Buckton Castle
Buckton Castle is a medieval ringwork near Carrbrook, Stalybridge, England. It is listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument due to its proximity to the Buckton Vale Quarry. The castle is oval, with a stone curtain wall 3 metres (10 ft) wide, surrounded by a ditch 10 metres (33 ft) wide and 6 metres (20 ft) deep. Buckton Castle was probably constructed for William de Neville in the late 12th century; it was lying derelict by 1360. The small number of finds retrieved during archaeological investigation of the site indicates that Buckton Castle may not have been completed. In the 16th century, the site was used as a beacon for the Pilgrimage of Grace. During the 18th century, the castle was of interest to treasure hunters following rumours of the presence of buried treasure. It was used as an anti-aircraft decoy site in the Second World War. The castle is overgrown with heather and peat, and there are no above-ground ruins. Since 1996, the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit has been involved in excavations to maintain the site and reveal more information on its origins and purpose.

Buckton Castle lies 335 metres (1,099 ft) above sea level on Buckton Hill, a steep sandstone ridge ( grid reference SD98920162). To the south is the valley of the Carr Brook, and to the west is the valley of the River Tame. Buckton Vale Quarry is close to the east of the castle. Stalybridge is about 4 kilometres (2 mi) south-east of the site. The castle's positioning may have been to allow its garrison to guard the Tame Valley; both castle and valley were in the medieval manor of Tintwistle. A manor was a division of land and administered by a Lord of the Manor or his representative; in the case of Tintwistle, it was part of the larger lordship of Longdendale.

Buckton Castle was probably built in the late 12th century by William de Neville, Lord of Longdendale, although it is possible that it was constructed for the Earls of Chester before Longdendale was given to de Neville. A late 12th-century date would make it contemporary with other castles in Greater Manchester such as Dunham, Manchester, Stockport, and Ullerwood. It is common for castles to be built first in timber and then rebuilt in stone, but Buckton was a stone structure from the start. It is likely that it was the centre of the lordship of Longdendale, as it is the only castle within its boundaries; however, a dearth of artefacts from the site suggests that construction may never have been completed. The earliest documented evidence dating the castle was in 1360, when an estate survey recorded that "there is one ruined castle called Buckeden and of no value"; At the time, the lordship of Longdendale was the property of Edward, the Black Prince, and the castle lay derelict. That the castle had fallen out of use by this period is consistent with the use of other castles in the Greater Manchester area; by the 13th century, apart from at Dunham Castle, there was no indication of activity in castles in Greater Manchester. During the 16th century, the site was used as a beacon during the Pilgrimage of Grace. The castle has been the subject of antiquarian studies since the 18th century, and was originally thought to have been the location of an Iron Age hill fort. The interior of the castle has been damaged by the random insertion of trenches by treasure hunters since the early 18th century. Quarrying in the nearby Buckton Vale Quarry threatened to encroach onto the site and led to the castle's protection as a Scheduled Ancient Monument on 9 July 1924. It is the oldest ruined building in the Tame Valley. During the Second World War the castle was used as an anti-aircraft decoy until 1943, when it was felt to be no longer necessary. Excavations at the site have been undertaken by the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit (UMAU) on behalf of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council since 1996. The work was partly funded by a £300,000 grant from Tameside Council. Initial excavations were to repair some of the holes made by treasure hunters and included test-pits, but in 2007 the unit began more extensive work to investigate the site and determine its use and a date for its construction. The final season of the excavation will be completed in 2009. Trenches have revealed that the castle had a stone wall and a gateway with a tower, but no internal buildings have been discovered. The first dating evidence was found in 2008, underneath the collapsed gateway; it consisted of some animal bones and shards of locally produced pottery from the 12th–13th centuries. Today, the site is overgrown with heather and peat.

Buckton Castle is a ringwork castle, which is a roughly circular area enclosed by defences such as a ditch; a ringwork is similar to a bailey from a motte and bailey castle. The castle is oval, measuring 35 metres (115 ft) across the minor axis and 45 metres (148 ft) along the major. It is surrounded by a 10-metre (33 ft) wide and 6-metre (20 ft) deep ditch dug into the sandstone. The entrance to the ringwork is to the northwest of the site. Near the entrance are the possible remains of a stone tower. On the south-facing side of the site are the remains of a stone curtain wall 3 metres (10 ft) thick. Excavations in 1996 by the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit have shown that what was thought to be the bailey was in fact of recent origin – probably part of the anti-aircraft decoy – and did not date back to the medieval period. The north-west gateway was protected by a stone tower 5 by 4 metres (16 by 13 ft), with 1.2-metre (3.9 ft) thick walls; the wall thickness suggests the tower was probably two storeys high. The interior of the castle is artificially raised 1.5 metres (5 ft) above ground level. Ringworks were an uncommon form of fortification in medieval England, with the majority of castles being motte-and-baileys, as demonstrated by the fact that Buckton Castle was one of only three ringworks in the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Buckton may be a ringwork because the local soil was too thin to build a motte. According to a 1360 survey of property in Longdendale, Buckton Castle may have had a hall and a chapel. In the 18th century, antiquarian Thomas Percival recorded a well within the castle, and walls of buildings inside the castle still standing to a height of 2 metres (7 ft). However, these features were no longer obvious when George Ormerod wrote about the castle in 1817, and have not been discovered by archaeological excavations.

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