Castle Hill: slight univallate hillfort, small multivallate hillfort, motte and bailey castle and deserted village


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Kirklees (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 15215 14052

Reasons for Designation

Slight univallate hillforts are enclosures defined by a single line of earthworks located on or near the tops of hills. The scale of the earthworks, which may comprise a rampart, a ditch and a counterscarp bank, is small. This and the fact that they are not necessarily located on the highest or most inaccessible hills but almost exclusively above river valleys, implies they were not primarily defensive features but were sited for ease of communication and access to the greatest variety of resources. Most slight univallate hillforts were built in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Approximately 150 examples are recorded nationally, with only a small number lying outside central southern England. In area they vary between l and 10ha though, again, those at the upper end of the scale tend to be concentrated in the south. Common features of the internal layouts of slight univallate hillforts include the postholes, stakeholes and trenches of timber buildings, storage pits and hearths, and small finds such as spindle whorls, wool combs, tools and personal adornments. These are indicative of temporary or permanent occupation though some slight univallate hill forts have been interpreted as stock enclosures or redistribution centres. Slight univallate hillforts are one of the rarer types of monument that characterise the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age and, as such, are important for the understanding of the transition between the two periods. All examples surviving comparatively well and with the potential for the recovery of further archaeological remains are considered worthy of protection. A number of slight univallate hill forts were remodelled during the later Iron Age to become more strongly defended and multivallate in form. Small multivallate hill forts are those which have an internal area of less than 5ha, with the majority measuring between l and 3.5ha. All were built between the sixth century BC and the mid-first century AD though most originated in the fourth to second centuries BC and only a small number date from the period before 400BC. The boundaries of small multivallate hillforts comprise two or more lines of close-set earthworks generally spaced at intervals of less than 15m, though wider spacing is known from a small sample. Each line will consist of a rampart and ditch or a rampart only, and a large number also possess counterscarp banks. The most favoured locations were the hills above rivers and the construction of multiple earthworks is believed not only to have been for protection but as a means of displaying power. Small multivallate hill forts were permanently occupied and sometimes were the foci for large areas of the surrounding countryside. A small number possessed extra-mural settlements and most were connected with the processing of agricultural produce and are likely to have controlled its distribution. The internal structures of most small multivallate hillforts support the view that they were places of high status, with finds such as weapons, Gallo-Belgic coins and goods from distant locations demonstrating this and indicating a period of social development characterised by increased competition between different social groups. Similarly, although the primary function of multiple enclosures may not have been defensive, the number of small multivallate hill forts with vitrified inner ramparts, burnt entrances and hoards of slingshot suggests an increase in raiding and possibly warfare. Small multivallate hill forts therefore provide an important commentary on the nature of settlement and social organisation in the Iron Age and, with only c.100 examples known nationally, are one of the rarer classes of monument belonging to the period. All examples with surviving archaeological deposits are considered to be of national importance. Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications of a type introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower and adjoined by an embanked enclosure, the bailey, which contained additional buildings. Motte and bailey castles had several functions. They were strongholds, acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, were often aristocratic residences and were the centres of local and royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, they generally occupied strategic positions, dominating their immediate locality. Over 600 are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As such, and as one of a restricted range of early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short time, they continued to be built and occupied from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. Castle Hill, Almondbury is a good and well-preserved example of a slight univallate hillfort which developed into a small multivallate hillfort. Not only does it lie outside the main distribution, it belongs to an extremely small group of northern single-banked hillforts with an internal area of more than 1ha. It is, in addition, one of the very few small multivallate hillforts datable to the period before 400BC and is unique in that, during its multi-banked phase, the bivallate interior was surrounded by two outer earthworks set in places more than 30m apart. It also possesses other rare features, including an outwork, and its earliest ramparts preserve the pre- enclosure ground surface contemporary with earlier Prehistoric use of the site. A substantial part of the monument remains unexcavated, making it of great importance to the study of hillforts of these two types. Equally important are the well-preserved remains of the motte and bailey castle. Furthermore, in addition to the garrison and ancillary buildings whose remains survive in the bailey, the well-preserved earthworks of an associated medieval settlement are contained in the area adjacent.


Castle Hill is situated south of Huddersfield at Almondbury, on a hill top above the Holme Valley south of its confluence with the River Colne. The monument includes the remains of a late Bronze Age or early Iron Age univallate hillfort, a later Iron Age multivallate hillfort, a twelfth century motte and bailey castle and the site of a deserted medieval village. Evidence for the occupation and development of Castle Hill comes from a series of partial excavations carried out by W.J.Varley between 1939 and 1973. The earliest period of use was approximately four thousand years ago, as shown by the discovery of Late Neolithic flint tools and part of a polished stone axe. This predated the first hillfort by circa one and a half thousand years. The earthworks encircling the hill were constructed in stages over a period of roughly two hundred years. The earliest enclosure, dated by radiocarbon and thermoluminescence techniques to the late seventh century BC, consisted of an area of c.2ha at the south-west end of the hill enclosed by a single bank measuring c.3m wide. This first enclosure did not have an external ditch but the bank would have been surmounted by a wooden palisade. A simple inturned entrance bisected the bank that crossed the hill and had a small guard room to one side. Early in the sixth century BC, the first enclosure was surrounded by a wide, flat-bottomed ditch and the upcast was used to construct a new bank, also 3m wide, which roughly followed the line of the old bank but in places had a different alignment. In the mid-sixth century BC, this univallate hill fort was refortified and expanded to become a complex double- banked and ditched enclosure. New ramparts, of identical structure to the earlier, were built across the ends of the transverse ditch and were continued round the north-eastern half of the hill, effectively doubling the size of the enclosure. A new entrance was created at the north-east approach and the single bank and ditch of the original enclosure were reinforced by the addition of a second rampart. Post-holes at the front and rear of these defences were found to be contemporary and would have supported the timbers of a shelter attached to the rampart. Approximately one hundred years later this bivallate hill fort was fundamentally rebuilt. The inner rampart was widened and raised and now almost entirely consisted of two parallel drystone revetments separated by horizontal timber lacing infilled with shale and clay. A deeper V-shaped ditch was cut beyond the rampart and a short length of shale rampart was added parallel to the north-east extension. A longer stretch was built outside it and continued to the north-east entrance where an outwork was also added. This outwork shared the outer ditch of the latter rampart and created an oblique approach to the hillfort, carried along a holloway from the north- east. Two new banks, almost continuous and spaced wide apart, were built lower down the hill to entirely surround the complex. By the end of the fifth century BC, however, this multivallate hillfort had been abandoned. The vitrification of the inner rampart indicates that it was destroyed by fire at about that time, possibly during hostilities. The site does not appear to have been occupied again until the early twelfth century AD when the earthworks were modified and reconstructed to create a motte and bailey castle. A broad ditch, 27m wide and 9m deep, was cut across the top of the hill, south-west of the transverse ditch belonging to the original univallate hillfort. The upcast from the ditch was used to build a motte with a surrounding rampart. In the first half of the twelfth century, licence to fortify was granted by King Stephen and the timber palisade that would originally have surmounted the motte was replaced by a stone wall. The remains of timber buildings, and others of timber and stone, have been found on the motte. These had a number of functions and were accompanied by a 27m deep well in which was found well-preserved organic material of the medieval period in addition to medieval pottery and metalwork. Ancillary and garrison buildings, and pens for cattle and horses, would have occupied the bailey and the remains of these will survive in the south-western half of the site overlying deposits relating to the internal layout of the hillfort. The north-eastern half was, at this time, the site of a small medieval settlement which survived the abandonment of the castle by circa two centuries, being still occupied in the fifteenth century. This settlement was characterised by a row of dwellings on either side of a track that ran from the north-east entrance to the gap in the rampart of the univallate hillfort. Each building occupied a strip of land which lay at right-angles to the track and was separated from its neighbours by a shallow ditch. After the desertion of the settlement, Castle Hill remained unoccupied until the nineteenth century when a tavern was built that is still in use as a hotel and public house. In the interim it was twice used as a beacon hill, with one fire being lit there at the time of the Spanish Armada and another being prepared in the event of a Napoleonic invasion. Traditionally, in the past, it has been held to be the site of Camelot and, less fancifully, a Roman fort or the headquarters of the Brigantian Queen Cartimandua. These theories have been discounted, however, due to the complete break in occupation between the fourth century BC and the Middle Ages. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These include the surfaces of the approach road, carpark, drives and paths up to and round the monument, all modern walling and fencing, the Victorian Jubilee Tower which is Grade II Listed, the buildings and fixtures of Castle Hill Hotel and the buildings of the house on Hill Side, the safety grille over the well, the Armada anniversary beacon, all modern steps up to and on the monument and the telephone poles crossing the monument. The ground beneath these exclusions, however, with the exception of that beneath the hotel which will have been disrupted by cellarage, 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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Books and journals
Ahier, P, The Story of Castle Hill, Huddersfield...BC200 - AD1945, (1946)
Brook, R, The Story of Huddersfield, (1968)
Varley, WJ, Castle Hill, Almondbury, (1969)
Manby, T G, 'Archaeological Journal' in Almondbury Castle And Hillfort, , Vol. 125, (1968)
Stephenson, C, 'Historic Almondbury' in Castle Hill, (1975)
Varley, W J, 'Hillforts' in A Summary of the Excavations at Castle Hill: Almondbury 1939-72, (1976)
Typescript in SMR file, Gilks, JA, Castle Hill,
Varley, W.J., RCHM Microfiche: W.Yorks., Almondbury, 1938-1970,


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.

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