W.Yorks., Almondbury, 1938-1970,

Source: Historic England

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