Castle Hill

Photograph of castle hill field

Castle Hill Field

Site purchase and management
In 1998 Welbourn Parish Council received a grant from the Heritage Memorial Fund to purchase Castle Hill field, a medieval moated castle site known as a ring work. The Parish Council wished to maintain Castle Hill as a scheduled ancient monument to be used as a community open space for informal recreation including educational visits by members of the public and students.

The Castle Hill Management Group was set up in July 1999 to further these aims and the project received active support from The Heritage Trust for Lincolnshire, North Kesteven District Council and The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.  The Group drew up a Management Plan for the site, called for tenders and placed contracts for extensive tree surgery in the wooded areas and erection of Lincolnshire 4-rail fencing on the north west boundary.  Most of the open area was infested with docks but, by careful management, it was re-established as an attractive grassed site. We were then in a position to proceed with wildflower planting and other conservation measures.
During the winter of 2000, tree and shrub screening was carried out on the Southern boundary and at a number of other locations. This work was supported by a Micro Grant awarded by the NKDC and match funded by local volunteer labour.
Displays for the stands near the entrance were completed and appropriate seats/benches installed around the site.

Origins and location of Welbourn Castle
In its day Welbourn Castle would have dominated the surrounding countryside and the road between Lincoln and Grantham, which probably passed around these fortifications.  Although lacking obvious natural defensive features the proximity of a plentiful spring-fed water supply - still present in the form of "The Beck" - would have provided one important factor favouring the construction of a protective moat on this site.

The Castle in the Middle Ages
Standing on this spot 700 years ago and looking across Castle Hill field would have presented a dramatically different sight to the viewer.  At that time you would have seen a wide water-filled moat backed by earth ramparts and a curtain wall enclosing a large manor house built of limestone, together with a range of timber out-buildings, the centre of a considerable agricultural estate held by a powerful Anglo-Norman baron, Elias de Rabayn.

A survey of the Barony of Bayeux in 1288 provides a detailed picture of this prosperous manorial estate in its heyday. There was a walled court surmounted by a small tower and with a ditch.  In the court was a hall with two chambers, a kitchen, a brew house, a granary, a stable, an ox house, a cow shed, a sheep fold, trees and garden. This impressive collection of buildings served a large 'home farm' of 340 acres of arable land and 48 acres of meadow and pasture together with two water mills. It is this surviving medieval document which has provided much of the information for our artist's impression of Welbourn Castle (as depicted on one display stand) as it may have appeared in the late 13'" century.

However, a geophysical survey carried out in 1999 also recorded the remains of a large tower residence, buttressed and built in limestone, on the west side of the site, and this was the site of one of the digs.

The Castle Earthworks Today
Today Welbourn Castle survives only in the form of a grassy humps and hollows known as earthworks. The raised central area is where the medieval stone, buildings and tower would have stood. A well-defined "U" shaped moat and inner earth rampart enclose the site to the north and east and in the northwest comer the moat still contains water and marshy ground.  Further earthworks of three parallel ditches with two banks cross the southern part of the site. Trees (mainly willows), shrubs and marsh plants now grow in the moated areas while the main part of the field is managed grass land.  Immediately to the west of Castle Hill Field there are traces of a large rectangular earthwork - recorded as Roman by the Ordnance Survey - but this might well be an outer bailey of the medieval castle. The northernmost section provides the best viewpoints to appreciate the scale of the moat and the strength of these medieval defensive earthworks.


2010/11 UPDATE
Unfortunately the original management plan for the Moat area had been allowed to lapse and then was in part invalidated when the drain carrying the run off from the Beck became blocked by tree roots and proved to be beyond economic repair, so water was allowed into the Moat thus changing the nature of the area.   Many trees died, whilst the willows flourished and matured and became top heavy.  Over time these trees became so top heavy that they started to shed major limbs or fall over or both.   Several plantings of minor trees had become swamped by rampant undergrowth.  The Village Handyman started a discrete steady program of site recovery and tidying.
In 2010 the field became contaminated by creeping buttercup but this was successfully eradicated and the grass again flourished.
In 2010/11, because the mature willows were seen as a hazard to children playing on the site and were too big for one man operations, it was decided to try to recover the area and bring the trees back under control.  The subsequent works proved too much for one season and were reined in.   On advice from English Heritage, recovery of the site back to its less overgrown state was later undertaken to reveal the remaining works.  In 2013 two of the information boards were refurbished but the third was beyond recovery.  By 2014 the 4 rail fence had rotted beyond repair and was removed..

Anyone interested in assisting in the plans or in volunteer workdays would be most welcome and should contact the Clerk.

Text based on a brief written by Bill Goodhand, vice chairman Welbourn Parish Council.

BCW 2000;   updated Jan 2011 and 2015  M McB.