Huntingdon Castle Hills, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

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I am in castle mode at the moment, I am trying to post what castles I have left in my archives, it’s amazing how many are left, I did think I had caught up with them all…….but no, they just seem to grow on their own.  Anyway you do need to have some imagination for this castle, but I have added the notice board, because I needed help with this one when we visited the site back in 2015.  Unfortunately the board was not in very good condition at the time, so I copied the details for the post.  

We are looking at what was Huntingdon Castle, built in 1068 on the orders of William the Conqueror after the Norman invasion.  He needed castles to help him keep military an political control of England.  The inhabitants of Huntingdon may have had to come to the castle to pay taxes to William’s representative.  The Domesday Book states that 20 dwellings were demolished to make way for the castle.  The layout of the surviving earthworks confirms that the castle was a motte an daily type.  It would have been built quickly by soldiers and local forced labour, using wood instead of stone. 

The site is surrounded by a large defensive ditch on three sides and the river on the fourth.  On top of the mott, or mound where the pine trees now stand, would have been a tower and the bailey below you would have been protected by earthen ramparts with wooden palisades on top.  There would also have been a gatehouse to the castle with a drawbridge.  Motte and bailey castles acted as forts during war, but in peacetime served as home for the powerful.  The bailey would have contained the dwellings of those who worked for the castle, barns and pens for animal and storehouses for food.

The castle played an important role in the rebellion against King Henry II in 1174.  At that time it was owed by William I, King of Scotland, who was also the Earl of Huntingdon and who sided with the rebels.  Henry II himself came to Huntingdon, besieged the castle for a month, and then ordered it to be destroyed.

At some point a windmill was built on the top of the motte, where it stood until the end of the 19th century.  The cart track that led up to it, is clearly visible.  Part of the castle grounds then became the garden of Castle Hiull House an some landscaping took place.  Part of the castle site was destroyed when the first railway line was built in 1847.

All the details are from the notice board on site – 28th December 2015

6 Replies to “Huntingdon Castle Hills, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire”

  1. It seems very odd to think of a castle made of wood. I presume William was quite well entrenched at this point and not as worried about attacks. Forgive my ignorance of your history. I know about the battle of Hastings in 1066, but not a lot of what followed. 🙂

    1. Thanks ok Pat, there’s a lot of history and I get muddled sometimes 🙂 A lot of the castles started as wooden structures for quickness William still need to control the control the country, later some were rebuilt in stone. I’m not why why this one wasn’t rebuilt in stone later, maybe there was no need of a castle then. There are about 600 hundred Norman motte and bailey castles left nationally, I think nearly every town had one. There are lots that are just a hump in the ground with a ditch and you come across them without even knowing really what they are…….and hopefully there is a notice board nearby to tell you what it is 🙂

      1. Thanks, Lynne. I had a quick look at William on Wikipedia. He was pretty good at what he did. Understandable why he would build wooden castles. 🙂

  2. If I had gone by the place without knowing what had been there at one time ,I would of thought it was going to be a golf course.😁 wonder what that road up the the castle was like on a wet day …

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