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CHER Number:CB15402
Type of record:Monument
Name:Motte castle in Kimbolton Park, known as Castle Hill

Summary - not yet available

Grid Reference:TL 093 673
Parish:Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

  • MOTTE (12th century to 16th century - 1150 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DITCH (12th century to 16th century - 1150 AD to 1539 AD)
  • HUNTING LODGE? (Undated)

Associated Events:

  • Earthwork survey of Kimbolton Castle

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument 1015013: Motte castle in Kimbolton Park, known as Castle Hill

Full description

1. Castle Hill motte stands on a slight spur about 270m north of Park Lodge, overlooking the flood plain of the River Kym and village of Kimbolton to the north. The castle was constructed by digging a broad circular ditch around the tip of the spur, encircling a small area which was raised using the upcast to form a mound or motte. The motte (also circular in plan) measures about 30m in diameter and now stands approximately level with the outer edge of the ditch to the south, and 1.8m above the rim of the ditch to the north where the ground falls away at the end of the spur. The surface of the motte, which would originally have supported a timber tower, has a slightly domed profile. The surrounding ditch varies between 1m and 2.5m in depth, deepest to the south to compensate for the rising ground. Although it was recorded as water filled in the early part of this century, the ditch is now dry and contains deep deposits of humic silt. The ditch also varies in width from about 15m around the southern part of the circuit narrowing to about 10m around the northern half, which is accompanied by an outer counterscarp bank averaging 5m across and 0.6m high. In the absence of a causeway across the ditch access to the motte is thought to have been via a bridge.
The castle is believed to have originated in the mid 12th century during the period of civil war known as the Anarchy. Kimbolton Park, in which the monument stands, was enclosed as a deer park by the 16th century, and it has been suggested that the motte may have been reused as a hunting lodge for a time. The monument is shown on Thomas Stirrup's estate map of 1673 under the name Castle Hill.
2. An earthwork survey was carried out of Castle Hill. The monument stands in a small area of woodland, and consists of a slightly oval mound 23m in diameter, 1.7m high with a flat top 11m across, and surrounded by a ditch 1.5m deep. Beyond the ditch is a slight outer bank, much spread. Cartographic evidence from 1763 shows a ramp extending from the edge of the mound to the west, aligned on the main ride through the adjacent woodland. It would appear that the mound is a small motte that was altered and incorporated into the landscape park in the late 17th or mid 18th century to form a terminal point of a view along a woodland ride. No trace of the ramp exists now, so at some point, possibly in the 19th century, it must have been restored to its original form.

3-6. A medieval motte is visible as earthworks on historic aerial photographs and remote sensing data and was mapped as part of the Bedford Borough NMP project. Located in an enclosure within a field about 326 metres north of Park Lodge and centred at TL 09361 67380, is a slightly subcircular ditch between about 2-6 metres wide. The ditch encloses a subcircular platform or mound about 43 metres W-E and 47 metres N-S in diameter. On the SW side of the central platform is an irregular area. From the NW to the SE side on the outside of the ditch is an earthwork bank up to 5.6 metres wide. From the NW to the SE side on the outside of the ditch is a slope up to 8 metres wide. Aerial photographs taken in 1945 show the moat to be within a diamond-shaped enclosure and the ditch is visible and free of vegetation, though the central platform is covered by trees. Aerial photographs taken in 2013 show the whole monument to be tree covered.


<1> English Heritage, 1996, Motte Castle in Kimbolton Park, known as Castle Hill (Scheduling record). SCB18177.

<2> Brown, A.E. and Taylor, C.C., 1981, Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys: IV. PCAS 70: 113-26 (Article in serial). SCB16725.

<3> Bedford Borough NMP, 2018, RAF/106G/UK/635 RP 3145 10-AUG-1945 (Geospatial data). SCB57173.

<4> Bedford Borough NMP, 2018, RAF/CPE/UK/1925 RS 4278 16-JAN-1947 (Geospatial data). SCB57172.

<5> Bedford Borough NMP, 2018, LIDAR TL0967 Environment Agency 1m DTM JAN-1998–AUG-2016 (Geospatial data). SCB56047.

<6> Bedford Borough NMP, 2018, Next Perspectives APGB Imagery TL 0967 12-JUL-2013 (Geospatial data). SCB57171.

Sources and further reading

<1>Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1996. Motte Castle in Kimbolton Park, known as Castle Hill.
<2>Article in serial: Brown, A.E. and Taylor, C.C.. 1981. Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys: IV. PCAS 70: 113-26.
<3>Geospatial data: Bedford Borough NMP. 2018. RAF/106G/UK/635 RP 3145 10-AUG-1945.
<4>Geospatial data: Bedford Borough NMP. 2018. RAF/CPE/UK/1925 RS 4278 16-JAN-1947.
<5>Geospatial data: Bedford Borough NMP. 2018. LIDAR TL0967 Environment Agency 1m DTM JAN-1998–AUG-2016.
<6>Geospatial data: Bedford Borough NMP. 2018. Next Perspectives APGB Imagery TL 0967 12-JUL-2013.