Northallerton Castle Hills

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte Ringwork), and also as a Certain Palace (Bishop)

There are earthwork remains

NameNorthallerton Castle Hills
Alternative NamesThe Old Palace; Alverton; The Howe
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishNorthallerton

The motte and bailey at Castle Hills was probably founded by William I when he encamped at Northallerton in 1068. In 1141 Northallerton Castle was seized by William Cumin for King David of Scotland and entirely rebuilt, but was surrendered sometime after 1143. (I'Anson, referring to Hoveden, says that Bishop Pudsey later obtained, the castle but surrendered it in 1174. Hoveden however refers to this as the new castle, or 'castellum novum' which suggests another site - see SE 39 SE 7). Leland (writing circa 1535-43) mentions "the ditches and the dungeon hill where the castelle of Alverton sumtime stode". In 1838 construction of the railway destroyed the majority of the earthworks, which prior to that date "consisted of a circular mound in the centre, and high embankments below at some distance, with deep trenches and ditches, altogether occupying an area of at least 20 acres." The illustration of this (Ingledew, 1858) shows what is obviously a motte and bailey of considerable size and strength (l'Anson). Renn says there are traces of ringwork. (Alleged to have been a Roman Camp see SE 39 SE 14). Historically it is thought that the work was built in 1142 and destroyed in 1176 (King, 1983). (PastScape)

SE 3612 9414. Castle Hills, a natural eminence under permanent pasture at about 50m OD, has been sculpted to accommodate a ringwork, much of which was destroyed in a railway cutting constructed in 1838, so that only the NE arc remains. There was formerly a bailey to the E of Castle Hills, and another, probably to the W, though this too is severely mutilated by the railway and associated quarrying. The complex was surveyed in 1988 by RCHME Newcastle at 1:2500; a more complete description is held in the NMR archive. In the surviving NE sector of the ringwork, the bank is up to 1.5m high above the interior, which is level and featureless, and about 3.3m above the surrounding ground to the E where piggeries have encroached upon the base of the mound

There are no remains of an outer ditch. Much of the E bailey is destroyed; what remains is now spread and reduced by ploughing to little more than an outward-facing scarp up to 1.4m high. The remains of the probable W bailey, now isolated from the ringwork by the railway, takes the form of a bank, up to 3.5m high,surmounted by a fence. (PastScape ref. Keith Blood/15-NOV-1988/RCHME: OS Map Revision, Castle Hills)

Gatehouse Comments

There are two castle site in Northallerton and there may be confusion and confabulation between the two sites, particularly with regard to their history. See Bishop Rufus Palace, Northallerton.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSE361941
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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

() above

Latitude 54° 20' 31.06" Longitude -1° 26' 45.41"

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Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

() above

Latitude 54° 20' 31.06" Longitude -1° 26' 45.41"

View full Sized Image

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 121-3, 230
  • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 244
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 66
  • Jackson, M.J., 2001, Castles of North Yorkshire (Carlisle) p. 50-2
  • Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 21
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 174
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 58n, 522, 538
  • Ryder, P.F., 1982 (paperback edn 1992), The Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire (Ash Grove Book) p. 87-107
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 268
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 258
  • Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield) p. 129-30
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1914, VCH Yorkshire: North Riding Vol. 1 p. 418-9 online transcription
  • Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 34-5
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 238-9 online copy
  • Ingledew, C.J.D., 1858, History and Antiquites of Northallerton p. 120-5 online copy
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1785-94, The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Vol. 3 p. 518-9, 535-6 online copy


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 551
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 67 online copy; Vol. 4 p. 33 [online copy >]


  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 274
  • Renn, D.F., 1959, 'Mottes: a classification' Antiquity Vol. 33 p. 106-12 (listed as siegework)
  • I'Anson, W.M., 1913, 'The castles of the North Riding' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 365-8 (plan)
  • Armitage, 1901, The Reliquary Vol. 7 p. 168-9
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 215 online copy
  • 1808, The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 78 Part 1 p. 381 online copy
  • 1799, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 2 p. 949 (slight) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Arnold, T. (ed), 1885, 'Historia Dunelmensis ecclesiae, A. D. 635-1096' Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia (London; Rolls series 75) Vol. 1 p. 100
  • Riley, Henry T. (ed), 1853, The Annals of Roger de Hoveden (London: Bohn) Vol. 1 p. 383 online copy
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1869, Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene (Rolls Series 51) Vol. 2 p. 57, 65, 101 online copy


  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)
  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
  • Creighton, O.H., 1998, Castles and Landscapes: An Archaeological Survey of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (PhD Thesis University of Leicester) p. 610-11 online copy