Castle Hills medieval motte and bailey castle, and 20th century airfield defences, 700m north east of Oran House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020991

Date first listed: 11-Jan-1965

Date of most recent amendment: 30-Jul-2003


Ordnance survey map of Castle Hills medieval motte and bailey castle, and 20th century airfield defences, 700m north east of Oran House
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Richmondshire (District Authority)

Parish: Catterick

National Grid Reference: SE 25456 97059


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey 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-bailey 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 and bailey 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 or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

Although of comparatively recent date, 20th century military sites are increasingly seen as historic survivals representing a defining episode in the history of warfare and of the century in general; as such they merit careful record and, in some cases, preservation. The importance of defending airfields against attack was realised before the outbreak of World War II and a strategy evolved as the war went on. Initially based on the principle of defence against air attack, Anti-aircraft guns, air raid shelters and dispersed layouts, with fighter or `blast' pens to protect dispersed aircraft, are characteristics of this early phase. With time, however, the capture of the airfield became a more significant threat, and it was in this phase that the majority of surviving defence structures were constructed, mostly in the form of pillboxes and other types of machine gun post. The types of structure used were fairly standard. For defence against air attack there were Light Anti-aircraft (LAA) gun positions, either small machine gun posts or more substantial emplacements for Bofors guns. For defence against capture, pillboxes, trench systems and wire entanglements were provided. Fortified gun positions took many forms, from standard ministry designs used throughout Britain to designs specifically for airfield defence. Defences survive on a number of airfields, though few in anything like the original form or configuration. Examples are considered to be of particular importance where the defence provision is near complete, or where a portion of the airfield represents the nature of airfield defence that existed more widely across the site.

A national survey of England's Anti-aircraft provision, based on archive sources, has produced a detailed record of how many sites there were, where they were and what they looked like. It is also now known from a survey of aerial photographs how many of these survive. LAA sites used a range of weapons in defence against lower flying aircraft and of all the gunsites, these were the least substantial, with the fabric depending to a large extent on the type of weapon employed. The Bofors machine gun was the weapon most frequently provided with a static emplacement. It was also the only LAA weapon whose associated structures were covered by formal design drawings. It had three varieties of emplacement: ground level fieldworks, which were the most common; roof mountings; and towers of steel or concrete. Nearly 1,250 LAA gunsites of all types are recorded as having been built during World War II and can be accurately located. Around 50 of these have some remains surviving, though at only around 40 sites are these thought sufficient to provide an understanding of their original form and function. Surviving examples are therefore sufficiently rare to suggest that all 40 examples are of national importance.

Castle Hills is a well-preserved example of a motte and bailey castle which will retain buried evidence of its original timber structures and other deposits created during its medieval occupation. Its reuse in the 20th century as part of the defences for RAF Catterick adds to its importance, individual structures being of interest in their own right. The Light Anti-aircraft gun emplacement is a particularly rare survival and is considered to be of national importance.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes earthwork and associated buried remains of a medieval motte and bailey castle along with the standing and earthwork remains of a group of 20th century defences constructed to defend RAF Catterick. A further sample of the World War II airfield defences, lying to the south of the airfield, are the subject of a separate scheduling. The monument is located on the west side of the River Swale, to the east of the former RAF airfield.

In the medieval period, the motte and bailey castle lay in an outlying part of the manor of Catterick known as Killerby. This was held by a man named Scholland who is thought to have built the castle in 1120-25 to control a fording point across the River Swale. Scholland was sewer, one of the senior servants, to Count Alan Niger of Richmond. However it has also been suggested that the castle was remodelled from an earlier defensive site dating to before the Norman Conquest. The motte and bailey castle is thought never to have acquired masonry structures, but remained an earthwork and timber fortification. It passed through the same family until 1291 when it was abandoned by Brian Fitz-Alan of Killerby for a new stone castle just over 1km to the south east. In the 20th century, the high ground provided by the motte and bailey castle was again used defensively. In 1940-41 RAF Catterick was provided with airfield defences against attack by low flying aircraft and ground assault by troops, with the motte and bailey forming the main defensive strong-point. The remains of these defences are also included in the monument.

The motte and bailey castle forms a small area of higher ground on the western side of the River Swale's floodplain, the eastern flank of the castle being a continuation of an abandoned river cliff. It can be roughly divided into three parts, an outer ward in the southern part of the monument, the bailey at the centre and the motte in the north eastern part. The outer ward is a gently sloping, south facing enclosure about 60m by 80m, defined by the abandoned river cliff to the east and by old embanked hedge lines to the south and west. At the time that the castle was occupied, this area would have typically included some auxiliary buildings and probably have been used for activities such as blacksmithing. Along the southern side of this enclosure there are the platforms for a group of small buildings once part of the dispersed layout of RAF Catterick. On the north side of the outer ward, the slope steepens, marking the line of the southern rampart of the bailey and to the north west there is the southern part of a deep, broad moat ditch. This moat continues northwards, enclosing the western side of the bailey to meet the moat that encircles the motte.

The bailey is an irregular, but roughly triangular area some 80m across. Around its edge there is evidence of a raised rampart, particularly on the western side, with its corners rising higher as definite mounds. This defended bailey at Castle Hills is considered to have included the castle's great hall, main apartments and other important buildings such as kitchens. The three mounds at the corners of the bailey were all modified in the 20th century. The south eastern mound is topped by a thickened type 22 pillbox for five Lewis or Bren machine guns. Hexagonal in plan, it has 24 inch (0.6m) thick walls constructed with an outer and inner cladding of brick over reinforced concrete. Internally it has an anti-ricochet wall with an iron ladder leading to a central hatchway in the roof. This provided access to a Light Anti-aircraft (LAA) gun position on top of the pillbox. Surmounting the south western mound is a concrete emplacement for another LAA gun. This emplacement, believed to have been for a 40mm Bofors gun, includes ammunition lockers that retain some surviving timber fittings. This LAA gun position is thought to have been sited so that it could also cover the airfield to prevent the successful landing of enemy troops. In the top of the north eastern mound is a shallow hollow which is interpreted as an infantry foxhole. Further probable foxholes lie on a terrace part way down the slope on the western side of the bailey.

To the north east of the bailey, surrounded by a broad moat, part of which frequently holds water, is the motte. This conical mound is around 50m-60m diameter at its base and about 10m-15m across at its summit. It forms the highest part of the monument, with extensive views across the surrounding countryside. It would have originally been topped by a timber tower or fortified enclosure, some buried footings for which are expected to survive. This vantage point was also reused in the 20th century and it retains a small trench system constructed upon its summit, with further foxholes on its northern flank.

To the south west of the motte, on the western boundary of the monument, there is a boundary stone with the inscription AM No13. This stone, which is also included in the monument, is one of at least 25 individually numbered boundary stones erected by the Air Ministry in 1925-27, and marks where the boundary of RAF Catterick changed direction.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are all modern fences, gates, sign posts and all troughs provided for game birds, the ground beneath all these features is, however, 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: 34720

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
L'Anson, W M, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Castles of the North Riding, , Vol. 22, (1913), 359-60
Francis, Paul , RAF Catterick Historical Aerodrome Survey, 2000, Typescript Report for MoD

End of official listing