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Higham Ferrers Castle

In the civil parish of Higham Ferrers.
In the historic county of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough.
Modern Authority of Northamptonshire.
1974 county of Northamptonshire.
Medieval County of Northamptonshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP96136871
Latitude 52.30810° Longitude -0.59143°

Higham Ferrers Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Higham Ferrers is a motte and bailey castle with important royal connections in the Early Norman period. Well-documented historical evidence shows that it was major fortified location with multiple defences and occupied a powerful tenurial position over the manors of the Nene Valley. Although the original buildings were demolished the preservation of the below ground archaeological remains has not been affected by subsequent development.
William Peverel was granted the manor of Higham Ferrers at the Conquest, and built an early Norman motte and bailey castle here, probably in the late 11th century. Extensive records show that the castle was of major stone construction with an inner and outer bailey and had complex defences including inner and outer gateways and a drawbridge. Within the castle and the baileys were a considerable variety of buildings and lodgings. Documentary sources indicate that the castle had several owners and eventually was forfeited to the crown in 1266. By the 1360s the castle had passed to the Duchy of Lancaster, but in the late 15th century it had begun to fall into ruin and was demolished in 1523, although a map of 1591 shows foundations still upstanding. Today these and other features are no longer visible but remains will be preserved below ground. Early records show that the castle also had a garden, dovecote and fishpond. The well preserved remains of a dovecote, most probably the one built in 1406-7, are still present in the outer bailey area and are incorporated in part of a more modern wall. The warren which lies in the northernmost part of the site was first documented in 1313, and further records show that it was walled and had its own gateway. A water-filled ditch which lies to the east and south of the warren was constructed from two original fishponds which lay in the outer bailey of the castle. (Scheduling Report)

The Castle was probably built soon after 1066 by William Peverel who was granted the manor of Higham Ferrers at the Conquest. Little is known of its history apart from its connection with a series of distinguished owners of the manor. It presumably ceased to function as a military stronghold early and became little more than a manor house. Various documents record buildings associated with the site. There are a number of references to a drawbridge and gates, and occasionally to a chapel. Other references are made to the great hall, a number of named chambers, a kitchen, larder, buttery, pantry, etc., as well as to stables, barns and animal-sheds. The site was neglected by the late 15th century and in 1523 Sir Richard Wingfield was licensed to remove stones from the site to rebuild Kimbolton Castle.
Leland described it as 'now of late cleare fallen and taken down', and in 1610 Norden said that 'there was some time a very fayre and large castle, a mansion house how raysed to grounde whose rubble and old foundations argur the same to have been very great and stronge'. Norden also depicts the castle on his map of Higham Ferrers as an area of broken masonry and uneven ground. (VCH Northants., III (1930), 266–9; M. W. Beresford, History on the Ground, (1957), 153–72; W. J. B. Kerr, Higham Ferrers Castle and Park. (1922))
The greater part of the site has now been built over and no record was made of finds during construction work, except for a note of the discovery of some medieval pottery. In 1967 limestone foundations, a wall and a small rectangular chamber were noted in the paddock immediately N. of the castle site (at SP 96126866), and further walls were traced by probing (BNFAS, 2 (1967), 25). No buildings are shown on the site either on Norden's Map or on the map of the parish of 1796 (Plate 8). The remains are probably those of outbuildings. The only visible earthworks which may be part of the castle are on the S. side of the paddock and comprise a scarp 2 m. high orientated E.-W., with a pond or part of a wet ditch on its N. side. This scarp may be the only remnant of the outer defences. (RCHME)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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