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Drax Castle Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Drax.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire West Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE67602602
Latitude 53.72678° Longitude -0.97727°

Drax Castle Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a Masonry Castle but is rejected as such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


A medieval moated site now occupied by Castle Hill Farm. The site is reputed to be that of Talleville castle built after 1139 by Philip de Colville. The castle was adulterine and was one of those ordered to be destroyed by Stephen in 1154 under the terms of a treaty with Henry of Anjou. There is a 1278 documentary reference to a garden on the site of the manor, but by 1405 the site was recorded as being worthless due to flooding and in 1421 it was assessed as being worth 3 shillings and four pence in herbage. The monument is typical of a nobleman's moated manor house of the 12th to 13th centuries, with a 55 metre square island raised above the level of the surrounding fields with material from a deep encircling moat ditch. On the outside of the moat ditch there is a substantial encircling bank, up to 15 metres wide, which would have typically derived from material dredged from the ditch after the initial construction. The entire circuit of the moat ditch survives as an earthwork except in the north eastern part of the monument where it survives as an infilled feature. The moated island is now occupied by a farm house and a number of outbuildings and other farm buildings, one of which has been converted into domestic accommodation. On the south side of the island there is a slight earthwork depression which is interpreted as a fishpond. (PastScape)

A raised moated enclosure. More likely to be 14th century & manorial than a 12th castle. The ditches are best preserved on the south side. now occupied by farm buildings. In 1278 there was a garden on the site of the manor; in 1405 it was worth nothing due to flooding. Moat:type a2(b). An adulterine castle built 1139-54 by Philip de Colville. Ordered destroyed by Stephen in 1154 under the terms of the treaty with Henry of Anjou. Philip refused & Stephen captured and destroyed it. It is doubtful that this is really the castle site. (North Yorkshire HER)

The North Yorkshire HER cast doubt on this as the site of the C12 castle because this was destroyed by King Stephen. This is apparently because of a statement by an OS field Investigator, who thought the original castle should be a motte (between a 25-30% of Norman castles never had a motte and of those that did the motte is sometimes a later added feature). In the middle ages the area was marshy and sometimes recorded as flooded (Le Patourel) and building a deep ditched mound may have been impossible. The strength of the castle may well have been these marshes rather than earthworks. The term 'destroyed' (William de Newburgh writes 'incendere' - burnt) has variable meanings but anyway rebuilding is almost always done on, or near to, the previous high status building site. It would be wrong to assume that the site was abandoned directly after 1154, although it does seem to have been abandoned by the late C13 (possibly because of increased susceptibility to flooding) but was clearly reoccupied at some later date (although possibly no longer the manorial centre). The counter argument to the rejection of this as the site of the C12 castle is where else, in this area of marshland, could the known and recorded castle have been. The village occupies most of the higher land and the Priory, founded in the 1130s before the siege, occupies much of the rest.
The history given in a Drax family website has many fanciful elements. The 'spiral staircase stone' shown if it such a thing probably came from the Priory site. A charter of Stephen dated 1154 and witnessed apud Dracas in obsidione (from the siege of Drax) may have been misread to suggest a stone castle here. However the suggestion that this was the site of a Saxon manor, which may have been fortified, is not unreasonable but is not supported by archaeological evidence (although no archaeological investigation adequate enough to date the site have been carried out.)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:49

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