Discovery of a Norman castle in the centre of city park

Friends of CHaT Park with archaeologists
Friends of CHaT Park with archaeologists

The history books of Wakefield may need to be rewritten following an archeological survey in Thornes Park.

It was previously thought that the remains of the earth and timber castle at Lowe Hill dated back to an undocumented siege of Sandal Castle. But a new site investigation suggests it dates back to the Normans.

The discovery was made following a joint project between The Friends of Clarence, Holmfield and Thornes Parks (CHaT), West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service. The project received grant help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It enabled a geophysical survey, which allows archaeologists to effectively see large features beneath the surface without excavating.

Ian Deighton, chairman of CHaT, said: “Can you believe we have a Norman Castle at the centre of our Park that hardly anyone knows about? Most casual visitors to the park and local residents may not be aware that the partially wooded summit of Lowe Hill contains the remains of an earth and timber castle that is thought to date from the 12th century.”

The survey revealed within the inner bailey of the castle at least four pit-like features. These may be rubbish pits and suggest extended occupation of the site.

Mr Deighton said: “This is of great interest as it appears to discount the theory that the castle was erected during an undocumented siege of Sandal Castle and was only occupied for a very short period of time. It seems as though the castle was occupied for some considerable time and this corrects many of the history books.”

Fiona Spiers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Yorkshire and the Humber, said “This is a fantastic project which will allow people to try their hand at something new and unusual. We’re committed to funding projects that every community can take pride in and learn about their local heritage.”

Schools will be getting involved with the project throughout June and meeting the archaeologists on site. Community groups have visited it too.

If you would like to take a tour of the site, contact Brian Else on 01924 262950 or email info@chatparks.org.uk.