Sigston Castle: an enclosure castle 400m north of Kirby Sigston church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
Winton, Stank and Hallikeld
National Grid Reference:
SE 41653 95152

Reasons for Designation

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the 14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be of national importance.

Although the castle walls have been largely demolished to provide stone for later buildings in the vicinity, the moat, part of the curtain wall and the undercroft of the keep survive as earthworks while other features, such as the foundations of internal buildings, will survive below ground. The silts accumulated in the boggy areas of the moat will also contain organic materials. Because of its close proximity to the deserted medieval village of Kirby Sigston and to other medieval remains such as ridge and furrow field- systems, Sigston Castle has important potential for the study of the development of the medieval rural landscape.


The monument includes Sigston Castle, a 14th century enclosure castle situated 400m north of Kirby Sigston church. The castle lies on gently sloping land at the western edge of the floodplain of the Cod Beck stream and on the south side of a dry valley containing a piped tributary to the Cod Beck. Although they are not included in the scheduling, fields to the north of the castle contain extensive ridge and furrow earthworks indicating that they were in arable cultivation during the medieval period. The medieval village of Kirby Sigston, with which the castle must have been associated, is now deserted but survives as earthworks adjacent to the church. Although over the years the walls of the castle have been demolished to provide stone for buildings in the vicinity, the moat which surrounded it survives as an open ditch and, in places, the foundations of the curtain walls and central keep remain as upstanding earthworks. The castle has a trapezoidal plan, the moated island measuring 140m north-south by 110m east-west. The moat is up to 15m wide and varies between 8m deep on the uphill, north-western arm to 1m deep on the south-eastern arm which runs along the bottom of the slope at the edge of the floodplain. A 10m wide outer bank lies along the south- western, north-western and north-eastern arms of the moat and, although it has been altered in places by drainage works, road construction and possibly by quarrying, it survives up to 1.5m high on the north-western arm. There is no evidence of an outer bank along the south-eastern arm but it is thought that such a feature was not needed here, as the floodplain is likely to have been a marsh in the medieval period. The best-preserved part of the curtain wall lies on the inner edge of the north-western arm, where it survives as a 1.5m high, 4m wide bank containing fragments of building stone and a 0.3m high, 4m wide bank is also visible along the inner edges of the north-eastern and south-eastern arms; elsewhere the foundations will survive below ground. A modern causeway across the north-western arm of the moat indicates the position of the original entrance to the castle; it is aligned with the centre of the north-western side of the keep. This was a rectangular tower measuring 30m by 25m across at its base and its foundations survive as earth-covered banks. The space enclosed by these banks was the undercroft of the keep, the western corner of which has been removed apparently to facilitate the removal of stonework during the demolition and robbing of the tower. Other, less clearly defined earthworks to the south of the keep mark the location of ancillary structures within the castle. John de Sigston acquired the land in 1313 and the castle was built shortly after this; a licence to crenellate was granted in 1336. All fences and the made surfaces of the farm tracks are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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