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Halton Castle, Lathom

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Horton; Alton; Olton

In the civil parish of Lathom.
In the historic county of Lancashire.
Modern Authority of Lancashire.
1974 county of Lancashire.
Medieval County of Lancashire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD44420884
Latitude 53.57321° Longitude -2.84064°

Halton Castle, Lathom has been described as a Fortified Manor House although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.


Moated enclosure, with the south west arm of the moat still visible. Suggested location of Halton Castle, a fortified house besieged in the civil war and demolished in the early C18. The moat encloses an area 120ft north to south by 180ft east to west. The only visible remains within the enclosure are two dessed stones, possibly from the house. Some 350m to the south west is a small earthwork, the form of which suggests a small siegework placed to cover the house. (PastScape)

The moat remains as shown on 6" Qtr Sheet. The SW side contains water which appears to be at some depth, but the slopes forming the remaining 3 sides are barely discernible especially to the NE side (Small Scale Map Revisers Comment SS Reviser OS 513 20.11.48).
Published originally as (Horton Castle (Supposed site of)'. Name changed to 'Halton Castle' at revision of 1926 in accordance with local usage and the writings of Mr F.H.Cheetham, an antiquarian of Southport. It is "the supposed site of an ancient Castle ...It is not known when or by whom founded." (Revision ONB Lands 84SW).
The moat is 14 paces wide, one portion of which is still filled with water. The area of space within is, roughly 120 ft. N-S by 180 ft E-W. The water lies in the western half, but the site of the building is crossed at this end by a wall which is carried over the moat itself. Nothing is known of the building although Peter Draper (a) says that it was a castellated mansion of considerable dimensions at the time of the siege of Latham House (Cheetham).
'A residence of considerable dimensions at this time {the C17th} stood in the New Park, about half a mile from Lathom House, which was pulled down in the early part of the last century. This building also appears to have been a castellated mansion, surrounded by a moat, which now remains, by the side of which lies a long piece of stone, said to be about 300 years old, as shown by some marks curiously inscribed upon it; and, near this moat, old people tell us, once stood a dovehouse, about five yards square ... Part of the brick wall of a garden, the walls of which appear to have been tastefully laid out, still remains ... This house is supposed to have been the residence of the steward, as noticed in Halsall's diary, and was called "Horton," "Alton," or "Halton Castle."' It was probably to this building that Lady Derby was summoned on Feb 28, 1643/4, by Sir Thomas Fairfax, when she was called upon to surrender Lathom House, before the commencement of the siege (Draper 1864).
Except for the water-filled SW arm the traces of this moat are very slight and most of it has obviously been filled in at some time. There is no trace of an original entrance or causeway.
The only traces of internal habitation are two dressed stones lying in the grass and the foundations of a wall of early brick. The wall crosses the moat and continues to the NW as a fragmentary stone wall. The line of the wall is continued outside the moat to the SE as a grassy bank. The overlaying of the moat by this wall suggests that it is a later feature although the brick portion may be contemporary with the building which formerly stood inside the moat. Lying in the grass to the SE of the moat where the grassy bank forms a 'stop' is the lintel of a doorway, cut from a single stone in the form of a three centred arch. Its present position suggests that it may once have been the head of a doorway in the bank and that it was part of an approach to the house from the SE. No trace was seen of the inscribed stone or dovecote referred to by Draper. Local enquiries regarding these features were negative. No conclusions could be drawn regarding the origin or type of building which stood within the moat. Its identification as 'HORTON', ALTON' or 'HALTON CASTLE' appears to be merely a conjecture by Draper with no supporting evidence. The site may, however, have some Civil War associations. About 350.0m to the SSW is a small earthwork, the shape and orientation of which is suggestive of a small siege work covering the house. (See SD 40 NW 12)
The wall bounding NEW PARK (SD 40 NW 9) in which the house stood contains worked stone and early hand made brick, suggesting that when the building was demolished in the early 18th cent the material was used for the park wall (Field Investigators Comments F.D.Colquohoun F.I. April 1959). (PastScape)

Alton or Olton, later New Park, is mentioned in 1189 in the charter of Burscough Priory. The name suggests an early place of settlement in the township. In 1198 it appears to have been a hamlet. There was a small ford over Edgeacre (Eller) Brook, lying to the south of Blythe, which is more than once described as the ford which leads from Alton to Harleton. In course of time, perhaps in the fifteenth century, it had ceased to be a hamlet, and the lords of Lathom turned it into a park, called Lady Park, or New Park. (fn. 98) The earls of Derby occasionally kept house here. (Derby Household Books (Chet. Soc.), 19. Before the first siege of Lathom the countess of Derby was invited to meet the Parliamentary leaders at 'New Park, a house of her lord's, a quarter of a mile from Lathom;' Civil War Tracts (Chet. Soc.), 164. The editor of the Household Books states that it was pulled down in the eighteenth century.) It now forms part of the Cross Hall property. (VCH)

King called this a 'possible' castle a term he used for sites about which he had significant doubts. Seems actually to have been a C16/C17 hunting lodge of the Stanley's as is entirely likely to have been in a castellated style but it may be significant that it does not seem to have been a feature of the Civil War sieges. It may also be significant that the authors of the VCH did not use Draper as source for their authoritative history.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:31

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