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Castles

Northamptonshire was an important area in medieval England and many castles were built in the county. However, most have been lost. With a few notable exceptions, only earth mounds and ditches remain.

You can view the castles in Northamptonshire on our Heritage map by selecting the 'Castles' layer.

Click on the photos below to learn more about each castle.

  • Alderton Mount Alderton Mount

    ​Alderton Castle is the remains of a medieval ringwork castle.

    Ringwork castles consisted of a group of buildings built on a mound and surrounded by a fence or wall and a deep ditch. They were common in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, but there are only 200 left in the country now.

    Known locally as Alderton Mount, the castle was built in the early 12th century. The site has been excavated multiple times and featured on Channel 4’s Time Team in 2000. Alderton is an unusual shape and was occupied until the 14th century.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches on the north eastern side of Alderton.

    Image © Brian Green, licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons licence

  • Barby Castle Barby Castle

    ​Barby Castle is the remains of a medieval motte castle.

    Motte castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth. Those with an enclosed courtyard are known as motte-and-bailey castles. There are 600 of both types across the country, but less than 150 without baileys. As motte-only castles are rarer, they are particularly important for understanding the Norman period.

    Barby is the best preserved motte castle in Northamptonshire.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Barnwell Castle Barnwell Castle

    ​Barnwell Castle is the remains of a medieval quandrangular castle.

    Quadrangular castles were fortified residences built around a rectangular courtyard. There was usually a tower at each corner and ditches surrounding the thick, defensive walls. Gatehouses were less common, but Barnwell has one. People lived in the towers or courtyard buildings. Quadrangular castles were built in the 13th to 15th centuries and few remain today.

    Barnwell Castle was built by Berenger Le Moyne in 1266 at the end of the Second Barons War. It led the way in military architecture and is the earliest known example of a quadrangular castle in Britain. After an inquiry found that Le Moyne did not have a licence for a castle, Ramsey Abbey took over Barnwell. However, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it was confiscated from the Church and granted to Sir Edward Montagu. Changes have been made over the centuries, but much of its medieval architecture survives.

    The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester bought the estate in 1938. It is not open to the public.

    Image © Northamptonshire Archives Service

  • Benefield Castle Benefield Castle

    ​Benefield Castle is the remains of a medieval ringwork castle.

    Ringwork castles consisted of a group of buildings built on a mound and surrounded by a fence or wall and a deep ditch. Benefield’s ditch was a water-filled moat. They were common in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, but there are only 200 left in the country now.

    Benefield Castle was built in the mid-12th century. King John seized the castle from Hugh de Lisurs in 1208 to cover his debts, but it was recovered a few years later. The castle was dismantled shortly after and it was in ruins by 1315.

    In the 18th century, a stone wall could still be seen, but now there are no building remains above ground. The site is on private property.

    Image © CastleUK.net, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Brackley Castle Brackley Castle

    Brackley Castle is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Brackley Castle was built around 1086. It went out of use as a castle in 1173 when King Henry II seized it from its owner, the Earl of Leicester. However, the building was not destroyed and it was given to the Hospital of Saint John.

    The ditches were still visible in the 16th century, but only the motte remains today. Visitors can see the mound on Castle Mount in Brackley.

    Image reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland, under a Creative Commons licence

  • Bury Mount Bury Mount

    ​Bury Mount is the remains of a medieval motte castle.

    Motte castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth. Those with an enclosed courtyard are known as motte-and-bailey castles. There are 600 of both types across the country, but less than 150 without baileys. As motte-only castles are rarer, they are particularly important for understanding the Norman period.

    Replacing earlier Roman and Saxon fortifications, Bury Mount was built by the Crown in the late 11th century. The castle was altered and used during the English Civil War by the Royalist Army. It was refortified again in the 17th century.

    Bury Mount won the restoration prize at the Museum and Heritage Awards in 2011. Visitors can see the surviving mound, banks, and ditches of the castle on Moat Lane in the centre of Towcester.

    Image © Jo Turner, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Canons Ashby Castle Canons Ashby Castle

    ​Canons Ashby Castle is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Canons Ashby Castle was built in the mid-12th century during a period of unrest. It is an ‘adulterine’ castle because it was built without royal approval. Many adulterine castles were never finished or abandoned quickly. This happened at Canons Ashby when the medieval village spread onto the castle site. In the late 18th century, the castle remains were worked into the landscaped gardens of Canons Ashby House.

    Visitors can see the tree-covered, altered mound northwest of Canons Ashby House. They can also try surveying the remains themselves using historic techniques.

    Image © Andrew Tivenan with thanks to eCastles

  • Castle Dykes Castle Dykes

    ​Castle Dykes is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Castle Dykes is particularly interesting because it has three baileys. Its motte is placed between two inner baileys, with another to the north. All are enclosed by a large ditch. The remains of the stone castle are also found on the mound, making it one of the best surviving motte-and-bailey castles in Northamptonshire.

    The remains of an Iron Age hillfort 150m away also shows the importance of the site’s long-distance views.

    Image reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence

  • Castle Hymel Castle Hymel

    ​Castle Hymel is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Castle Hymel was built in the 12th century to control the main road between Northampton and Stamford. It belonged to the Engayne family, who demolished the castle around 1200 and built an Augustinian priory on the site. The castle is sometimes known as Fineshade Castle after the abbey that replaced it. The abbey was dissolved in 1536.

    Image © Richard Humphrey, licenced under a Creative Commons Licence

  • Clifford Hill Clifford Hill

    ​Clifford Hill is the remains of a medieval motte castle.

    Motte castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth. Those with an enclosed courtyard are known as motte-and-bailey castles. There are 600 of both types across the country, but less than 150 without baileys. As motte-only castles are rarer, they are particularly important for understanding the Norman period.

    Clifford Hill was built in the 11th or 12th century and strategically overlooks a crossing point on the River Nene. It is one of the largest mottes in Britain. The mound has suffered many landslips and is no longer round and uniform. The top was also flattened in the 17th century so that it could be used as a bowling green.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches by the River Nene north of Little Houghton.

    Clifford Hill and Mill, Northamptonshire by John Roe (1810); image reproduced with the kind permission of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery

  • Culworth Castle Culworth Castle

    ​Culworth Castle is the remains of a small, medieval ringwork castle.

    Ringwork castles consisted of a group of buildings built on a mound and surrounded by a fence or wall and a deep ditch. They were common in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, but there are only 200 left in the country now. Because they are rare, Culworth Castle is considered nationally important.

    Culworth Castle was built in the late 12th century. With Sulgrave and Weedon Lois, it forms an unusual cluster of ringwork castles held by the same Norman knight. Castles helped the King rule England and were a symbol of his power. Under the Norman feudal system, nobles received land in return for their loyalty to the King. These lords granted land to their own followers. The Domesday Book shows that William the Conqueror gave Culworth to a knight called Ghilo, who in turn granted it to a Saxon man called Landric. Landric also occupied Sulgrave Castle.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditch behind St Mary’s Church in Culworth.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Earls Barton Castle Earls Barton Castle

    ​Earls Barton Church is the remains of a medieval motte castle.

    Motte castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth. Those with an enclosed courtyard are known as motte-and-bailey castles. There are 600 of both types across the country, but less than 150 without baileys. As motte-only castles are rarer, they are particularly important for understanding the Norman period.

    Earls Barton Castle is unusual because it is so close to a 10th-century church. The castle’s ditch is also Saxon. It is thought to have been the defence for a manor house previously on the site and was re-used in the castle.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches by the All Saints Church in Earls Barton.

    Image © Kokai, licensed under a Creative Commons Licence

  • Fotheringhay Castle Fotheringhay Castle

    ​Fotheringhay Castle is the remains of a large, medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Fotheringhay Castle was built in the early 12th century by Simon de Senlis I, the Earl of Northampton who also built Northampton Castle. It strategically overlooks a crossing point on the River Nene and it also acted as a royal palace and a prison from the 13th century. Richard III was born at Fotheringhay in 1452. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the castle in 1586 and executed there the following year. The castle was enlarged in the late 14th century and refurbished in the 15th and 16th centuries. After this, it was abandoned and demolished by the early 18th century.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches, as well as parts of the stone walls, southeast of Fotheringhay.

    Image © Mat Fascione, licenced under a Creative Commons licence

  • Higham Ferrers Castle Higham Ferrers Castle

    ​Higham Ferrers Castle was a large, medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Higham Ferrers Castle was built by William Peveral shortly after 1066. It was a large stone castle with two baileys and many buildings, defended by a tower, inner and outer gateways, and a deep moat with a drawbridge. It had many important owners after Peveral, but it was abandoned in the late 15th century and partly-demolished in 1523.

    There are no visible remains today.

    Image reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence

  • Lilbourne Castle Lilbourne Castle

    ​Lilbourne Castle is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Lilbourne Castle was built strategically overlooking a crossing point on the River Avon. It had two baileys and its ditches were connected to a nearby fishpond. It is within 800m of another, smaller motte-and-bailey castle at Lilbourne Gorse.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches just north of Lilbourne.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Lilbourne Gorse Castle Lilbourne Gorse Castle

    ​Lilbourne Gorse Castle is the remains of a small, medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Lilbourne Gorse Castle was built on high ground looking toward the important Watling Street. It is within 800m of another, larger motte-and-bailey castle at Lilbourne.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound and ditches south west of Lilbourne Gorse.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Long Buckby Castle Long Buckby Castle

    ​Long Buckby Castle is the remains of a medieval ringwork and bailey castle.

    Ringwork castles consisted of a group of buildings built on a mound and surrounded by a fence or wall and a deep ditch. Some, like Long Buckby, had an enclosed courtyard called a bailey. Ringwork castles were common in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, but there are only 200 left in the country now and less than 60 with baileys. Because they are rare, Long Buckby Castle is considered nationally important.

    Historians believe that the castle was built by the de Quincy family in the early 12th century. The family became the Earls of Winchester and owned the local manor from the reign of King Henry II to 1264. The castle is known locally as The Mounts.

    Visitors can see the remaining castle mound and earthwork defences in Long Buckby.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Moor End Castle Moor End Castle

    ​Moor End Castle is the remains of a medieval moated castle.

    Moated castles were fortified sites surrounded entirely by water-filled ditches or natural waterways. Their popularity peaked between 1250 and 1350, but they continued to be built throughout the medieval period. Most served as displays of power rather than as defensive sites. Around 6000 moated castles survive in England.

    Built upon an earlier manor, Moor End became a castle after Thomas de Ferrers got a licence to fortify ‘Le Morende’ in 1327. After he died, it passed to King Edward III who spent £1000 (worth £500,000 today) making changes to the building. At this time, the castle included a royal chamber, a chapel, towers, and inner and outer gates. It stayed in the royal family for several hundred years.

    All that remains today is an overgrown island.

    Image reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence

  • Northampton Castle Northampton Castle

    ​Northampton Castle is the remains of a large and important, medieval castle.

    It was built in the late 11th century by Simon de Senlis I, the Earl of Northampton. Northampton Castle played an important role in the medieval period. Parliaments were held at Northampton between 1131 and 1380 and King John moved the royal mint to the castle in 1205. It also played a key role in national events, such as the trial of Thomas Becket and the Second Barons War. King Charles II ordered the castle’s destruction for the town’s opposition during the English Civil War. Only part of it was demolished, but the rest was torn down in 1878 to make way for the new train station.

    Visitors can see the only part that survives, a small door, near the train station in Northampton.

    Image © Northamptonshire Archives Service

  • Preston Capes Castle Preston Capes Castle

    ​Preston Capes Castle is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Preston Capes Castle was built in the late 11th century by Nigel of the Count of Mortain. Shortly after, it passed to Hugh de Leicester who founded a Cluniac Priory next to it in 1090. The Priory moved to Daventry in 1107, but the castle remained the centre of the estate.

    Visitors can see the remaining ditches and small mound.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Rockingham Castle Rockingham Castle

    ​Rockingham Castle is a large, medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consist of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Rockingham Castle was built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century. It was an important royal castle and hunting lodge used by kings until the 15th century. It was also used to administer the local area. During the English Civil War, Rockingham Castle was occupied by the Parliamentarians and attacked by the Royalists. Although the castle held out, many parts were destroyed. It was restored afterwards and there have been further additions since.

    Visitors can see the stone castle, motte, two baileys, and moat, some of which are from the original construction. Rockingham Castle remains a private residence, but it is open to the public.

    Image © Rockingham Castle Estate

  • Sibbertoft Castle Sibbertoft Castle

    ​Sibbertoft Castle is the remains of a medieval motte-and-bailey castle.

    Motte-and-bailey castles consisted of a tower and fence built on top of a large mound of earth (the motte), with an enclosed courtyard below (the bailey). There are 600 motte-and-bailey and motte-only castles across the country.

    Sibbertoft Castle was built in the late 11th or early 12th century and strategically overlooked the ancient trackways through the valley.

    Image © Northamptonshire Archives Service

  • Sulgrave Castle Sulgrave Castle

    Sulgrave Castle is the remains of a medieval ringwork castle.

    Ringwork castles consisted of a group of buildings built on a mound and surrounded by a fence or wall and a deep ditch. They were common in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, but there are only 200 left in the country now.

    Sulgrave Castle was built in the late 10th century. It was further fortified and its timber buildings were replaced with stone ones in the Norman period. With Culworth and Weedon Lois, it forms an unusual cluster of ringwork castles held by the same Norman knight. Castles helped the King rule England and were a symbol of his power. Under the Norman feudal system, nobles received land in return for their loyalty to the King. These lords granted land to their own followers. The Domesday Book shows that William the Conqueror gave Sulgrave to a knight called Ghilo, who in turn divided it between three men: Hugh, Landric, and Otbert. Landric also occupied Culworth Castle. Sulgrave Castle was abandoned around 1140 and given to St Andrew’s Priory in Northampton.

    Visitors can see the remaining mound between the Village Green and the St James’ Church in Sulgrave.

    Image © Northamptonshire County Council

  • Weedon Lois Castle Weedon Lois Castle

    ​Weedon Lois is the remains of a medieval ringwork castle.

    Ringwork castles consisted of a group of buildings built on a mound and surrounded by a fence or wall and a deep ditch. They were common in Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, but there are only 200 left in the country now.

    Weedon Lois Castle was built in the late 11th century. With Culworth and Sulgrave, it forms an unusual cluster of ringwork castles held by the same Norman knight. Castles helped the King rule England and were a symbol of his power. Under the Norman feudal system, nobles received land in return for their loyalty to the King. These lords granted land to their own followers. The Domesday Book shows that William the Conqueror gave Culworth to a knight called Ghilo.

    Weedon Lois Castle is in the centre of the village next to the village green, but the remains are in poor condition and covered with trees.

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