Register of ancient monuments

Reference number 1016946

Castle Hill Motte Castle
Sowerby Bridge


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 1309.


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-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 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of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.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.

Last Updated: 07/10/2004