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Sheriff Hutton Ringwork

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Hoton; Castle Hill; Castle Isle

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SE65576622
Latitude 54.08774° Longitude -0.99667°

Sheriff Hutton Ringwork has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


substantial remains of a ringwork, a Norman earthwork castle, sited immediately to the south of the Church of St Helen and Holy Cross. It also includes part of the associated bailey to the west, together with earthworks relating to the later use of the area to the south and east. The date of the castle is not known for certain. There is documentary evidence for a castle built at 'Hoton' by Bertram de Bulman as a threat to Ripon c.1140. This was attributed to Sheriff Hutton, which is 11km from Ripon, but the reference is now thought to refer to Hutton Conyers, which is only 1.2km distant. Most ringworks were built immediately after the Norman Conquest or during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda (1138-1153). The earthwork castle at Sheriff Hutton was replaced by the stone built quadrangular castle, 500m to the west, begun by John Lord Neville of Raby in 1382. The castle has a small inner ward or courtyard about 20m square, surrounded by substantial earthwork ramparts with a deep ditch beyond. The external face of the ramparts forms a rectangle in plan, 50m east-west and 40m north-south. The eastern rampart is broader than either the north or south sides and has a slight terrace stepping down into the inner ward. The western side of the rampart is cut through to provide the entrance to the ward, with a causeway crossing the ditch at this point. The ramparts are at their highest either side of this west entrance. The ditch is 'U' shaped in both cross section and plan, and extends around just the north, west and south sides of the ramparts. There is no earthwork evidence of an infilled eastern ditch to complete the circuit, nor that the ditch had an external bank. To the west of the inner ward, across the causeway over the ditch, there is a level area bound to the north and south by a break of slope to lower ground. This marks the area of the outer bailey, the enclosure attached to the ringwork. The far west end of the bailey has been lost under modern housing and the north side is incorporated into a garden. To the east of the ringwork there is a toft and croft, the earthwork remains of a house platform (toft) with an associated small enclosure (the croft). To the south of the toft, running along the southern side of the ringwork and bailey, there is a set of ridge and furrow which is cut by the field boundary that forms the southern extent of the monument, providing evidence of the medieval field system in the area. (Scheduling Report)

Just south of the church are earthworks which probably mark the site of the early castle said to have been built here by Bertram de Bulmer in 1140. (Camden, Brit. (ed. Gough), iii, 84) They are curious in form and probably indicate that the castle was transitional between the mount and bailey and the keep and bailey types. (V.C.H. Yorks. ii, 45) The site must have been abandoned by 1382, when John de Nevill was empowered to inclose with a stone wall a plot of his own ground at Sheriff Hutton and to build a castle there. (VCH)

The core of the castle complex is obviously the central rectangular enclosure, and it would appear the earthworks represent a number of building ranges and possibly towers and turrets arranged around an internal courtyard. This is not the traditional view of a ringwork, in which a large central single structure is surrounded by a palisade or wall. It more closely resembles a 'courtyard castle', the plan forms of which do tend to appear in the 12th century. The site also has similarities with two other mid 12th century, but temporary, castles in Burwell and Rampton in Cambridgeshire. However, the size of the courtyard at Sherriff Hutton does seems rather small, and it is possible the castle did originate as an earlier pre-Conquest ringwork which was subsequently modified within a constricted site by a later generations of the Bulmer and Neville families. Clark has drawn comparisons between this site and Helmsley castle in North Yorkshire, the latter also traditionally interpreted as a ringwork but which has more characteristics of a courtyard design. It is interesting to note the adjacent church is also first documented to 1100-15, precisely when the castle is thought to have been first constructed, and it is possible that the two represent the deliberate creation of a 'magnate core' within or adjacent to a pre-existing settlement. (Dennison, 2005)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:03

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