Ancient and modern sit side by side, with that symbol of modern life the M6 motorway, now dominating the remnant of an ancient landscape.
Castle hill is the surviving part of a motte and bailey dating from the early period of Norman Britain. Motte and bailey castles were fortifications built between the 11th and 13th centuries and comprised a large conical mound built from earth and rubble. On top of this mound, known as the motte, sat a stone or timber tower surrounded by a palisade fence. The bailey was an embanked enclosure containing further buildings which adjoined the motte.
In 1843 a group of local gentlemen, led by the Rev. Edmund Sibson, employed local miners to excavate shafts into the mound to find out more about this mysterious feature.
On finding a curved chamber and artifacts such as a whetstone used for shaping tools, pottery and an acorn, the Rev. Sibson concluded that the mound was a prehistoric burial mound. Unfortunately, modern investigations suggest that these conclusions exceeded the evidence. Possible reflecting a lack of archaeological sophistication compared with modern day methods. Sibson’s “prehistoric” chamber was probably formed through use of timber framework during construction of the mound.
No exact date can be found for the construction of the castle but it is likely to be between 1050 and 1300, a period when several such sites were established at the head of administrative areas known as Hundreds during disputes between barons. Abandonment would probably have taken place before 1341 when Robert de Langton obtained a license to fortify his manor house as Newton, probably as this site of the nearby Newton Hall; itself demolished as recent as 1964.
The threesome photographed below in the late 19th Century, lazily sit cars and lorries speed by on the M6! Castle Hill can be seen in the top left hand corner beyond the trees.