Mount, Hillhouse

Marked as "Mount" on the 1854 O.S. 6 inch map, and also known locally as Ark Hill Mound, Ark Mound Hill and Nanny Croft, this is speculated to be the location of an early defensive site. According to Historic England's Pastscape web site:[1]

Section cut by developer in 1987 revealed a double rock cut ditch, remnants of a palisade wall and timber revetting. SMR record states that "no dating evidence was found at the time of the observation but that the earthwork was confirmed to be medieval or earlier". There are no known documentary references to it being a castle.

Field inspection supports the idea that this is a motte and bailey castle with the bailey extending to the north. Many undocumented motte and bailey castles are known nationally. Beacon Street marks the line of the western rampart, the ground to its west being some 2-3 metres lower. The northern extent is probably marked by a break of slope between the rear of 2 King Cliffe Road and Hill House Methodist Church. The eastern extent is less clear but is possibly marked by Old Halifax Road.

The mound still survives to at least 5 metres in height but it has been truncated on all sides except for its frontage onto Beacon Street, thus preserving about a 45 degree slice of its entirety. However even this area is masked by dumping of soil. The mound is tree covered and has the footings of a small brick building, possibly a greenhouse, on its southern flank.

Due to the truncation of the mound and the housing in the area the site is not suitable for scheduling but should be taken into account for development control purposes.

Frustratingly, the location was just outside the boundary of the area which was surveyed in detail for the 1851 O.S. Town Plan. However, the detailed 1890 Town Plan shows the area to be a seemingly landscaped feature with sets of access steps from the west (Beacon Street) and the east (via Fitton's Yard).[2]

The feature is discussed in The Place-Names of Huddersfield (2008) by George Redmonds:

The mound referred to here is located close to Beacon Street and it is probably the "Mount" shown on the OS map of 1843. Archaeologists have suggested that it may have been a Norman motte. Philip Ahier discussed four or five possible explanations of the name in his Legends and Traditions of Huddersfield (1941-42) but conceded that much of what he was repeating was pure speculation. One theory was that the hill took its name from a nearby public house called Noah's Ark, kept by Aquila Priestley. What Ahier did not know at that time was that this property had been the subject of a photograph in 1863, part of the evidence offered in the town’s long-drawn out tenant-right case. It was described there as "a building called Noah's Ark, Hillhouse, built by Aquila Priestley fifty years ago" — that is in 1813. It had a single storey and was in very poor condition. I have found no evidence that Noah's Ark was a public house, and there is nothing in the photograph to suggest that it was, but it was certainly a beer house and it is listed in at least one trade directory as Noah's Ark.

The general area was known locally as Ark Hill and the Huddersfield and District Postal Directory (1900) contains entries for eight residences. The placename was still in use in the 1950s when the County Borough of Huddersfield Directory (1956) recorded five residences.

Local historian Philip Ahier wrote about the mount in The Legends and Traditions of Huddersfield and Its District: Volume I, Part IV (pages 237 to 241) and also noted:

A chest of deeds is supposed to be buried within the interior of Ark Hill Mound at Birkby. It has been alleged that had this chest been discovered, the right of the Ramsden family to the Manor of Huddersfield would have been disputed!


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Notes and References

  2. Oddly, the area is blank and unmarked on the detailed 1:1,250 scale O.S. map from the late 1950s.