Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Castle Hills medieval motte and bailey castle, and 20th century airfield defences, 700m north east of Oran House

A Scheduled Monument in Ellerton-on-Swale, North Yorkshire

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 54.3685 / 54°22'6"N

Longitude: -1.6097 / 1°36'34"W

OS Eastings: 425456.016585

OS Northings: 497064.616437

OS Grid: SE254970

Mapcode National: GBR KK6X.9S

Mapcode Global: WHC6N.7GQD

Entry Name: Castle Hills medieval motte and bailey castle, and 20th century airfield defences, 700m north east of Oran House

Scheduled Date: 11 January 1965

Last Amended: 30 July 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020991

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34720

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Ellerton-on-Swale

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Catterick St Anne

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


The monument includes earthwork and associated buried remains of a
medieval motte and bailey castle along with the standing and earthwork
remains of a group of 20th century defences constructed to defend RAF
Catterick. A further sample of the World War II airfield defences, lying
to the south of the airfield, are the subject of a separate scheduling.
The monument is located on the west side of the River Swale, to the east
of the former RAF airfield.

In the medieval period, the motte and bailey castle lay in an outlying
part of the manor of Catterick known as Killerby. This was held by a man
named Scholland who is thought to have built the castle in 1120-25 to
control a fording point across the River Swale. Scholland was sewer, one
of the senior servants, to Count Alan Niger of Richmond. However it has
also been suggested that the castle was remodelled from an earlier
defensive site dating to before the Norman Conquest. The motte and bailey
castle is thought never to have acquired masonry structures, but remained
an earthwork and timber fortification. It passed through the same family
until 1291 when it was abandoned by Brian Fitz-Alan of Killerby for a new
stone castle just over 1km to the south east. In the 20th century, the
high ground provided by the motte and bailey castle was again used
defensively. In 1940-41 RAF Catterick was provided with airfield defences
against attack by low flying aircraft and ground assault by troops, with
the motte and bailey forming the main defensive strong-point. The remains
of these defences are also included in the monument.

The motte and bailey castle forms a small area of higher ground on the
western side of the River Swale's floodplain, the eastern flank of the
castle being a continuation of an abandoned river cliff. It can be roughly
divided into three parts, an outer ward in the southern part of the
monument, the bailey at the centre and the motte in the north eastern
part. The outer ward is a gently sloping, south facing enclosure about 60m
by 80m, defined by the abandoned river cliff to the east and by old
embanked hedge lines to the south and west. At the time that the castle
was occupied, this area would have typically included some auxiliary
buildings and probably have been used for activities such as
blacksmithing. Along the southern side of this enclosure there are the
platforms for a group of small buildings once part of the dispersed layout
of RAF Catterick. On the north side of the outer ward, the slope steepens,
marking the line of the southern rampart of the bailey and to the north
west there is the southern part of a deep, broad moat ditch. This moat
continues northwards, enclosing the western side of the bailey to meet the
moat that encircles the motte.

The bailey is an irregular, but roughly triangular area some 80m across.
Around its edge there is evidence of a raised rampart, particularly on the
western side, with its corners rising higher as definite mounds. This
defended bailey at Castle Hills is considered to have included the
castle's great hall, main apartments and other important buildings such as
kitchens. The three mounds at the corners of the bailey were all modified
in the 20th century. The south eastern mound is topped by a thickened type
22 pillbox for five Lewis or Bren machine guns. Hexagonal in plan, it has
24 inch (0.6m) thick walls constructed with an outer and inner cladding of
brick over reinforced concrete. Internally it has an anti-ricochet wall
with an iron ladder leading to a central hatchway in the roof. This
provided access to a Light Anti-aircraft (LAA) gun position on top of the
pillbox. Surmounting the south western mound is a concrete emplacement for
another LAA gun. This emplacement, believed to have been for a 40mm Bofors
gun, includes ammunition lockers that retain some surviving timber
fittings. This LAA gun position is thought to have been sited so that it
could also cover the airfield to prevent the successful landing of enemy
troops. In the top of the north eastern mound is a shallow hollow which is
interpreted as an infantry foxhole. Further probable foxholes lie on a
terrace part way down the slope on the western side of the bailey.

To the north east of the bailey, surrounded by a broad moat, part of which
frequently holds water, is the motte. This conical mound is around 50m-60m
diameter at its base and about 10m-15m across at its summit. It forms the
highest part of the monument, with extensive views across the surrounding
countryside. It would have originally been topped by a timber tower or
fortified enclosure, some buried footings for which are expected to
survive. This vantage point was also reused in the 20th century and it
retains a small trench system constructed upon its summit, with further
foxholes on its northern flank.

To the south west of the motte, on the western boundary of the monument,
there is a boundary stone with the inscription AM No13. This stone, which
is also included in the monument, is one of at least 25 individually
numbered boundary stones erected by the Air Ministry in 1925-27, and marks
where the boundary of RAF Catterick changed direction.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are all
modern fences, gates, sign posts and all troughs provided for game birds,
the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications 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. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey,
adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and
bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their
immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive
monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.
Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally,
with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of
recognised 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 period of time, motte castles continued to
be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they
were superseded by other types of castle.

Although of comparatively recent date, 20th century military sites are
increasingly seen as historic survivals representing a defining episode in
the history of warfare and of the century in general; as such they merit
careful record and, in some cases, preservation. The importance of
defending airfields against attack was realised before the outbreak of
World War II and a strategy evolved as the war went on. Initially based on
the principle of defence against air attack, Anti-aircraft guns, air raid
shelters and dispersed layouts, with fighter or `blast' pens to protect
dispersed aircraft, are characteristics of this early phase. With time,
however, the capture of the airfield became a more significant threat, and
it was in this phase that the majority of surviving defence structures
were constructed, mostly in the form of pillboxes and other types of
machine gun post. The types of structure used were fairly standard. For
defence against air attack there were Light Anti-aircraft (LAA) gun
positions, either small machine gun posts or more substantial emplacements
for Bofors guns. For defence against capture, pillboxes, trench systems
and wire entanglements were provided. Fortified gun positions took many
forms, from standard ministry designs used throughout Britain to designs
specifically for airfield defence. Defences survive on a number of
airfields, though few in anything like the original form or configuration.
Examples are considered to be of particular importance where the defence
provision is near complete, or where a portion of the airfield represents
the nature of airfield defence that existed more widely across the site.

A national survey of England's Anti-aircraft provision, based on archive
sources, has produced a detailed record of how many sites there were,
where they were and what they looked like. It is also now known from a
survey of aerial photographs how many of these survive. LAA sites used a
range of weapons in defence against lower flying aircraft and of all the
gunsites, these were the least substantial, with the fabric depending to a
large extent on the type of weapon employed. The Bofors machine gun was
the weapon most frequently provided with a static emplacement. It was also
the only LAA weapon whose associated structures were covered by formal
design drawings. It had three varieties of emplacement: ground level
fieldworks, which were the most common; roof mountings; and towers of
steel or concrete. Nearly 1,250 LAA gunsites of all types are recorded as
having been built during World War II and can be accurately located.
Around 50 of these have some remains surviving, though at only around 40
sites are these thought sufficient to provide an understanding of their
original form and function. Surviving examples are therefore sufficiently
rare to suggest that all 40 examples are of national importance.

Castle Hills is a well-preserved example of a motte and bailey castle
which will retain buried evidence of its original timber structures and
other deposits created during its medieval occupation. Its reuse in the
20th century as part of the defences for RAF Catterick adds to its
importance, individual structures being of interest in their own right.
The Light Anti-aircraft gun emplacement is a particularly rare survival
and is considered to be of national importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
L'Anson, W M, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Castles of the North Riding, , Vol. 22, (1913), 359-60
Francis, Paul , RAF Catterick Historical Aerodrome Survey, 2000, Typescript Report for MoD

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.