Lowe Hill motte and bailey castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010054

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Mar-1992


Ordnance survey map of Lowe Hill motte and bailey castle
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This copy shows the entry on 18-Jan-2019 at 18:49:01.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Wakefield (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: SE 32680 19717


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications 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. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of recognised 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 period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Lowe Hill castle is a well-preserved example of a motte and bailey castle the remains of whose timber phases, unusually, have not been disturbed by later rebuilding in stone.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Lowe Hill motte and bailey castle is located in Thornes Park on the hill top overlooking the River Calder and the Thornes area of Wakefield. The monument includes the motte and two baileys. An apparent third bailey, situated on the north-east side, does not at present form part of the scheduling as current thought is that it is a platform built to accommodate a Victorian bandstand, the foundations of which can still be seen, not a bailey. The motte, on which would have been built a timber keep, stands c.9m high, has a base diameter of c.25m and is surrounded by an infilled ditch visible as a shallow depression c.5m wide. A scarp on the west and north sides of the motte continues eastward to create the north side of the inner bailey which is a roughly square enclosure measuring c.40m across. Low banks, c.1m high and 3m wide, follow the edge of the scarp and would have formerly been the site of a timber palisade. The smaller outer bailey lies at a slightly lower level to the north-east and is also enclosed by a scarp and bank. Like the inner bailey, the level area inside would have been the site of ancillary and garrison buildings and would have contained corralling for horses. The remains of these structures will survive well and extensively throughout the monument as disturbance to the site has been limited to a small scale excavation carried out in 1953, when a hearth and small quantities of metalwork and twelfth century pottery were found. The early history of the site is unclear as little documentary evidence survives. One theory, based on the date of the pottery found so far, is that it was an adulterine castle constructed by the third Earl Warenne during the war of 1138-49 between Stephen and Mathilda. Licence to build fortifications could be granted only by the king and an adulterine castle was one built without his authority during times of civil strife. On the opposite side of the River Calder, approximately one mile to the south-east, is Sandal Castle, first mentioned in c.1240. Although the exact relationship between the two is not yet known, it is likely, since both are mentioned in a royal edict of 1324, that together they controlled movement along the river. Traditionally, Lowe Hill castle is believed to have been destroyed by the great gale of 1330. As yet, there is no indication that it was ever rebuilt in stone.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 13294

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hope-Taylor, B, Excavation at Lowe Hill, Wakefield, Yorkshire, (1953)

End of official listing