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CHER Number:01764
Type of record:Monument
Name:Cherry Hill Castle Mound


A small motte and bailey, possibly built by William I in 1070, occupied by De Mandeville during the 1143 rebellion.

Grid Reference:TL 541 798
Parish:Ely, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

Associated Events:

  • Excavation near Cherry Hill by King's School pupils, Ely, 1974-7
  • Fenland Survey Project, 1976-1989

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument () 1006915: 'Cherry Hill', castle mound

Full description

2. This small motte and bailey is placed on the S side of the Cathedral Park, just inside Ely Porta and close to the old tithe barn of the monastery. The circular mound has a basal diameter of 250ft, a summit diameter of 50ft and a height of 40ft. There is no ditch now and it is covered with bushes. The bailey is a four sided Inclosure on the SE of the motte and measures 300ft by 250ft. The surrounding bank is slight and there is no trace of an outer ditch. There is a gap on the N side at the point where it should join with the base of the motte. This is a royal castle built by William I in 1070 after the submission of the Isle of Ely. Its object was to maintain this submission and as soon as this was secured it appears to have fallen into an early decay, and no attempt was ever made to build any other fortress in the isle. It belongs to the same class as the first Cambridge Castle.

4. In the years following the Conquest the Isle of Ely became the rallying point of elements hostile to the new regime. In 1070 the Danish fleet moved S from the Humber to the Wash, where it was joined by local groups, and a joint Anglo-Danish force attacked Peterborough. William made a separate treaty with the Danish contingent, which then sailed for home, but a nucleus of native resistance remained in the Isle under the leadership of Hereward. This group was joined by Earl Morcar and other English notables in 1071, and the same year the King moved to blockade the Isle. After several setbacks the Isle was taken and the rebels dispersed. It is tempting to attribute the motte and bailey earthwork known as Cherry Hill to this episode. The contemporary chroniclers are, however, strangely silent about the planting of castles in the Isle. In the middle of the following century the writer of the Liber Eliensis believed that William stationed two garrisons in the Isle at this time. The wording of the entry is ambiguous, but the chronicler took care to distinguish between the praesidium left within the bounds of the Abbey and the castellum erected at Alrehede. It is by no means certain that Cherry Hill is a work of 1071. Ely became a centre of revolt again in 1142. Bishop Nigel raised against the King a castle ex lapide et cemento, and finding work on this constantly hindered by the intervention of Saint Aetheldreda, repaired the castle at Alrehede instead and set up a field battery to command the foreshore. It is not clear whether Bishop Nigel attempted to build a stone castle de novo, or was engaged in replacing in stone the timber defences of an earlier work built to house the praesidium of 1071. However, when Geoffrey de Mandeville occupied the Isle in 1143, the castrum de Ely at que de Alrehede were handed over to him. Of the castle at Alrehede and Bishop Nigel's defended battery at the water's edge no trace remains. Cherry Hill, in the grounds of the Cathedral, consists of a high citadel type motte with a rectangular bailey at the S side. The form of the earthworks suggests that some considerable alteration has taken place in the past, and the exact interrelationship of the motte with its bailey has been obscured.

5. Excavations here by Anne Krayenbuhl (then of King's School) between 1974 and 1977 revealed the base of the windmill that stood here in later times.

8. A small excavation in 1974 by King's School pupils near Cherry Hill revealed 11 timber posts, 7 of which were supported by horizontal posts nailed to them. It is thought that the posts are part of the same building. Records state that there was a summerhouse on the site in the 19th century, and prior to this, a windmill, last mentioned in 1764. Finds included fragments of pottery, tile, clay pipes, nails, animal bone and shell.

O2, Earthwork as described above although the motte is quite large. Some levelling has been carried out on the W side of the motte and within the bailey terracing associated with a school sports field is evident. See annotated 25in survey.
O3, A small motte and bailey in the Cathedral Close, near the Tithe Barn. The motte, largely natural, is flat topped, 12m high and 76m diameter round the base and 15m diameter round the top. The bailey, on lower ground to the SE, is four sided 91m by 70m surrounded by a slight bank. By its position commands the whole of the hill on which Ely is situated. In fair condition except that part of the bailey has been levelled to form a tennis court. Motte covered in grass, nettles, scrub, supports pine and chestnut, some dead. Fencing round base holed in several places. Ensuing vandalism including erosion, rubbish dumping and destruction of memorial pillar from its brick plinth. This dated 1779 (Bentham) 1879 Dean Merrivale. Bailey area public park, tennis courts no longer in existence.

Function: built by William I in 1070 to maintain submission of Isle of Ely; occupied by de Mandeville during 1143 rebellion. Finished? Yes. Occupation: C11 - C12. Relationship to surrounding settlements:

9. Fenland Survey, ELY S17.

13. Cathcart King has evidence that the castle was refortified in 1140 and taken at once, and again by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1143.

14. Castle, part of a planned medieval town possibly dating in the 10th/11th century, with traces of prehistoric and early Medieval occupation.

<1> 1925 - 1950, OS 6 inch map (Map). SCB8928.

<2> Salzman, L.F (ed), 1948, The Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. Volume 2, 29 (Bibliographic reference). SCB14649.

<3> Clark, G.T., 1889, Arch J 46, p. 201 (Article in serial). SCB1058.

<4> Davidson, B.K., 1967, Ely Castle. Archaeol J 124: 240-1, p. 240 (Article in serial). SCB973.

<5> Holmes, R. and Blakeman, P., 1983, Cherry Hill, Ely. The Ely Society 7 (Unpublished document). SCB11964.

<8> Holton-Krayenbuhl, A., 22/3/1974, Cherry Hill, Ely (Unpublished document). SCB21011.

<9> Hall, D.N., 1996, The Fenland Project, Number 10: Cambridgeshire Survey, The Isle of Ely and Wisbech, ELY S17 (Bibliographic reference). SCB16086.

<10> Taylor, A., Castles of Cambridgeshire (Bibliographic reference). SCB19242.

<11> Various, 1967, The History and Archaeology of the Cambridge Area. Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute 124, pp. 214-58 (Article in serial). SCB19706.

<12> Seaman, B.H., Field Investigator Comments, 13/11/69 (Verbal communication). SCB61886.

<13> Cathcart King, D.J., Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery (Bibliographic reference). SCB61251.

<14> Historic England, 2019, NRHE to HER Project Website (Website). SCB62294.

Sources and further reading

<1>Map: 1925 - 1950. OS 6 inch map.
<2>Bibliographic reference: Salzman, L.F (ed). 1948. The Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely. Volume 2. 29.
<3>Article in serial: Clark, G.T.. 1889. Arch J 46. p. 201.
<4>Article in serial: Davidson, B.K.. 1967. Ely Castle. Archaeol J 124: 240-1. p. 240.
<5>Unpublished document: Holmes, R. and Blakeman, P.. 1983. Cherry Hill, Ely. The Ely Society 7.
<8>Unpublished document: Holton-Krayenbuhl, A.. 22/3/1974. Cherry Hill, Ely.
<9>Bibliographic reference: Hall, D.N.. 1996. The Fenland Project, Number 10: Cambridgeshire Survey, The Isle of Ely and Wisbech. ELY S17.
<10>Bibliographic reference: Taylor, A.. Castles of Cambridgeshire.
<11>Article in serial: Various. 1967. The History and Archaeology of the Cambridge Area. Journal of the Royal Archaeological Institute 124, pp. 214-58.
<12>Verbal communication: Seaman, B.H.. Field Investigator Comments. 13/11/69.
<13>Bibliographic reference: Cathcart King, D.J.. Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery.
<14>Website: Historic England. 2019. NRHE to HER Project Website.