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Almondbury Castle Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Huddersfield.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of Kirklees.
1974 county of West Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire West Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE15251407
Latitude 53.62216° Longitude -1.77198°

Almondbury Castle Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Early-mid C12 castle constructed on the Iron Age hillfort. The castle comprises three wards, and was partly constructed in stone. It was ruinous by the late C16. 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. (PastScape)

Castle Hill, Almondbury is a good and well-preserved example of a slight univallate hillfort which developed into a small multivallate hillfort. Not only does it lie outside the main distribution, it belongs to an extremely small group of northern single-banked hillforts with an internal area of more than 1ha. It is, in addition, one of the very few small multivallate hillforts datable to the period before 400BC and is unique in that, during its multi-banked phase, the bivallate interior was surrounded by two outer earthworks set in places more than 30m apart. It also possesses other rare features, including an outwork, and its earliest ramparts preserve the pre- enclosure ground surface contemporary with earlier Prehistoric use of the site. A substantial part of the monument remains unexcavated, making it of great importance to the study of hillforts of these two types. Equally important are the well-preserved remains of the motte and bailey castle. Furthermore, in addition to the garrison and ancillary buildings whose remains survive in the bailey, the well-preserved earthworks of an associated medieval settlement are contained in the area adjacent.
Castle Hill is situated south of Huddersfield at Almondbury, on a hill top above the Holme Valley south of its confluence with the River Colne. The monument includes the remains of a late Bronze Age or early Iron Age univallate hillfort, a later Iron Age multivallate hillfort, a twelfth century motte and bailey castle and the site of a deserted medieval village. Evidence for the occupation and development of Castle Hill comes from a series of partial excavations carried out by W.J.Varley between 1939 and 1973. The earliest period of use was approximately four thousand years ago, as shown by the discovery of Late Neolithic flint tools and part of a polished stone axe. This predated the first hillfort by circa one and a half thousand years. The earthworks encircling the hill were constructed in stages over a period of roughly two hundred years. The earliest enclosure, dated by radiocarbon and thermoluminescence techniques to the late seventh century BC, consisted of an area of c.2ha at the south-west end of the hill enclosed by a single bank measuring c.3m wide. This first enclosure did not have an external ditch but the bank would have been surmounted by a wooden palisade. A simple inturned entrance bisected the bank that crossed the hill and had a small guard room to one side. Early in the sixth century BC, the first enclosure was surrounded by a wide, flat-bottomed ditch and the upcast was used to construct a new bank, also 3m wide, which roughly followed the line of the old bank but in places had a different alignment. In the mid-sixth century BC, this univallate hill fort was refortified and expanded to become a complex double- banked and ditched enclosure. New ramparts, of identical structure to the earlier, were built across the ends of the transverse ditch and were continued round the north-eastern half of the hill, effectively doubling the size of the enclosure. A new entrance was created at the north-east approach and the single bank and ditch of the original enclosure were reinforced by the addition of a second rampart. Post-holes at the front and rear of these defences were found to be contemporary and would have supported the timbers of a shelter attached to the rampart. Approximately one hundred years later this bivallate hill fort was fundamentally rebuilt. The inner rampart was widened and raised and now almost entirely consisted of two parallel drystone revetments separated by horizontal timber lacing infilled with shale and clay. A deeper V-shaped ditch was cut beyond the rampart and a short length of shale rampart was added parallel to the north-east extension. A longer stretch was built outside it and continued to the north-east entrance where an outwork was also added. This outwork shared the outer ditch of the latter rampart and created an oblique approach to the hillfort, carried along a holloway from the north- east. Two new banks, almost continuous and spaced wide apart, were built lower down the hill to entirely surround the complex. By the end of the fifth century BC, however, this multivallate hillfort had been abandoned. The vitrification of the inner rampart indicates that it was destroyed by fire at about that time, possibly during hostilities. The site does not appear to have been occupied again until the early twelfth century AD when the earthworks were modified and reconstructed to create a motte and bailey castle. A broad ditch, 27m wide and 9m deep, was cut across the top of the hill, south-west of the transverse ditch belonging to the original univallate hillfort. The upcast from the ditch was used to build a motte with a surrounding rampart. In the first half of the twelfth century, licence to fortify was granted by King Stephen and the timber palisade that would originally have surmounted the motte was replaced by a stone wall. The remains of timber buildings, and others of timber and stone, have been found on the motte. These had a number of functions and were accompanied by a 27m deep well in which was found well-preserved organic material of the medieval period in addition to medieval pottery and metalwork. Ancillary and garrison buildings, and pens for cattle and horses, would have occupied the bailey and the remains of these will survive in the south-western half of the site overlying deposits relating to the internal layout of the hillfort. The north-eastern half was, at this time, the site of a small medieval settlement which survived the abandonment of the castle by circa two centuries, being still occupied in the fifteenth century. This settlement was characterised by a row of dwellings on either side of a track that ran from the north-east entrance to the gap in the rampart of the univallate hillfort. Each building occupied a strip of land which lay at right-angles to the track and was separated from its neighbours by a shallow ditch. After the desertion of the settlement, Castle Hill remained unoccupied until the nineteenth century when a tavern was built that is still in use as a hotel and public house. In the interim it was twice used as a beacon hill, with one fire being lit there at the time of the Spanish Armada and another being prepared in the event of a Napoleonic invasion. Traditionally, in the past, it has been held to be the site of Camelot and, less fancifully, a Roman fort or the headquarters of the Brigantian Queen Cartimandua. These theories have been discounted, however, due to the complete break in occupation between the fourth century BC and the Middle Ages. (Scheduling Report)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

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