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Historic England Research Records

Castle Hill

Hob Uid: 1032947
Location :
Kirklees
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SE1518614001
Summary : Early-mid 12th century castle constructed on the Iron Age hillfort. The castle comprises three wards, and was partly constructed in stone. It was ruinous by the late C16th. Visible now as an earthwork. The castle was surveyed by RCHME in 1995 and was excavated by Varley between 1939 and 1972, though little has been published. Scheduled.
More information : The remains of the medieval castle on Castle Hill, Almondbury, were surveyed by RCHME in 1995. The castle overlies an Iron Age hillfort, and has previously been included with the fort as the subject of NMR record SE 11 SE 1. However, following the survey, the castle has been made the subject of this new discrete record. See SE 11 SE 1 for details of the survey action and recording history of the castle prior to 1995.

The site was excavated by WJ Varley between 1939 and 1972. Very few data have so far been published, but the castle was constructed by digging a broad, steep-sided trench 30 yards wide, 10 yards deep and 90 yards long across the width of the earlier hillfort thus isolating the south-west tip of the hill. The rest of the area of the fort was refortified, and subdivided by recutting the line of an earlier cross ditch to form two extra wards. The Iron Age defences were mostly rebuilt as a shale bank, although the inner ward was also surrounded by a stone wall. In addition, prehistoric outer defences around the base of the hill were refortified at this time, and an annexe enclosure lying immediately north-east of the fort/castle was reoccupied. A stone keep is known to have been constructed within the inner ward on the highest part of the hill, but the site is now occupied by the Victoria Tower and could not be excavated. Excavations elsewhere in the inner ward revealed a well, and medieval buildings which Varley claimed postdated the use of the site as a castle, when it may have been no more than an administrative centre for the manorial estate. Other medieval structures and occupation deposits were also discovered in excavations in the outer ward (1a).

A castle is first mentioned at Almondbury in a charter of Stephen (reigned 1135-54), who granted it to Henry de Lacy. Although the Lacy family had held the manor since Domesday, this would suggest that the castle was not built before the Anarchy (1b). The date for the disuse of the castle is uncertain. According to Pevsner, the castle was dismantled in the 13th century by Henry III (reigned 1216-72), but no source is given (1c). Varley dates the castle's disuse to probably the first half of the 14th century, but his dating seems to rely on arguments derived from documentary rather than archaeological evidence (1a). Others have also claimed that the castle was in ruins by the 14th century on the basis of an inquest dating from the reign of Edward II (1307-27), which refers to `the former castle of Almondbury' (1d, 1e). But it has been recently pointed out that this text is corrupt, and a more likely reading rules it out as evidence for the castle's disrepair (1f). The castle was ruinous, however, by the late 16th century when seen by William Camden (1g). According to documentary evidence, the castle's outer ward became the site of a medieval borough in the 14th and 15th centuries (see SE 11 SE 25).

The area of the castle forms part of Scheduled Ancient Monument number West Yorkshire 58/RSM 13297. The latest description of the scheduled area describes the castle as a motte and bailey (1h).

As surveyed by RCHME in 1995, the remains of the castle are centred at SE 1525 1407. Although described as a motte and bailey by authority (1h) and several others, this is not strictly speaking accurate. The level of the inner ward stands up to c 2m above that of the adjacent middle ward, but the ward was enclosed by its own curtain wall within which stood a keep apparently occupying only a small part of the area. The site is therefore probably better described instead simply as a castle with three wards. The survey found no evidence for Varley's outer defences around the base of the hill, which are probably natural scarps (see SE 11 SE 27). In addition, the annexe seems to be no more than a fortuitous arrangement of medieval and later field walls, lynchets and hollow ways (see SE 11 SE 26).

The ditch separating the inner and middle wards of the castle ranges from c 17m-24m wide and is up to c 5m deep. It is crossed at its narrowest point by a causeway. The causeway is obviously modern, but probably occupies the site of an original drawbridge. There is now little trace of the stone curtain wall which enclosed the inner ward, although the ward's interior still stands up to 6m above the floor of the ditch beyond around the crest of the hill. A second rampart, in places c 1m high, runs round the outer lip of this ditch, although it is unclear whether it is medieval or part of the underlying Iron Age hillfort. For the most part, both the middle and outer wards are surrounded by earthen dump ramparts up to c 2m high internally and 5m high externally. Again, it is unclear whether additional slight ramparts and ditches beyond were reused in the medieval period or relate solely to the earlier hillfort. The castle was originally approached from the north-east where a footpath still runs through the site of the gate into the outer ward, which reuses the Iron Age entrance. A further gateway in the cross rampart dividing the middle and outer wards gives access to other parts of the castle: the gate passage is now used by a modern road which climbs the south-eastern side of the hill, and approaches the gate via the former course of the ditch beyond the cross rampart.

The Victoria Tower stands on the site of the medieval keep within the inner ward, whilst the 19th-century Castle Hill Hotel and associated car parks occupy the majority of the middle ward. The site of the well and two sides of one of the buildings excavated by Varley in the inner ward are marked on the ground by modern stone walling. Otherwise, the majority of the castle is today under grass and used as public open space, although parts are obscured by bramble and gorse.

Full details of the survey, including a plan at 1:500 scale, and a detailed earthwork account (1i), are contained in the full site survey archive in the NMR. (1)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Marcus Jecock/04-JUL-1995/RCHME: Castle Hill (Almondbury) Survey
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Source Number : 1a
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Varley, WJ 1973. Castle Hill, Almondbury. A brief guide to the excavations, 1939-72, 23-34
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury, showing lower flanks of slopes/ink survey
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury, southern end of hillfort/pencil survey
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury, showing lower flanks of slopes/pencil
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury, annexe enclosure and other features north of the hillfort/pencil survey
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury, northern end of hillfort/pencil survey
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury (Part I)
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury/ink survey
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Source : Castle Hill, Almondbury, overlay showing excavation trenches, erosion and vegetation cover
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Source Number : 1b
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Wightman, WE 1966. The Lacy family in England and Normandy, 1066-1194, 78
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Source Number : 1c
Source : Yorkshire : the West Riding
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Page(s) : 80
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Vol(s) : 1959
Source Number : 1d
Source : The Victoria history of the county of York, volume two
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Page(s) : 25
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Source Number : 1e
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Volume II : Norfolk-Yorkshire and the islands
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Page(s) : 512
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Vol(s) : Feb-83
Source Number : 1f
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Faull, M and Moorhouse, S (eds) 1981. West Yorkshire: an archaeological survey to AD 1500, 737 and 741 n55
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Source Number : 1g
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Gough, R (ed) 1806. Britannia by William Camden, translated and edited by Richard Gough, vol 3, 237
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Source Number : 1h
Source : County list of Scheduled Monuments : March 1992
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Source Number : 1i
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : RCHME 1996. Castle Hill, Almondbury, West Yorkshire. Archaeological Survey Report (Part I)
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Early-mid C12
Monument End Date : 1166
Monument Start Date : 1100
Monument Type : Keep And Bailey Castle
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : abandoned by 1507
Monument End Date : 1507
Monument Start Date : 1507
Monument Type : Keep And Bailey Castle
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : WY 58
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13297
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SE 11 SE 24
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE HILL,ALMONDBURY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1969-01-01
End Date : 1972-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: CASTLE HILL (ALMONDBURY) SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-07-04
End Date : 1995-09-28