Hinckley Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification raised by the Sheriff of Leicester in the late eleventh century. It was de-fortified in the mid-twelfth century and later a mansion was built on the site. That was demolished in 1976 and now the only remains are those of the bailey which form part of a public park.
Hinckley Castle was raised by Hugh de Grentmesnil, Sheriff of Leicester circa-1090. It overlooked a pre-existing settlement that was both large and valuable suggesting the fortification may have been raised to secure that income. It also enabled control of a major overland route to Leicester.
The castle was a motte-and-bailey fortification but its precise configuration is uncertain due to development on the northern half of the site and extensive landscaping of the remainder of the site. The motte, which has now been obliterated, would have been topped by a timber palisade whilst its base was surrounded by a (probably wet) ditch. This was crossed via a bridge on the north side. The bailey extended to the south and was protected by a substantial earth rampart again fronted by water filled ditches. It is possible the bailey was originally crescent shaped extending around the east and north sides of the motte. There may have also have been an Outer Bailey.
Hinckley Castle is believed to have been operational during the Anarchy, the civil war between Matilda and Stephen and was still a functional fortification in 1173 when its then owner - Rovert de Beaumont, Earl of Leicester - joined the rebellion against Henry II. The King mobilised his forces and besieged Leicester and fortifications in its hinterland including Hinckley. Robert was defeated and captured at the Battle of Fornham (1173) after all of his castles were surrendered to the King. Henry II de-fortified Hinckley Castle although it may have continued in use as a residence. The castle was in a state of decay by 1361 when the site was reportedly being used as common land for grazing animals.
The castle site was purchased in 1760 by William Hurst, Sheriff of Leicestershire who flattened the northern portion of the site and built a red brick, two storey mansion known was Castle Hill House. The earthworks to the south, specifically the surviving sections of the bailey, were landscaped at this time. The site was acquired by George Canning between 1807 and 1811 but at the end of his tenure further works were undertaken including lowering the motte. The mansion ceased being used as a residence circa-1820 and a number of years later was converted into a boarding school. It was restored back into a home in the mid-nineteenth century after which it was taken over by a legal firm. Its final use was as the headquarters of the Hinckley Co-operative Society. Castle Hill House was demolished in 1976 and the entire north half of the castle site redeveloped. The surviving earthworks of the bailey now form part of a public park..
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Hinckley Castle consists of the partial, but much mutilated, earthwork remains of a motte-and-bailey fortification. The motte has been obliterated but the surviving bailey earthworks are very impressive.
Hinckley Castle Bailey. The bailey was protected by a substantial earth rampart. The bailey is semi-circular but may originally have extended further north in a crescent shape around the now vanished motte.
Ditch. Although now converted into an ornamental pond, it is likely the motte and the bailey were both surrounded by water filled ditches.
Bailey. The bailey rampart.
War Memorial. The war memorial was erected within the castle's bailey in 1922. To its rear was the site of the (now demolished) motte and Castle Hill House, an eighteenth century two storey mansion.