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Heighley Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Madeley, Staffordshire

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Latitude: 53.0176 / 53°1'3"N

Longitude: -2.3408 / 2°20'26"W

OS Eastings: 377236.690831

OS Northings: 346749.474501

OS Grid: SJ772467

Mapcode National: GBR 02L.WHQ

Mapcode Global: WH9BM.0FM0

Entry Name: Heighley Castle

Scheduled Date: 10 June 1952

Last Amended: 23 September 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011070

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21537

County: Staffordshire

Civil Parish: Madeley

Traditional County: Staffordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Staffordshire

Church of England Parish: Audley St James the Great

Church of England Diocese: Lichfield


Heighley Castle occupies a prominent position on the edge of a steep sandstone
escarpment overlooking the Checkley Brook. The monument includes both the
standing and buried remains of the castle, which are also Listed Grade II, and
the massive dry ditch cut out of the rock.
The slope of the escarpment forms the defences and boundary to the castle on
its eastern and southern edges. The western and northern defences of the
enclosure, along the two accessible sides of the castle have been strengthened
by a large rock-cut ditch, isolating the castle promontory from the
escarpment. The ditch measures approximately 15m wide and 9m deep, and quarry
marks are visible on the faces of the ditch which were created during its
construction. Stone from the cutting of the ditch was used for the internal
features of the castle.
The castle has an irregularly shaped enclosure which measures approximately
100m north-south and up to 50m west-east. The enclosure was originally
surrounded by a curtain wall, of which the lower courses of masonry are
visible at the south-eastern edge. At the northern edge are further remains of
the curtain wall, where a section survives to a height of 2.5m. Much of the
curtain survives beneath the ground surface. On the western edge of the
enclosure fragments of masonry and slight traces of stone foundations are
visible. These remains represent a pair of towers which projected slightly
beyond the curtain wall. The wall towers were clearly visible until the mid-
20th century and are known to measure approximately 6.5m square. The
foundations of the towers will survive as buried features. Access into the
enclosure was originally by means of an earthen causeway across the north-
western section of the ditch. There is no surface evidence of the gatehouse
which would have defended the gateway passage although it will survive as a
buried feature at the north-western corner of the enclosure.
The ground surface within the enclosure slopes markedly down towards its
southern end where a suite of domestic apartments are known to have been
located. Recent disturbance has exposed a 4m length of walling in the south-
eastern part of the enclosure. The section of walling stands up to four
courses high and two springers from an arcade are visible. The exposed wall
stands on a east-west alignment and is considered to be the south wall of a
vaulted undercroft.
Heighley Castle was constructed in the first quarter of the 13th century by
Henry de Audley, who is also credited with the foundation of Hulton Abbey in
Stoke-on-Trent. In 1223 de Audley was given 12 hinds from the royal forest of
Cannock to stock the park at Heighley. Early 14th century estimates of the
value of the castle suggest it was then neglected. It appears, however, to
have been still sufficiently in repair to be used as a prison in 1534, and to
warrant demolition by the Parliamentarians in 1644.
The official signpost, situated at the eastern edge of the enclosure, and the
fence posts at the western edge of the monument are excluded from the
scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but
this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there
are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they
developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive
experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The
majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were
built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier
medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were
new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or
leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure
castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration
in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration
along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward
I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples
retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Despite the monument's overgrown appearance, Heighley Castle survives well.
Limited excavation within the castle enclosure has revealed structural remains
dating from the 13th century and further evidence of the medieval buildings
will exist beneath the ground surface. Heighley is a dominant feature of the
medieval landscape in Staffordshire and its surviving architectural details
represent an important phase in the development of military architecture.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Salter, M, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire and West Midlands, (1989), 21
Salter, M, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire and West Midlands, (1989), 21
Cantor, L M, 'North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies' in The Medieval Castles of Staffordshire, , Vol. 6, (1966), 44
RCHME, SJ 74 NE 3, Heighley Castle,
Snowdon, K., AM107, Field Monument Warden Report, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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