Monument details

HER Number:104/1/0
Type of record:Archaeology
Name:Halton Castle: Medieval Shell Keep Castle on site of motte & bailey


The remains of the medieval castle of Halton, Grade I listed and a Scheduled Monument. Located on a prominent rocky hill overlooking the River Mersey and surrounding land. Probably originally the site of a motte and bailey castle built by Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, around 1070 for Nigel, 1st Baron of Halton. In the thirteenth century it passed to the Lacy family, Lords of Pontefract, who were created Dukes of Lancaster in 1311.

The castle has been the subject of two archaeological excavations (1986-7, 2015), also monitoring during various consolidation works. In 1986-7 excavations run by Robina McNeil led to the interpretation of the inner bailey of the castle as a shell keep potentially dating to the latter half of the twelfth century. The excavations recorded a substantial rock cut ditch separating the inner bailey from the outer bailey, together with evidence of scarping of the bedrock, most likely for defensive purposes, both of which are considered contemporary with the shell keep. Evidence for a square tower built over the in-filled rock-cut ditch was found; it would have stood to a height of at least 15m and comprised two floors and an undercroft. Also dating to the thirteenth century, the remains of a second mural tower of a circular or D-shape were recorded on the north side of the outer bailey, together with courtyard buildings within the north half of the inner bailey area. These were potentially three storeys high and built over a series of rock-cut cellars. A survey of 1476 mentions a greater chamber, withdrawing room, chapel, hall, auditors chamber, kitchen, larder and storehouse. In the fifteenth century, a garderobe and a sally porte, were constructed, along with the gatehouse (1450-7). During consolidation work on the curtain wall, undertaken in the 1990s, courses of medieval masonry were found incorporated into the nineteenth century reconstructed wall. Also evidence for potential medieval structures/buildings within the outer bailey were recorded. In 2015 a community excavation in the castle's outer bailey recorded features and artefacts from the medieval period onwards, including part of the circular tower first identified during the 1980s. Two burials were also found and subsequently radio carbon dated to the 15th and 16th/17th century respectively.

A primary role of the castle was as a court and prison for the Honor of Halton with the earliest court records dating from 1274 and the last court sitting in 1908. In 1580-1, it was designated as a prison for Catholic recusants. During the English Civil War it was besieged and captured by Sir William Brereton in 1643; it suffered extensive damage and was partly dismantled on Cromwell's orders in 1644. By 1727 it was in ruins and in 1737-8 a courthouse and prison (recorded separately, see 104/1/1) were built on the site of the medieval gatehouse. Six semi-circular bays positioned across the outer bailey are thought to represent the gaol lock-ups.


Monument Types

  • BAILEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CASTLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHAPEL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DITCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GATEHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • GREAT HALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOTTE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD (?))
  • TOWER (2 of, Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • WALL (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • SHELL KEEP (?, AD 12TH CENTURY - 1100 AD to 1199 AD)
  • BURIAL (Radio Carbon Dated, AD 15TH CENTURY - 1425 AD to 1470 AD (between)) + Sci.Date
  • ANIMAL BURIAL (AD 16TH CENTURY - 1500 AD to 1599 AD)
  • BURIAL (Radio Carbon Dated, AD 16TH CENTURY to AD 17TH CENTURY - 1520 AD to 1665 AD (between)) + Sci.Date
Protected Status:Conservation Area; Listed Building (II*) 1115543: THE CASTLE HOTEL PUBLIC HOUSE; Listed Building (I) 1130460: HALTON CASTLE; Scheduled Monument 1015606: Halton Castle: A Ruined Shell Keep Castle On The Site Of An Earlier Motte And Bailey; Conservation Area (Active) 019: Halton Conservation Area

Related records

104/1/1Related to: Castle Hotel, Formerly Halton Courthouse and Gaol (Building)

Cheshire East Council and Cheshire West & Chester Council - Working in Partnership
Heritage Lottery Fund