The 4,000 year history of human activity at Huddersfield's Castle Hill

For those living in and around the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield, the Grade II-Listed Victoria Tower, perched at the top of Castle Hill, is a conspicuous landmark.

Cyclists are pictured riding up to Castle Hill, Huddersfield. Technical details: Nikon D5, 12-24mm lens, exposure 320th sec at f11, iso 200. Picture: Simon Hulme

Cyclists pictured here have almost reached the hill’s summit, where the tower has stood since the late 19th century.

It was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

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But it was actually completed two years after she reached her 60 year milestone as reigning monarch.

Today, the tower, reaching a height of almost 997 feet above sea level, is a popular spot for locals and visitors, with the top of Castle Hill offering scenic, panoramic views over the surrounding area.

The hill itself is a scheduled monument with Historic England, meaning it has been recognised as a nationally important archaeological site.

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The public body notes how the area includes the remains of a late Bronze Age or early Iron Age hillfort, a later Iron Age hillfort, a 12th century motte and bailey castle and the site of a deserted medieval village.

History of human activity at Castle Hill goes back more than 4,000 years.

Partial excavations led to the discovery of Late Neolithic flint tools and a polished stone axe there, suggesting it was in use more than a millennium before the first hillfort.

In the Middle Ages, circa the 12th century, the settlement earthworks were reconstructed to form a motte and bailey castle.

“Ancillary and garrison buildings, and pens for cattle and horses, would have occupied the bailey,” Historic England says, whilst the remains of timber buildings have been found on the motte and a well, in which medieval pottery and metalwork was discovered, is still in existence.

With Castle Hill and Victoria Tower such a prominent local landmark, Kirklees Council has used the site as a place for commemoration. Last year, during the Covid-19 crisis, it was lit up in blue to support NHS workers, in red for Remembrance and in red, white and blue to mark VE Day.

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