Halton Castle, also known as Castle Hill, was a motte-and-bailey fortification built in the late twelfth century by Roger de Poitou. It was one of a number of fortifications raised along the Lune Valley to control movement and enable taxation of this once rich and fertile territory. The castle was attacked and destroyed by a Scottish raid in 1322 and was never rebuilt.
Halton is located just two miles east of Lancaster overlooking the River Lune. This waterway was a key means of movement through the Pennines and its valley consisted of fertile ground prompting the Normans to raise numerous castles to control the area. Halton Castle was built slightly later than most of these military outposts and probably dates to circa-1092. At this time the manor of Halton, along with large swathes of land between the Rivers Ribble and Lune, was granted by William II to Roger de Poitou. This Anglo-Norman magnate was the third son of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and he was given the Lancashire estates in the expectation that he would build castles to secure northern England against Scottish expansionism.
Halton Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The mound was built on a spur of high ground overlooking the valley with steep natural scarps on the south and west sides. Cote Beck provided additional natural defences on the west side and probably provided the water source for the castle. A crescent shaped bailey extended to the north and east. However, the proximity of higher ground directly beyond this, made the castle vulnerable to an attack by a well equipped force. It is therefore likely that, as with many of the contemporary fortifications raised along the Lune valley, the purpose of this castle was primarily to enable Roger to control (and tax) this fertile agricultural region. Whilst some traces of masonry have been found at the site, suggesting some of the internal buildings of the castle were built in stone, the substantive defences were of timber.
Halton was held by the Gernet family by the late twelfth century but passed to William Dacre, later Baron Dacre, in the 1290s. However, the manor was sacked in 1322 by Robert the Bruce who, following his earlier victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, was regularly raiding Northern England in an attempt to force Edward II to recognise his claim to the Scottish throne. The castle was badly damaged in this attack and never rebuilt. During the early years of World War II, an observation post was constructed on top of the motte but this was demolished after the war and later a flag pole was erected in its place.
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Halton Castle consists of the earthwork remains of a motte with some traces of the bailey. Unfortunately the mound is on private land with no public access although it can be viewed from the adjacent roads.
Halton Motte. The castle was built on a spur of high ground overlooking the River Lune.
Motte. During World War II an observation post was constructed on top of the motte. This was demolished after the war and later a flag pole was erected in its place.
Cote Burn. The castle was built above the Cote Burn near its confluence with the River Lune. The steep banks provided strong natural defences on the west side.
Norman Castles of the Lune Valley. A number of motte-and-bailey castles were constructed along the Lune valley in the decades that followed the Norman Conquest. Arkholme Castle, Castle Stede, Halton Castle, Kirby Lonsdale Castle, Lancaster Castle, Melling Castle and Whittington Castle were built overlooking the River Lune. Burton-in-Lonsdale Castle was built on its tributary, the River Greta.