List of castles in Greater Manchester

There are nine castles in Greater Manchester, a metropolitan county in North West England. They consist of four motte-and-baileys, three fortified manor houses, an enclosure castle, and a possible shell keep. A motte-and-bailey castle has two elements, the motte is an artificial conical mound with a wooden stockade and stronghold on top, usually a stone keep or tower.[1] A bailey is a defended enclosure below the motte, surrounded by a ditch.[2] Motte-and-bailey castles were the most common type of castle in England following the Norman Conquest.[3] A shell keep was a motte with a stone wall rather than a wooden stockade on top; there would have been no tower within the walls.[4] Four of Greater Manchester's castles are scheduled monuments: Buckton, Bury, Radcliffe Tower, and Watch Hill. A scheduled monument is a "nationally important" archaeological site or historic building, given protection against unauthorised change.[5]

Image of Greater Manchester with the general position of castles. 1. Buckton Castle 2. Bury Castle 3. Dunham Castle 4. Manchester Castle 5. Radcliffe Tower 6. Rochdale Castle 7. Stockport Castle 8. Ullerwood Castle 9. Watch Hill Castle
The standing remains of Radcliffe Tower.

The purpose of a castle was not simply militaristic, but was also considered to be a stamp of authority over the population of an area and a status symbol. Some would have acted as centres of trade and administration for a manor.[6] The earliest castles in Greater Manchester are Dunham and Watch Hill in Trafford, Ullerwood in Manchester, and Stockport Castle in Stockport. They were first recorded in 1173 as belonging to barons who had rebelled against Henry II,[7] and at least three were motte-and-bailey castles, probably because of the speed and ease with which they could be erected.[8] Hamon de Massey, who owned the Trafford castles and Ullerwood, and Geoffrey de Constentyn, who owned Stockport Castle, were two of the three rebels from Cheshire; the other was the Earl of Chester, the owner of Chester Castle.[7] Castles continued to be built in the area, although the last to be built in Greater Manchester were two fortified manor houses near Bury, built more for comfort than as utilitarian military structures. Bury Castle and Radcliffe Tower followed the national trend in the 13th century; they would most likely have acted as the centre of the manor they served.[9]

List of castles

Castle Location Type Constructed Scheduled Notes
Buckton Castle Buckton Hill, Carrbrook
Enclosure castle[10] 061180s[10] Yes[10] Buckton Castle is on Buckton Hill near Carrbrook, overlooking the Tame Valley.[10] Its location possibly allowed the castle to guard the valley.[11] It was probably built by the earls of Chester in the 12th century,[12] and was first referred to in 1360, by which time it was ruinous.[13] It was constructed with a stone curtain wall and is surrounded by a ditch 10 metres (33 ft) wide and 6 metres (20 ft) deep; the site covers an area of 730 square metres (0.18 acres).[14] The site has been damaged by 18th-century treasure hunters and is close to Buckton Vale Quarry.[10][15]
Bury Castle Bury
Fortified manor house[16] 091469[17] Yes[16] The castle is on a slope overlooking the River Irwell in the centre of modern Bury. It is a fortified manor house constructed from stone and was built for Sir Thomas Pilkington.[17] The castle may have replaced an earlier house on the site, surrounded by a moat.[16] Excavation of known remains has revealed foundation walls 180 metres (590 ft) by 82 metres (269 ft) and a keep or tower 25 metres (82 ft) by 19 metres (62 ft).[18] Bury Castle was razed to the ground after the Wars of the Roses when Thomas Pilkington had his land confiscated.[18] The remains, previously buried, have been excavated for public view, forming the centre piece of Castle Square in the town centre.[16]
Dunham Castle Dunham Massey
Motte[19] 02Pre-1173[19] No It was first referred to in 1173 and belonged to Hamon de Massey. Dunham Castle was still standing in 1323 and fell into disuse between then and 1362.[19] The castle is 24 metres (79 ft) in diameter and survives to a height of 2 metres (6.6 ft).[20] The site is surrounded by a moat which has been turned into an ornamental lake.[20] It used to be protected as a scheduled monument, but was delisted as it may be a "natural hummock of glacial sand".[21]
Manchester Castle Manchester
Fortified manor house 05Pre-1184[23] No It is probably located on a bluff where the rivers Irk and Irwell meet, near to Manchester Cathedral, underneath where Chetham's School of Music now is, putting it near the edge of the medieval town of Manchester.[22][24] It may have originally been a ringwork castle before it became a manor house.[24] First recorded in 1184, in 1215 Manchester Castle was recorded as being held by Gresle,[23] the baron of Manchester, 1243 Robert de Furch.[25] Three rings of ditches have been discovered surrounding the likely site of the castle.[22]
Radcliffe Tower Radcliffe
Fortified manor house[26] 091403[26] Yes[26] Located on Church Street East in Bury, the tower is all that remains of a medieval fortified manor house, built in 1403 and constructed from stone with two towers and a moat.[26] The house was demolished in the 19th century leaving only one remaining tower, which is now a Grade I listed building and a scheduled monument.[26][27] The tower measures 9.6 metres (31 ft) by 17 metres (56 ft) and survives to 6.1 metres (20 ft) in height.[27] It was used as a pig sty before being restored.[26]
Rochdale Castle Rochdale
Motte-and-bailey[28] 01Early post Norman Conquest[28] No The castle is defended by a ditch and an earth rampart; the motte measures 30 metres (100 ft) at the base and the bailey is 37 metres (121 ft) by 30 metres (100 ft).[28] It lay derelict by the early 13th century.[28] Both the motte and bailey are obscured by housing developments.[29]
Stockport Castle Stockport
Motte-and-bailey[30] 03Pre-1173[30] No Stockport Castle is in the town of Stockport on the south side of a valley, overlooking a ford over the River Mersey.[31] It was first referred to in 1173 when Geoffrey de Constentyn held it against Henry II during the barons' rebellion.[30] Stockport Castle was originally constructed with timber and earthwork defences, though these were replaced with stone walls at the start of the 13th century.[30] The castle lay in ruins by 1535 and was demolished in 1775 to be replaced by a cotton mill.[30][32] Although no trace of the keep on top of the motte survives, it was recorded in 1775 as being irregular in shape and measuring 31 by 60 metres (102 by 197 ft). The bailey is located to the south-east of the motte.[33]
Ullerwood Castle Ringway
Shell keep[34] 04Pre-1173[8] No It has been confused with Watch Hill Castle in nearby Bowdon; both probably belonged to Hamon de Massey.[8] Ullerwood Castle was first referred to in 1173 as one of the castles de Massey held against the King.[8] The site is topped by a modern house.[29]
Watch Hill Castle Bowdon
Motte-and-bailey[35] 07Probable 12th century[8] Yes[35] It is located on the border of Bowdon and Dunham Massey. The castle constructed from timber, with the conical motte measuring 40 metres (130 ft) in diameter at the base and 17 metres (56 ft) at the top; the bailey covers approximately 2,400 square metres (0.59 acres).[8] It is unclear when the castle was built, but it was most likely constructed during the late 12th century and belonged to Hamon de Massey.[8] A suggested late 12th century date for the construction of the castle would mean it was probably constructed to aid in the barons' rebellion against Henry II.[8] The castle had fallen out of use by the 13th century.[8]

See also


  1. Friar (2003), p. 54, 214.
  2. Friar (2003), p. 22.
  3. Rowley (1997), p. 71.
  4. Friar (2003), p. 259.
  5. "Scheduled Monuments". PastScape. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  6. Friar (2003), p. 186, 193.
  7. Arrowsmith (1997), p. 31.
  8. Watch Hill Castle by Norman Redhead in Mike Nevell (1997). The Archaeology of Trafford. Trafford Metropolitan Borough with University of Manchester Archaeological Unit. pp. 34–35. ISBN 1-870695-25-9.
  9. Friar (2003), p. 186–7.
  10. Nevell (1998), p. 60–61, 63.
  11. Grimsditch, Nevell, and Redhead (2007), p. 7.
  12. Grimsditch, Nevell & Nevell (2012), pp.  8285.
  13. P. Booth, M. Harrop & S. Harrop (1976–1978). The Extent of Longdendale, 1360. Cheshire Sheaf, 5th series, #83.
  14. Grimsditch, Nevell, and Redhead (2007), p. 16.
  15. Grimsditch, Nevell, and Redhead (2007), p. 5.
  16. Historic England. "Bury Castle (45189)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  17. "Bury Castle". Archived from the original on 24 June 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2008.
  18. Ashworth, Terry (Summer 1999). "The Rediscovery of Bury Castle". Bury Local History Society Journal.
  19. Nevell (1997), p. 33.
  20. "Dunham Massey". The Gatehouse – the comprehensive gazetteer of the medieval fortifications and castles of England and Wales. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  21. Historic England. "Dunham Castle (74865)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  22. Historic England. "Manchester Castle (1386094)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 20 January 2008.
  23. "Manchester Castle". The Gatehouse – the comprehensive gazetteer of the medieval fortifications and castles of England and Wales. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  24. Newman (2006), p. 141.
  25. Kidd (1996), p. 13.
  26. Historic England. "Radcliffe Tower (44210)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  27. Historic England. "Radcliffe Tower (1309271)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  28. Historic England. "Rochdale Castle (45159)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  29. Newman (2006), p. 140.
  30. Historic England. "Stockport Castle (1085399)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  31. Dent (1977), p. 1.
  32. Arrowsmith (1997), p. 32.
  33. Dent (1977), p. 4.
  34. Historic England. "Ullersford Castle (76615)". Research records (formerly PastScape). Retrieved 21 March 2008.
  35. Historic England, "Watch Hill motte and bailey castle, 450m south of Streethead Farm (1014377)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 26 August 2022
  • Arrowsmith, Peter (1997). Stockport: A History. Stockport: Stockport MBC Community Services Division, and Stockport Libraries, in association with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit. ISBN 0-905164-99-7.
  • Dent, J.S. (1977). "Recent Excavations on the site of Stockport Castle". Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. 79: 1–13.
  • Friar, Stephen (2003). The Sutton Companion to Castles. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7509-3994-2.
  • Brian Grimsditch; Mike Nevell & Norman Redhead (September 2007). Buckton Castle: An Archaeological Evaluation of a Medieval Ringwork – an Interim Report. University of Manchester Archaeological Unit.
  • Grimsditch, Brian; Nevell, Michael; Nevell, Richard (2012), Buckton Castle and the Castles of North West England, University of Salford Archaeological Monographs volume 2 and the Archaeology of Tameside volume 9, Centre for Applied Archaeology, School of the Built Environment, University of Salford, ISBN 978-0-9565947-2-3
  • Kidd, Alan (1996). Manchester. Keele: Keele University Press. ISBN 1-85331-028-X.
  • Nevell, Mike (1998). Lands and Lordships in Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit. ISBN 1-871324-18-1.
  • Nevell, Mike (1997). The Archaeology of Trafford. Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit. ISBN 1-870695-25-9.
  • Newman, Caron (2006). "Medieval Period Resource Assessment". Archaeology North West. 8: 115–144. ISSN 0962-4201.
  • Rowley, Trevor (1997). Norman England. Batsford and English Heritage. ISBN 0-7134-8060-2.

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