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Ripon Ailey Hill and All-hallows Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Ailcy Hill; Hilshow; Ilshow; Helsey Hill

In the civil parish of Ripon.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Liberty of Ripon.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE31717113
Latitude 54.13504° Longitude -1.51616°

Ripon Ailey Hill and All-hallows Hill has been described as a Timber Castle but is rejected as such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Ailey Hill is a large mound, which has been identified as a barrow or a motte. It is the subject of a number of local traditions, linking it with a Dark Age monastery or a Dark Age battle. Trial excavations by B.W.J.Kent and H.J.Stickland, in 1937, indicated that the mound is of morainic origin - undisturbed gravel was found three feet below its surface. Anglian and Md. burials found on the slopes are perhaps reburials of charnel-house bones from the Minster (Wood; Allcroft).
There are no artificial earthworks associated with this natural hillock and no evidence of its possible use as a motte (F1 RWE 17-MAY-62).
Listed as a Civil War site on the basis of the morphology of the East side of the hill. Allcroft has suggested that the East side of the hill is a later modification with bastion-like platforms. However, the 1986-7 excavations included those areas and no trace of Civil War activity was noted (Fort, 1987). (PastScape)

Situation: The earthwork lies immediately east of Ripon Minster, on the eastern fringe of the town.
Preservation: The feature comprises a substantial, tree-covered earthwork; its amorphous profile is attributable to post-medieval quarrying.
Description: Ailcy Hill is a large circular mound rising a maximum of c. 11m above the surrounding terrain and with a base diameter of c. 60m. Although it has been alleged by Allcroft that the mound is a motte, it appears to have peri-glacial origins (see below). Whilst evidently utilised as an early-medieval burial mound there is no positive evidence of re-usage as an early castle.
Excavation: Trial excavation by B. Kent and H. Strickland in 1937 indicated that the mound was morainic in origin, as undisturbed gravel was found c. 0.9m below the surface, and a number of Anglian and medieval burials were found on the slopes of the feature. In 1965 a number of 9th-century Northumbrian brass coins were found on the mound. Six further zones of the earthwork were sampled by R. Hall in 1986-87, revealing two clear groups of inhumations inserted into the natural gravel feature, associated with nails and 7th to 11th-century iron coffin/chest fittings; on the basis of this evidence, the excavators suggest a buried population of c. 2000 individuals. (Creighton 1998)

Camden writes that this was reportedly cast up by the Danes. Leland writes 'On the edge of Ripon, on its ENE side, may be seen a large artificial Earthen mound thrown up in a flat field. This is now called Ilshow Hill, and in all probability was an important fortress during the British period. All-hallows Hill is the name given to another mound, like the motte of a castle keep. This stands on the edge of a field behind the bishop's palace, right at the northern end of the town. Their positions mean that each mound is sited opposite the field of view of the other.'
Extensively excavated by Hall and Wyman and found to be a early medieval burial site with no evidence of later medieval occupation. This is a fine example how natural hills, particularly those near important sites (such as Ripon Minster), can be misinterpreted as historic monuments (with histories usual based on received wisdom and particular interest/bias of the writer).
Ailcy appears to be an obvious typographical error for Ailey but is oft repeated.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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