Heighley Castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Heighley Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Newcastle-under-Lyme (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SJ 77236 46748

Reasons for Designation

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, 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 with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Despite the monument's overgrown appearance, Heighley Castle survives well. Limited excavation within the castle enclosure has revealed structural remains dating from the 13th century and further evidence of the medieval buildings will exist beneath the ground surface. Heighley is a dominant feature of the medieval landscape in Staffordshire and its surviving architectural details represent an important phase in the development of military architecture.


Heighley Castle occupies a prominent position on the edge of a steep sandstone escarpment overlooking the Checkley Brook. The monument includes both the standing and buried remains of the castle, which are also Listed Grade II, and the massive dry ditch cut out of the rock. The slope of the escarpment forms the defences and boundary to the castle on its eastern and southern edges. The western and northern defences of the enclosure, along the two accessible sides of the castle have been strengthened by a large rock-cut ditch, isolating the castle promontory from the escarpment. The ditch measures approximately 15m wide and 9m deep, and quarry marks are visible on the faces of the ditch which were created during its construction. Stone from the cutting of the ditch was used for the internal features of the castle. The castle has an irregularly shaped enclosure which measures approximately 100m north-south and up to 50m west-east. The enclosure was originally surrounded by a curtain wall, of which the lower courses of masonry are visible at the south-eastern edge. At the northern edge are further remains of the curtain wall, where a section survives to a height of 2.5m. Much of the curtain survives beneath the ground surface. On the western edge of the enclosure fragments of masonry and slight traces of stone foundations are visible. These remains represent a pair of towers which projected slightly beyond the curtain wall. The wall towers were clearly visible until the mid- 20th century and are known to measure approximately 6.5m square. The foundations of the towers will survive as buried features. Access into the enclosure was originally by means of an earthen causeway across the north- western section of the ditch. There is no surface evidence of the gatehouse which would have defended the gateway passage although it will survive as a buried feature at the north-western corner of the enclosure. The ground surface within the enclosure slopes markedly down towards its southern end where a suite of domestic apartments are known to have been located. Recent disturbance has exposed a 4m length of walling in the south- eastern part of the enclosure. The section of walling stands up to four courses high and two springers from an arcade are visible. The exposed wall stands on a east-west alignment and is considered to be the south wall of a vaulted undercroft. Heighley Castle was constructed in the first quarter of the 13th century by Henry de Audley, who is also credited with the foundation of Hulton Abbey in Stoke-on-Trent. In 1223 de Audley was given 12 hinds from the royal forest of Cannock to stock the park at Heighley. Early 14th century estimates of the value of the castle suggest it was then neglected. It appears, however, to have been still sufficiently in repair to be used as a prison in 1534, and to warrant demolition by the Parliamentarians in 1644. The official signpost, situated at the eastern edge of the enclosure, and the fence posts at the western edge of the monument are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath these features is included.

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:
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Books and journals
Salter, M, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire and West Midlands, (1989), 21
Salter, M, Castles and Moated Mansions of Staffordshire and West Midlands, (1989), 21
Cantor, L M, 'North Staffordshire Journal of Field Studies' in The Medieval Castles of Staffordshire, , Vol. 6, (1966), 44
RCHME, SJ 74 NE 3, Heighley Castle,
Snowdon, K., AM107, Field Monument Warden Report, (1989)


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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