Kilton Castle: tower keep castle 130m east of Castle Cottages


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Kilton Castle: tower keep castle 130m east of Castle Cottages
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Redcar and Cleveland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 70286 17578

Reasons for Designation

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid- 15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104 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 to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

The tower keep castle at Kilton retains important evidence of its original form despite the loss of significant fabric, and the instability of that which does survive. As a reasonably good example of a rare monument type it will contribute to our knowledge of military and domestic life during the medieval period.


The monument includes the remains of a tower keep castle of 13th century date, situated in a prominent position on a long and narrow rocky promontory where it commands the valley of the Kilton Beck. The castle is a Listed Building Grade I. Although a timber castle is thought to have been constructed at Kilton between 1135-40, the remains visible today are those of a stone built castle constructed about 1190-1200 by the Kilton family. The castle is mentioned in a document of 1265 in which a chantry was granted to an existing chapel at the site. The castle was abandoned as a dwelling soon afterwards, and in 1341 and 1345 it is described as small and worthless. It was totally abandoned during the 16th century. The castle is protected by a steep slope on the south side and by more gentle slopes on the north and east. At the western end, where access is gained by a narrow neck of land, the castle is protected by a broad moat 46m long, up to 3.5m deep and a maximum of 16m wide. The castle is visible as a narrow, roughly rectangular enclosure with overall dimensions of 98.5m north west to south east by a maximum of 30m. The curtain wall is of rubble construction faced with fine ashlar blocks; in places the latter have been removed and the rubble core is visible. The height of the curtain wall varies from between 1.5m to 5.3m. On the south side, for much of the east side and the south part of the west side, it is visible as the low foundations of a stone wall. The most vulnerable north curtain wall is furnished with several towers; the first at the north east angle is apsidal in shape and stands to a maximum height of 7.5m; it has several windows, one of which is an arrow loop, and there is an internal fireplace in its west wall which retains corbels upon which a mantlepiece rested. There is a doorway through the south wall opening onto a garderobe buttress on the east curtain wall. The foundations of a tower, of similar design but later dismantled to foundation level, are situated at the south east angle of the castle. At the north western corner of the castle there is a rectangular tower which projects beyond the curtain wall and stands to a maximum height of 5m. A tower situated on, and projecting beyond, the north wall of the castle is interpreted as the main defensive structure at the castle. It is visible as the basement of a building 11.5m by 8.6m with walls 2.6m thick and standing to a maximum height of 8.5m. There is a stone buttress at the eastern end of its north wall. Between the latter tower and the north east angle there is a semi-circular tower which contains a circular well shaft with its floor and lining intact. Within the curtain and towers of the castle the interior is divided into two areas; the inner and the outer wards. The inner ward occupies the eastern part of the tower keep castle and its northern part contains the foundations of a range of domestic buildings which open onto a courtyard to the south. The outer ward, which occupies the central and western part of the castle, contains the remains of the east and west walls of a large building in its north western corner; part of the east wall of this building stands to a maximum height of 5m. This building is interpreted as a stable block, and the remains of a first floor doorway are visible leading into the north west angle tower of the castle. Areas of the castle were excavated between 1961 and 1979 and demonstrated that more than one building phase is represented; as originally constructed, the castle consisted of the curtain walls with circular corner towers at the north and south east angles. Both baileys are defended by a ditch to their west sides, that defending the inner bailey was infilled during the 15th century. Excavation also revealed the existence of a gateway to the inner bailey protected by a pair of semi-circular towers which survive below ground level as buried foundations. During the 14th century a domestic range, which also survives below ground level as a series of buried features, was built along the line which separated the inner and outer baileys, and the former hall was converted to kitchens and smaller rooms. During the 15th century the layout of the castle was changed; the inner bailey contained all of the domestic structures and a new hall was constructed in the outer bailey.

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:
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Books and journals
Daniels, R, Hamilton, B, Swain, H P, Kilton Castle, (1985)
NZ71NW 02,


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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