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Alston Hall Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Alston Moor.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland (Tynedale Liberty).

OS Map Grid Reference: NY71464672
Latitude 54.81434° Longitude -2.44529°

Alston Hall Hill has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


According to R G Collingwood the feature at Hall Hill, Alston, is a moraine-mound about 200 by 50 yards, with a level space at the south end bisected by a trench. In the south west corner of the part north of the trench is a depression, possibly a hut circle, 7 yards in diameter. Two Mediaeval bronze vessels were found in 1839. Silver denarii are said to have been found at Hall Hill. (Collingwood; Jefferson)
A moraine mound, the level top of which has been utilised in the construction of an earthwork now partly destroyed by the eroding action of the River South Tyne. A ditch, 4.6m deep externally and 3.5m internally, with a counterscarp bank, 1.1m high, cuts across the moraine forming one side of the earthwork, whilst a slighter ditch, 0.6m deep, with a counterscarp bank, 0.8m high, runs along the base of the mound to complete the enclosure. Within this area, where erosion has taken place, fragments of decaying brick are visible suggesting the former existence of a building. The significance of the name "Hallhill Plantation", and the evidence of the finds made in 1839 suggest that a defended house may have stood here. The circular depression which Collingwood suggests may have been a hut circle, appears to be no more than surface quarrying into the counterscarp bank.
50.0m NW of the work a slight ditch, 4.0m wide and 0.5m deep, with a fagmentary counterscarp bank, cuts across the moraine at it's narrowest point, and contains a causewayed entrance, 5.0m wide. This ditch, probably of contemporary date, creates a small annexe. Across level ground between the foot of the moraine on its W side and rising ground 40.0m further W a bank, 5.0m wide and 0.5m high creates a broad marshy area to the SE. At the S side of the W end of the annexe ditch in the narrow strip between the foot of the moraine and the marshy area, are the turf-covered foundations of a rectangular building, 8.5m x 5.5m. (PastScape–ref. Field Investigators Comments F1 DS 27-JUL-72)
A medieval moat and related earthworks are visible as earthworks on lidar. Two sides of a broad ditched moat are visible cut into a moraine mound on the west bank of the River South Tyne at NY 7146 4672. The other two sides appear to have been eroded away by the river. Traces of a flat topped counterscarp bank can be seen on the western side. To the north-west of the moat as a narrow ditch with a counterscarp bank and causewayed entrance. A second ditch and bank crosses the mound further to the north-west and is linked to the boundary banks in UID 1537119 but it is not clear if this boundary is contemporary. The features are extant on the latest 2009 lidar. (LIDAR NY7146 DTM 01-APR-2009) (PastScape)

Following recent archaeological investigation, it is now considered possible that Nicholas de Veteriponte's 'capital messuage' or principal dwelling was in Alston at Hall Hill to the west of Alston on the western side of the South Tyne river. The origins of this interesting earthwork have long been in doubt but is now recognised as a diminutive and basic ringwork castle similar to Kirby Lonsdale on the River Lune carved out of a prominent natural ridge. (Jessop and Whitfield 2013)

Oakey et al (2012) suggest this was a lodge associated with the deer park of 'Walnewood' for which Robert de Veteripont was granted licence to empark in 1337.

Although Alston, in the high Pennines, may seem an unlikely site for a high status building it was the centre of an area of silver and lead mining and a valuable manor. The silver mines were under royal control (under the sheriff of Cumberland - based at Carlisle) but some lead mining and associated trades supporting mining may have produced a good income for this part of the liberty of Tynedale and a centre to administer this estate would have been needed from an early period.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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