Castle Hill ringwork west of St James's Church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Castle Hill ringwork west of St James's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

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 Northampton. 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.

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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

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