Reasons for Designation
Motte 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-bai1ey 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 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
and motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from
most regions. Some 100-150 examples do not have baileys and are classified as
motte castles. 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the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other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.
The earthwork remains of Castle Hill castle are well preserved and a rare
surviving example of this type of monument in West Yorkshire. The site retains
important archaeological and environmental deposits particularly in the matrix
of the castle mound, in the fill of the ditches and on the old land surface
buried beneath the mound. Taken as a whole Castle Hill castle will contribute
significantly to our understanding of the social and economic status of the
castle and its position in the wider medieval landscape.
The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of a motte castle
which is situated on the north facing slope of the Calder valley. The castle
sits on a small terrace and has commanding views both east and west along the
valley. Its position, on the northern edge of the village of Sowerby, gives it
a physically prominent position within the settlement.
The monument survives as a series of earthworks which include a sub-circular
mound with a surrounding ditch. The mound measures approximately 20m in
diameter and survives to a height of about 1m on the north side and 0.5m on
the southern side. The ditch is 8m wide and survives to a depth of 0.5m. A
break in the outer bank of the ditch on the south west side indicates the
position of a causeway, although some erosion is evident in this area.
The mound is the site of a castle which is thought to have belonged to the
Earls of Warren. The name Castle Hill has been used to describe the site since
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.