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Ely Cherry Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Mount

In the civil parish of Ely.
In the historic county of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely.
Modern Authority of Cambridgeshire.
1974 county of Cambridgeshire.
Medieval County of county palatine of the Isle of Ely.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL541799
Latitude 52.39594° Longitude 0.26304°

Ely Cherry Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Ely Castle, or Cherry Hill Castle, a motte and bailey built by William I in 1070 to subdue Ely. Once Ely was quiessent, the motte was abandoned. However it was refortified in 1140 and immediately captured by King Stephen, and was captured by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1143. It lies on the south side of the Cathedral Park just inside 'Ely' Porta and close to the old tithe barn of the monastery. The motte is 40ft high with a basal diameter of 250ft and a summit diameter of 50ft. No ditch remains. The bailey consists of a four-sided enclosure on the south east of the motte, 300ft x 250ft. The surrounding bank is slight and there is no trace of an outer ditch. There is a gap in the north side where it should join the motte. (PastScape)

In the years following the Conquest the Isle of Ely became the rallying point of elements hostile to the new regime. In 1070 the Danish fleet moved S from the Humber to the Wash, where it was joined by local groups, and a joint Anglo-Danish force attacked Peterborough. William made a separate treaty with the Danish contingent, which then sailed for home, but a nucleus of native resistance remained in the Isle under the leadership of Hereward. This group was joined by Earl Morcar and other English notables in 1071, and the same year the King moved to blockade the Isle. After several setbacks the Isle was taken and the rebels dispersed. It is tempting to attribute the motte and bailey earthwork known as Cherry Hill to this episode. The contemporary chroniclers are, however, strangely silent about the planting of castles in the Isle. In the middle of the following century the writer of the Liber Eliensis believed that William stationed two garrisons in the Isle at this time. The wording of the entry is ambiguous, but the chronicler took care to distinguish between the praesidium left within the bounds of the Abbey and the castellum erected at Alrehede. It is by no means certain that Cherry Hill is a work of 1071. Ely became a centre of revolt again in 1142. Bishop Nigel raised against the King a castle ex lapide et cemento, and finding work on this constantly hindered by the intervention of Saint Aetheldreda, repaired the castle at Alrehede instead and set up a field battery to command the foreshore. It is not clear whether Bishop Nigel attempted to build a stone castle de novo, or was engaged in replacing in stone the timber defences of an earlier work built to house the praesidium of 1071. However, when Geoffrey de Mandeville occupied the Isle in 1143, the castrum de Ely at que de Alrehede were handed over to him. Of the castle at Alrehede and Bishop Nigel's defended battery at the water's edge no trace remains. Cherry Hill, in the grounds of the Cathedral, consists of a high citadel type motte with a rectangular bailey at the S side. The form of the earthworks suggests that some considerable alteration has taken place in the past, and the exact interrelationship of the motte with its bailey has been obscured. (Cambs HER–Ref. Davidson)

The stone 'castle' recorded by Davidson may well relate to earliest foundations of Ely Bishop's palace. The motte does not seem to show any evidence of stone buildings. Lowerre is of the opinion the castle was short lived and abandoned shortly after 1071.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:31

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