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Newton le Willows Castle Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Newton in Makerfield; Golborne Gates

In the civil parish of Newton Le Willows.
In the historic county of Lancashire.
Modern Authority of St Helens.
1974 county of Merseyside.
Medieval County of Lancashire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SJ59609617
Latitude 53.46072° Longitude -2.60978°

Newton le Willows Castle Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The motte at Castle Hill, Newton, remains reasonably well preserved, despite the earth-moving activities which have obscured the bailey which originally lay at its base. The site is unusual in that limited excavation into the base of the mound in the 19th century revealed evidence of burials, indicating that the medieval motte was constructed over an earlier, possibly Prehistoric, burial monument.
The monument is Castle Hill motte, Newton. The motte is situated on a commanding site at the northeast corner of an elevated platform within the elbow formed by the deep-cut valley of the River Dene - latterly dammed to form Newton Lake. The monument includes a slightly oval mound of sandy earth raised upon largely bare sandstone bedrock. The motte measures c.5m high and has diameters of 32m at the base and 13m across the summit. There are faint traces of an encircling ditch some 10m wide with a maximum depth of 0.2m on the motte's southwest side. All traces of the associated bailey have been obscured by massive earthmoving operations undertaken during construction of the nearby motorway. Limited excavation of the motte was undertaken in 1843. An opening 1.2m square was made on the western side of the mound at the level of the original ground surface. This was driven forward horizontally towards the centre of the motte until it met a shaft 1.8m diameter that was sunk at the same time from the top of the mound. From this point a tunnel 0.9m square was driven horizontally along the original ground surface into the south side of the motte. At a distance of some 3m from the centre of the motte a narrow chamber 6.4m long and 0.6m high, possessing an arched roof made of pressed clay, was found. Within this chamber lay wood ash and burnt bone. Newton was the seat of a medieval barony, while documentary evidence from the 15th century refers to Castle Hill Field. (Scheduling Report)

D. and S. Hollos for North West Archaeological Trust, funded by M.S.C., carried out excavations on this scheduled site, in two areas of severe erosion thought to represent the back-filled shafts of excavations carried out in 1843 in the belief the hill was a burial mound. The mound was found to be constructed of fine, loose, friable sand above which a series of turf lines in section were clear evidence of gradual erosion, datable on the basis of a fragment of mid 17th-century pottery since at least that time. The position of the ditch was identified on three sides. Outside the scheduled area the ground was found to have been stripped and covered by modern material during the building of the M6 motorway. The 19th-century excavation could not be reinterpreted, though the existence of the place-name 'Castle Hill Field' as early as 1453 has suggested a link with the principal holding of the lords of Newton. Timbers found within the mound in the 19th century may represent a collapsed structure, such as a small watch-tower associated with the capital messuage. (Med. Arch. 1988)

Castle Hill occupies a commanding site at the north east corner of a slightly raised plateau. The mound is slightly oval in form, conical and truncated at the top, and is built mainly on bare sandstone rock. On its north west, west and south west sides it is defended by a ditch, but elsewhere, the steep scarps of the river valley offer protection. The mound is 17ft high above the bottom of the ditch, 40ft across the top and 105 ft wide at the base, where the ditch is 5ft deep and 32ft wide. There are no traces of masonry. There is no sign of an adjacent bailey, but an old inhabitant still remembers the existence of ditches and banks in a slightly elevated field to the south.
In 1843 excavation revealed a whetstone, a pottery sherd, burnt clay, coal ashes, charcoal and fire burnt stones. A long narrow chamber 21ft by 2ft by 2ft was also found within the south side of the mound; the floor was covered with a mixture of wood ashes, calcined bones, and half burnt animal matter. A distinct impression of an adult human body was visible on the pressed clay lining of the roof. Evidence suggests that Castle Hill is a defensive earthwork of Class D or E. (VCH; Gibson; Beaumont; Baines)
Excavation in 1987 proved the mound to be constructed of sand and turf, and identified its ditch on 3 sides. The 19th century excavation could not be reinterpreted. Timbers found within the mound may then represent a collapsed structure, such as a small watch-tower associated with the capital messuage (Med. Arch. 1988).
All surface traces of the bailey have been obscured by massive earth moving operations undertaken during motorway construction. Castle Hill motte and bailey and bowl barrow scheduled (English Heritage Scheduling Amendment 11-3-1992). (PastScape)

The construction of the M6 and, before that, Newton Lake have much altered the landscape and the castle remains. The bailey is destroyed but doesn't seem to have been a major feature. It may have been that a medieval road ran near to the motte. The motte stand just south of Golborne Dale which is a current boundary and may well represent an ancient boundary. Newton Hall was the manor house close to the parish church and manorial mill and, although now lost, is suggested by some to date from the C11. Was this actually a residence of the precursors of the Barons of Makerfield or did they have a house in the more usual location by the church? Was this pre-historic mound reused to produce symbolic feature for the Baronry on a boundary? Had the prehistoric mound been the focus for the moot of the hundred of Newton and was it turned it a castle to show Norman domination of this old political institution?
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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