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Whitwood Ferry Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Fairy Mount; Fairies Hill; Castle Hill

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SE39862489
Latitude 53.71890° Longitude -1.39849°

Whitwood Ferry Hill has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


A motte, now only 22 ft high, with faint trace of a ditch round it, and a small brook to the south which may have been utilized for the bailey ditch, are all that remains of Castle Hill, Ferry Hill, on Fairy Mount. The site, by the Calder at Whitwood, is partly occupied by a mineral railway (VCH, 1912). "Fairies Hill", a large mound at SE 3986 2489 answers the description above, but appears to be entirely natural. There is certainly no trace of a ditch round it now (F1 RWE 13-NOV-63). De-Scheduled (English Heritage De-Scheduling Amendment 27/1/93). (PastScape)

Natural mound allegedly utilised as a motte. Now descheduled. (PastScape)

A recent small evaluation at Fairies Hill in Whitwood confirmed the identification of this site as a Norman castle. One evaluation trench was placed to clip the edge of the motte and examine its construction. This trench confirmed that the earthwork was built from differing layers of material in the same way as the construction of Hastings Castle is shown on the Bayeaux Tapestry. (Constable 2007)

Is this the site of a river crossing point as the name suggests? There is no apparent landscape evidence for this being a crossing point but the landscape is considerable changed by coal pits and associated spoil. Roger (Peitevin) is recorded in Domesday book as holding Whitwood as a mesne lord in 1086. The township is described as Robert de Lacy's demesne in the foundation charter of Pontefract Priory. The authenticity of this charter is doubtful, but if the statement about Whitwood's status was correct, the township may have been resumed into demesne by the end of C11. Holmes has suggested that alternatively the grant to Roger Peitevin may have been abortive. This doubt about the township's early tenural history means that on present evidence it cannot be decided who was responsible for the construction of the earthwork castle at Fairies Hill. There appears to be no basis for the statement that the township was in Roger le Peitevin's tenure in 1166. A sherd of C12 or C13 pottery was found there in 1977. Recorded as a castle site by Leland.
While there is good archaeological evidence some mottes were built in layers it is not at all certain that what is shown on the Bayeaux Tapestry is an example of this. Indeed it may well be that no motte at all is shown at Hastings but that what is pictured is men digging out a ditch below the existing Iron Age promontory fort bank, surmounted by a fence, with the 'layers' being merely decorative infill, the from dictated by the nature of embroidery.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Descheduled        
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:07

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