For a long time I had no idea the remains of a 12th century castle were hiding behind the churchyard in High Bradfield, and it was only on the off chance that one day, out for a walk, I took a right turn at a junction of footpaths I normally continued straight on at and found myself standing in the bailey of a Norman castle.
Motte and bailey castles were a type of castle introduced to the UK by the Normans after the Conquest in 1066. They consisted of a mound of earth (the motte), topped with a wood or stone keep, and an enclosed area (the bailey) which contained other buildings.
Bailey Hill is believed to have been constructed by the de Furnival family. Gerard de Furnival, who died in 1219 in the Crusades, inherited the lordship of Sheffield and Hallamshire through his marriage to Maud de Lovetot. The family would remain lords of Hallamshire for 180 years. For whatever reason – perhaps because there is no well on the site and the river a long walk down a steep hill! – Bailey Hill does not appear to have ever been developed with the building of a stone keep.
Bailey Hill is accessed via the footpath that runs from the churchyard of St Nicholas in High Bradfield. Wear good shoes, as the path tends to be muddy at the best of times!
As you follow the footpath, you can see the ramparts of the castle on your right – and some stunning views over the valley and Agden reservoir to your left.
After passing through a series of gates, you will come to a crossroads of footpaths. Take the path running sharply uphill to your right and you will come to the entrance to the bailey. A low wall runs along the inner edge of the ramparts to your right.
As you follow the path that runs next to the wall, you will see the motte directly in front of you. The summit has been damaged by excavation but most of it is intact.
A path runs around the circumference of the motte but be warned – at the rear of the motte the path can get extremely boggy and it’s best to stick to slightly higher ground!
Nearby parking: On-street in High Bradfield
Facilities: The Old Horn inn, just down the road near the church
Also worth visiting: St Nicholas’ church – a beautiful 15th century Grade I listed building.