Castle Hill ringwork west of St James's Church
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1010111
Date first listed: 18-Jul-1949
Date of most recent amendment: 12-Dec-1994
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Feb-2019 at 16:46:42.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: South Northamptonshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SP 55645 45240
Reasons for Designation
Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprised a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded or partly surrounded by a
substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade or, rarely, a
stone wall. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the
bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military
operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements.
They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60
with baileys. As such, and as one of a limited number and very restricted
range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular
significance to our understanding of the period.
The site at Castle Hill survives well and is one of only seven ringworks in the county, which together with Culworth and Weedon Lois forms a distinctive and unusual cluster. The site is well documented historically and archaeologically and will retain considerable economic, social, and environmental evidence dating from its development in the Saxon period.
The site known as Castle Hill is situated on the south western side of the
village of Sulgrave and includes a ringwork.
The plan of the village of Sulgrave is a rough figure-of-eight, with the
church and ringwork in the centre of the south western loop and the manor
house at the north east end of the north eastern loop. The village, which
appears to have originated around the church and ringwork, both of which may
date from before the Norman Conquest, later expanded to the north east in the
early 16th century when a manorial residence was established by Lawrence
Washington. Two areas of village settlement earthworks survive (not
included in the scheduling); one 150m to the north of Castle Hill, the other
on the north east of the present village. The two sites contain slight
settlement remains of house platforms, scarps and banks demonstrating how the
pattern of village settlement has changed.
At the time of Domesday Book, Sulgrave was held by Ghilo of Picquigni in
Picardy as part of an honour (a term applied to a group of estates which came
under a single administration). Tenure of the estate at Sulgrave was divided
between three men, Hugh, Landric, and Otbert. Landric held land at Culworth,
2km to the north west, which also contains a ringwork adjacent to the church.
A third similarly situated ringwork exists 4km to the east at Weedon Lois,
which was also held by Ghilo. In the mid 12th century the site was abandoned
as a manorial residence and was given to the priory of St Andrew at
The ringwork lies immediately adjacent to the Church of St James, which
comprises a 13th century tower containing a reset Saxon triangular-headed
doorway. The ramparts of the ringwork comprise a roughly circular inner bank
3m-4m above an outer ditch. The bank may have been made up of five straight
sides enclosing a central area 30m across which is slightly raised above the
surrounding land surface. An outer ditch, which is largely infilled, measures
up to 15m wide and 0.5m deep. It is truncated by the churchyard on the
eastern side and partly modified by modern development on the south western
side. An entrance on the north western side which cuts through the bank
was shown by excavation to date to the 19th century; the site of the original
entrance is unknown but would most likely have been adjacent to the church on
the east side. Adjacent to the ringwork on the south side is an area of
uneven ground extending c.70m from the ringwork ramparts (included in
the scheduling), containing fragments of stone walling, now grassed over. The
proximity to the ringwork and location within a sunken trackway suggests they
may be part of manorial buildings contained within a bailey area. The bailey
may have extended to Magpie Road to the north and Park Lane on the west of the
ringwork, and to School Street to the east to include a possible Saxon church
on the site of St James's. Evidence for this cannot at the present time be
substantiated, however, and these areas are not included in the scheduling.
Excavation of the northern part of the ringwork between 1960 and 1976 revealed
that the Norman manorial centre had been established on the site of earlier
Saxon buildings, themselves apparently of manorial status, dating from the end
of the tenth century. The Saxon buildings were mainly of timber construction
which were followed by the construction of the first rampart bank. The Norman
hall was a stone structure measuring 12m by 5.5m, during the life of which the
rampart bank was heightened twice, and small timber-framed structures were
erected. The excavation suggests that the site was abandoned by about 1140.
Excluded from the scheduling is a stable block on the south side of the site
and all fences, although the ground beneath these features 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.
Legacy System number: 13662
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
The County of Northampton, (1982)
Davison, B K, 'Archaeological Journal' in Excavations at Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, 1960-76, , Vol. 134, (1977)
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