Small earthwork enclosure set on a hill-top, initially thought to have been a Roman military site (prompting the reconstruction of a Roman watchtower at its centre in 1905), now interpreted as an Iron Age defended farmstead settlement.
Reasons for Designation
Castle Hill univallate defended settlement is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Survival: a well preserved example of a small, late prehistoric defended settlement, being a rare earthwork survivor that is not within an upland moorland setting;
* Archaeology: with the 1905 reconstruction of a Roman watchtower, the monument is a good illustration of the evolution of archaeological interpretation;
* Potential: excavations conducted by Armytage in 1905 uncovered structural remains, however these excavations were very limited in extent. Castle Hill thus retains a good potential for undisturbed archaeological remains.
From the seventh to fifth centuries BC a variety of different types of defensive settlement began to be constructed and occupied in the northern uplands of England. The most obvious sites were hillforts built in prominent locations. In addition to these, a range of smaller sites, sometimes with an enclosed area of less than 1ha and defined as defended settlements, were also constructed. Some of these were located on hilltops, others are found in less prominent positions. The enclosing defences were of earthen construction, some sites having a single bank and ditch (univallate), others having more than one (multivallate). At some sites these earthen ramparts represent a second phase of defence, the first having been a timber fence or palisade, and sometimes this later style of rampart incorporates stonework. Within the enclosure, a number of stone or timber-built round houses were typically constructed and occupied by the inhabitants. Stock may also have been kept in these houses, especially during the cold winter months, or in enclosed yards outside them. The communities occupying these sites were probably single family groups, the defended settlements being used as farmsteads. Construction and use of this type of site extended over several centuries, possibly through to the early Romano-British period (mid to late first century AD).
Castle Hill at Kirklees Park was investigated archaeologically by Sir George Armytage, (6th Baronet) in circa 1905 who excavated a section of the low earthwork rampart to find that its core consisted of rough, cobble walling. He concluded that the earthwork represented a small Roman fortification and proceeded to construct a Roman style watchtower at its centre as a summerhouse and viewing platform as part of his improvements to Kirklees Park (a Grade II Registered Historic Park and Garden). The tower was modelled on depictions of watchtowers carved on Trajan's Column in Rome, erected in AD 113. As such it is thought to have been the first example of a historical reconstruction of a Roman building erected in England, being roughly contemporary with the reconstruction of the Roman defences at Cardiff (1898-1923) and at Saalburg in Germany 1898-1907, being much earlier than the reconstruction at Metchley Birmingham (1953) and Lunt Roman Fort, Coventry (1970s).
Later archaeologists have discounted Armytage's interpretation that the site has Roman origins. Instead it is now interpreted as being a pre-Roman defended site, Iron Age in origin, but probably with later phases of re-use. It is thought to have been associated with the larger hillfort at Almondbury (the scheduled Castle Hill at SE1521514052, National Heritage List 1009846) about 8km to the south, with which it is inter-visible.
Castle Hill lies within Kirklees Park. Although it appears to have been incorporated into the C18 designed landscape, part of a circular walk from the Hall along the scarp overlooking the River Calder, it clearly predates the 1780s landscaping as a map thought to date to the early C17 labels two adjacent fields as Near and Far Castle Field. It is also shown as a copse in an illustration dated 1669, which also shows and labels Almondbury Hill in the background.
PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: hilltop earthwork enclosure formed by a low earth and stone bank with an external ditch encircling level ground, with, close to its centre, a reconstructed Roman watchtower built in 1905.
DESCRIPTION: the univallate defended settlement has an internal area of about 0.5ha, being a rhombus in shape, its longest side being to the east. It is situated on the highest ground between the valley of the Nun Brook to the east and the River Calder to the west, set at the top the steep scarp down to the Calder. The earthworks survive best on the south and east sides, where the bank and outer ditch are clear, the bank standing to about 1m above the base of the ditch, the whole earthwork being nearly 10m across. On the east side there are traces of a low outer bank, although this may be spoil from the 1905 excavation. The earthworks are less obvious on the west and especially north sides, here surviving as a low ridge and an infilled ditch. Original entrances have not been identified. Within the enclosure, the ground is generally level with a partly ruined tower, Sir George Armytage's reconstruction of a Roman watchtower, close to its centre.
The watchtower is stone-built of three storeys with the remains of a shallow-pitched pyramidal roof with a wide overhang which originally covered the top floor balcony-walkway that once encompassed the tower. An external stone staircase leads to the first floor and there is a wide entrance to the base of the tower which has a timber lintel with a carved date MCMV.
EXTENT OF SCHEDULING: On the western side of the monument, a run of upright stones marks a former fence line; this is used to locate the western side of the monument, the boundary being a projected, parallel line 5m to the west of these stones. The southern boundary is also defined as a straight line, this time 5m south of the base of the outer ditch, including all of the ditch with at least a 2m margin for the support and protection of the monument. Most of the northern and eastern boundaries follow the edge of ploughed fields, again including the full extent of the outer ditch (infilled to the north) with an additional margin. On the east side the boundary also includes the traces of an outer bank. Where the boundary cuts through woodland in the north eastern corner of the monument, it runs just to the east of a stone water trough. The reconstructed Roman watchtower built in 1905 is also included in the scheduling.