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CHER Number:01740
Type of record:Monument
Name:Castle Hill motte and bailey castle, Church End, Woodwalton

Summary - not yet available

Grid Reference:TL 211 827
Parish:Wood Walton, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

Associated Finds:

  • LITHIC IMPLEMENT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2201 BC)

Associated Events:

  • Geophysical and topographical survey report on earthworks at church End, Wood Walton, 2014
  • Fenland Survey Project, 1976-1989

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument 1015198: Castle Hill motte and bailey castle

Full description

R1. Large flake of brown flint; length 13,5cm, width12,7cm. Marked '238'. From Stump Ground, Castle Hill.
R2. The monument includes a medieval motte and bailey castle with associated cultivation earthworks and fishponds, located approximately 600m to the NNE of St Andrew's Parish Church on the tip of a low promontory projecting northwards from the southern margin of Wood Walton Fen.
The castle utilises a natural hillock near the end of the spur, and the central motte is largely a remodelling of the summit, which stands about 8m above the level of the fen. During the period of occupation, the stronghold crowning the summit was surrounded by a circular ditch measuring about 10m wide and 2m deep, and with a diameter of about 50m. Post-medieval quarrying has hollowed out the summit of the mound, and only one section of the ditch survives in full on the south eastern side. The outer ditch scarp remains visible around the rest of the perimeter, but it is now uncertain whether the feature which it encircled was a platform or a small artificial mound. The motte was surrounded by a concentric ditch, which ran around the foot of the hillock at an average distance of 50m from the ditch on the summit, and served as the outer boundary of the castle's baileys or courtyards. This ditch remains clearly visible around the northern and north eastern part of the circuit, where it measures between 5m and 10m in width and averages 0.8m in depth. The height of the inner scarp is generally greater than that of the outer scarp reflecting the rising gradient of the hillock.
The western arc of the bailey ditch lies in arable land separated from the main area of the castle by a farm road. Over the years this ditch has become buried. It is no longer visible on the ground, although its position was recorded by the Royal Commission in 1926. To the east of the motte, the bailey ditch can be traced to the point where it meets the north eastern corner of the gardens to the rear of the New Cottages. To the south of this point, the course of the ditch is perpetuated by a curious angle in an otherwise straight drainage ditch. This section has been enlarged in modern times and is not included in the scheduling. The southern arc of the bailey ditch has also become infilled, although the inner scarp can still be traced as a very slight earthwork crossing the pasture to the north of Thatched Cottage and Corner Cottage.
The outer bailey is subdivided by two main hollow ways which ascend the slope towards the motte from the direction of Manor Farm to the north west and along the northern boundary of the New Cottages' gardens to the south east. The area of the bailey between these two features contains a number of minor earthworks which include a rectangular pond, measuring about 5m by 8m and cut into the slope to a depth of about 1.2m, and a level building platform contained within the angle of the bailey ditch and the south eastern hollow way. Further evidence for former buildings is provided by series of slight platforms and scarps on the southern slope of the hillock.
The area enclosed by the bailey ditch on the western side of the castle retains a series of low cultivation earthworks representing a fragment of an earlier medieval open field system. Further ridges or "lands" remain visible to the north in the area between the bailey and the Middle Level Catchwater Drain. All these lands lack the characteristic mounds or "heads" caused by turning the plough, and are therefore also thought to have been truncated and abandoned when the castle was built. The pattern of ridges here is also overlain by a small group of partly infilled fishponds ranging between 15m and 24m in length and averaging 5m in width, arranged as three sides of a square and linked by narrow, largely buried leats to the bailey ditch.
The castle may have been erected by the de Bolbec family who held the manor of Woodwalton between 1086 and 1134, or by the Abbey of Ramsey which was granted the manor by Walter de Bolbec in 1134. Alternatively, it may have been built during the period of civil war known as The Anarchy, either by the sons of Aubrey de Senlis, who seized Woodwalton in 1143-4, or by Ernald, son of Geoffrey de Mandeville, who moved his forces from Ramsey to Woodwalton after the death of his father in1144/ The existence of fishponds is thought to imply that the castle outlived the period of military conflict and subsequently developed as a residence controlling the northern part of the dispersed medieval settlement of Woodwalton. The nucleus of the Woodwalton village now lies some 2km to the south, and the 13th century Parish Church of St Andrew, which stands in isolation some 600m south of the castle, is believed to have been sited to serve both settlements.

3. An analytical survey of the archaeological earthwork remains and a magnetometer survey was carried out. These assessments challenge the existing interpretation of the site which have viewed Church End as the remains of a motte and bailey, and instead suggests that the hill is a largely natural formation which was furnished with a ringwork castle. Only half of the ringwork appears as earthworks but the geophysical survey suggests that it may extend south and west as buried deposits. However the outer enclosure is part of an earlier feature and has a lack of bank or ditch.

Taylor, A., Castles of Cambridgeshire (Bibliographic reference). SCB19242.

Brown, A.E. and Taylor, C.C., 1978, Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys III. PCAS 68: 59-76 (Article in serial). SCB10271.

Norris Museum card index (Index). SCB16331.

English Heritage, 1997, Castle Hill motte and bailey castle (Scheduling record). SCB18179.

<3> Wright, D. Fradkey, M & Creighton, O, 2014, Geophysical and Topographical Survey Report for Earthworks at Church End, Wood Walton (Unpublished report). SCB46586.

<4> Hall, D.N., 1992, The Fenland Project, Number 6: The South-Western Cambridgeshire Fenlands, WWN S1 (Bibliographic reference). SCB16698.

Sources and further reading

---Article in serial: Brown, A.E. and Taylor, C.C.. 1978. Cambridgeshire Earthwork Surveys III. PCAS 68: 59-76.
---Bibliographic reference: Taylor, A.. Castles of Cambridgeshire.
<R1>Index: Norris Museum card index.
<R2>Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1997. Castle Hill motte and bailey castle.
<3>Unpublished report: Wright, D. Fradkey, M & Creighton, O. 2014. Geophysical and Topographical Survey Report for Earthworks at Church End, Wood Walton.
<4>Bibliographic reference: Hall, D.N.. 1992. The Fenland Project, Number 6: The South-Western Cambridgeshire Fenlands. WWN S1.


No image description available © Cambridgeshire County Council. Click to open in a new window (1.75 MB).

No image description available © Cambridgeshire County Council. Click to open in a new window (1.75 MB).