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Wakefield Lowe Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Clarence Park; Law Hill; Low Hill; Lawe Hill; Thornes

In the civil parish of Wakefield.
In the historic county of Yorkshire West Riding.
Modern Authority of Wakefield.
1974 county of West Yorkshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE32651968
Latitude 53.67258° Longitude -1.50725°

Wakefield Lowe Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

Lowe Hill motte and bailey castle is located in Thornes Park on the hill top overlooking the River Calder and the Thornes area of Wakefield. The monument includes the motte and two baileys. An apparent third bailey, situated on the north-east side, does not at present form part of the scheduling as current thought is that it is a platform built to accommodate a Victorian bandstand, the foundations of which can still be seen, not a bailey. The motte, on which would have been built a timber keep, stands c.9m high, has a base diameter of c.25m and is surrounded by an infilled ditch visible as a shallow depression c.5m wide. A scarp on the west and north sides of the motte continues eastward to create the north side of the inner bailey which is a roughly square enclosure measuring c.40m across. Low banks, c.1m high and 3m wide, follow the edge of the scarp and would have formerly been the site of a timber palisade. The smaller outer bailey lies at a slightly lower level to the north-east and is also enclosed by a scarp and bank. Like the inner bailey, the level area inside would have been the site of ancillary and garrison buildings and would have contained corralling for horses. The remains of these structures will survive well and extensively throughout the monument as disturbance to the site has been limited to a small scale excavation carried out in 1953, when a hearth and small quantities of metalwork and twelfth century pottery were found. The early history of the site is unclear as little documentary evidence survives. One theory, based on the date of the pottery found so far, is that it was an adulterine castle constructed by the third Earl Warenne during the war of 1138-49 between Stephen and Mathilda. Licence to build fortifications could be granted only by the king and an adulterine castle was one built without his authority during times of civil strife. On the opposite side of the River Calder, approximately one mile to the south-east, is Sandal Castle, first mentioned in c.1240. Although the exact relationship between the two is not yet known, it is likely, since both are mentioned in a royal edict of 1324, that together they controlled movement along the river. Traditionally, Lowe Hill castle is believed to have been destroyed by the great gale of 1330. (Scheduling Report)

The motte is heavily overgrown as are most of the ditches. The castle was by tradition destroyed by a great wind. The scheduling record that this was the great gale of 1330 is speculation about what great wind. If the castle was destroyed by a wind, particularly if a spectacular destruction (such as the tornado in Birmingham in 2005), then this may well have been taken as a sign of God's ill will and lead to the early abandonment of the site. The comments about the castle being unlicenced and adulterine in the scheduling report is received wisdom not supported by evidence.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 245
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 107
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 527
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 312
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 337
      Hope-Taylor, B.,1953, Report on the excavation at Lowe Hill (Wakefield Historical Society)
      Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield)
      Walker, J.M., 1934, Wakefield, its History and People (West Yorkshire Printing Co.) p. 46
      Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 42
  • Periodical Articles
    • Constable, Chris, 2007, 'Earthwork castles in West Yorkshire Part Two' Archaeology and Archives in West Yorkshire Vol. 24 p. 5-6 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 215 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1879-80, 'Observations on some moated mounds in Yorkshire' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 6 p. 109-112 online copy
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Howlett, R. (ed), 1889, ‘The Chronicle of Robert of Torigni' in Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I (Rolls series 82) Vol. 4 p. 192-3 online copy
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 502
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 530, 569
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 38 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
      Green, D., 2001, Lowe Hill motte and bailey recommendations for site management
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The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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