The earthwork remains of an eleventh century motte-and-bailey castle which was occupied for a period of around one hundred years but never rebuilt in stone. The remains were subsequently modified to support artillery during the seventeenth century Civil War.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Car Parking Option
Notes: The castle remains are found off Castle Moat Road sandwiched between the River Great Ouse and the A14. It is not sign-posted. There is a small pay and display car park nearby.
River Great Ouse. The castle was sited directly adjacent to the River Great Ouse which provided navigable access from the sea inshore to Bedford and beyond. Huntingdon was located at a crossing point over the river which connected London with Lincoln and the north.
Huntingdon Castle was built by William I adjacent to an earlier Saxon burh. It passed through marriage to David I of Scotland and remained with his heirs until 1173 when it was demolished in revenge for William the Lion's support of a rebellion against Henry II. It was never rebuilt but the site was used as an artillery battery during the civil war.
HISTORY OF HUNTINGDON CASTLE
Situated at an important crossing point over the River Great Ouse, Huntingdon was occupied in Roman times and possibly fortified by the Danes. It was certainly an Anglo-Saxon burh, a fortified town, no later than AD 917. Following the Norman invasion, William I raised an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle to control the area. Work started in 1068 with twenty houses demolished to make space for the new facility.
The centrepiece of William's castle was the motte which was topped with a timber palisade and probably also a wooden tower. The mound was set within the bailey which was broadly square enclosing roughly 2.5 acres. A second bailey was added at an unknown date. Together these would have contained all the ancillary buildings associated with such a settlement including stables, kitchen, brew house, bakehouse and storerooms. A chapel also stood within the main bailey confirmed by a charter of 1327 and the discovery of skeletons from a graveyard.
William I granted Huntingdon Castle to his niece, Judith, who adopted the title Countess of Huntingdon. It passed to her daughter, Matilda, who married David (later King David I of Scotland). In 1130 he granted it to his younger son, Prince Henry, in order to avoid personally having to pay homage to the English King. In the years that followed England erupted into civil war as Stephen and Matilda vied for the Crown. The Scots supported Matilda's claim hoping to use the turmoil to wrest the northern counties from the English. They failed in this objective and, when the succession was settled in 1154, Henry paid homage to King Stephen who in return gave him the borough of Huntingdon to complement the castle.
In 1173 a major rebellion erupted against Henry II led by his own sons. The Scottish King at this time was William the Lion who sought to resurrect his claims on the northern English counties and accordingly supported the rebels. In response Huntingdon Castle was besieged by Richard de Lucy who was later joined by Henry II himself. The castle surrendered and was subsequently demolished whilst William was captured at the Second Battle of Alnwick (1174).
Following the castle's capture it was demolished on the orders of Henry II. The pipe rolls confirm it was still a timber fortification at this time as they include a bill for hooks for "pulling down the stockade of Huntingdon Castle". Despite this demolition however the site continued to be used to provide a number of civic functions including serving as the county gaol. The chapel within the bailey was still active in 1327 as a charter notes it was granted to Huntingdon Priory at this time. Eventually however the site went out of use with the remaining functions being takeover by nearby Cambridge Castle although Huntingdonshire would remain a separate and distinct county until 1974.
During the civil war Huntingdon was a Parliamentary stronghold and was represented in Parliament by Oliver Cromwell who had been born in the town in 1599. At the outbreak of the war the counties of Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk along with the Isle of Ely and Norwich city formed together to create the Eastern Association; an organisation for administering and raising a Parliamentary army to fight the King. Huntingdonshire joined soon afterwards and Parliamentary forces occupied the earthworks of the former castle which was converted into an artillery battery to control the crossing over the Great River Ouse as the two sides vied for control of neighbouring Lincolnshire. Guns were positioned on the motte and the earth banks of the bailey rampart were also modified at this time again to support artillery. Huntingdon itself however was not attacked until 24 August 1645 when it was briefly occupied and plundered by Royalist forces.
After the war the site fell into disuse once more although a windmill was erected on the motte in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century which remained standing until 1875. Shortly after the earthworks were damaged by construction of the railway and now the fly-over for the A14 runs directly adjacent.