SK 1141 6381. Castle Hills. (1). Pilsbury Castle Hills is "a typical mount and bailey work". (2). Edmund, Earl of Lancaster had a capital mansion or castle at Hartington in the reign of Edward I (1272 - 1307). (3).
The area became a scheduled monument on13th October 1937. (4). A very well preserved motte and triple bailey, greatly utilising defences. There is no surviving evidence of a superstructure but the work is almost certainly of Norman origin. Resurveyed at 1/2500. (5). In a cave below the remains of the castle, a number of Medieval artefacts were recovered in around 1880. (6,7).
This imposing site comprises a high motte, two baileys with ditches and internal banks, and outworks. To the east a steep-sided natural knoll is utilised and the whole takes advantage of a high spot in the valley bottom. The earthworks would originally have been surmounted by timber structures; there are no traces of any rebuilding in stone. Medieval artefacts were found 'under' the site in a 'passage like a cave' in c. 1880-1885, including a 13th century coin - these do not certainly date from the period the castle was in use, but may be later. The eastern bailey is slightly larger than the other, measuring c. 55 by 45 metres across. It is defined to west and north by a ditch, to the south by a ditch with slight internal bank, and to the east by a natural knoll with near-sheer sides and a height of over five metres. The only viable points of entry to the bailey are through a narrow gap in the south-east corner or via wooden bridges from the south and/or from the motte to the west. The southern bailey measures c. 40 metres across and is semi-circular. It is separated from the motte by a deep ditch and elsewhere is defined by a ditch with internal bank. There is a probable original entrance approached by two hollow ways. It is possible that the southern bailey may be an early Norman ringwork built before the motte and bailey. A comparable ringwork exists in the Peak District at Camp Green, Hathersage (SMR 7414). An outwork occurs below the motte to the west. This rectangular area measures c. 40 by 20 metres and is defined by a low bank to the north, a low bank and ditch to the south and what is probably an old river course to the west. The western half of the interior of the outwork is level and could have held a timber building or buildings. Little or nothing is documented for Pilsbury Castle - the only possible reference states that Edmund, Earl of Lancaster had a 'capital mansion' at Hartington in the reign of Edward I. However, this seems a late date for a timber castle, most having been abandoned or rebuilt in stone by this time, and there are other possible candidates in Hartington for the 'capital mansion'. The castle and possible earlier ringwork are probably of 11th or 12th century date, by analogy with castles elsewhere, and take advantage of a natural rise, in a position that controls access along the Dove Valley. (8).
As part of a broader Local Heritage Initiative project, entitled 'Pathways to Pilsbury', members of ARTEAMUS (Archaeological Research Team, University of Sheffield) conducted detailed topographical and geophysical surveys of the earthworks, obtained a report on the geology of the site and undertook an exhaustive documentary search. Aerial photographs were also taken from a model aircraft carrying a remotely controlled camera. In the absence of any earlier features, the earthworks are best considered as a Norman motte with twin baileys at right angles to each other, occupying a shale knoll bounded to the east by a small limestone reef. The castle was almost certainly built by the de Ferrers family, most likely between 1070 and 1080, although it was possibly built later, in the first half of the 12th century during the Anarchy. There is no evidence for stone buildings on the site, implying that it was built as, and remained, an earth and timber castle. It is unlikely that it was ever intended to provide the buildings and services demanded by an Earl and at best it probably housed a constable and a small number of soldiers providing a garrison. The date when the castle was abandoned is uncertain but the fact that it was never rebuilt in stone suggests it had probably been abandoned before 1200. The study also suggests that the finding in c. 1880 of a number of medieval items in 'a passage like a cave … under the foundations' is incorrectly ascribed to Pilsbury Castle, for various reasons. (9).
The Scheduled Monument was visited by the PDNPA Field Ranger in 2010. Various threats were identified during the site visit, and photographs are included in the monitoring form. (10)