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Moulton Castle

This is an extract from “About Moulton” by Nancy Snowdon

The site of Thomas’s castle, a natural looking mound, is some three kilometree out of the village of Moulton, on a road called Hallgate. The entrance is a field track approximately opposite Broadwater Farm. It could be missed from the road but on the track, a green island slowly emerges from the flat plain of potato fields.

It is some 80 metres across, shaped like an irregular D, surrounded by a large and wide ditch which is full of water at some times of the year. The site has a long historv: it has been suggested that it might have been the meeting place of the people of a Saxon Wapentake. However, the Elloe Stone, marks the probable site nearer the village. It was almost certainly an island at one time, rather like Crowland. Reachable only by boat or a raised causeway. The mound may have been a natural site but the suggestion is, that the area may have been reclaimed in the 11th century.

The first Lambert is described as ‘of Multone’ in 1165 but it is 1216 before the castle site is identified as the Multone home, as ‘Castrum de Muleton'”. This was in the notification that Thomas of Multone, then a rebel, had forfeited all his lands, including his castle.

The de Multones may have lived there earlier or in some other place locally. Or they may have had two establishments². There are various possible sites. There is no building left in the village of Moulton of sufficient antiquity (the manor house is 19 th century). Tradition has associated St. Lamberts Hall in Weston with the de Moultones.

Connecting the name Lambert is an easy step (and old maps call it merely ‘Lamberts’). It is claimed in the village of Weston that a sepulchral slab in Weston church, now very worn, is the gravestone of Lambert and Matilda de Multone, his wife, Regrettably, the ancient house of Lamberts was bulldozed within living memory and no trace remains.

Another candidate for an alternative site is quite near the”castle’. There has always been an unexplained mystery about the name ‘Kings Hall’ and ‘Kings Hall grounds referring to the castle. It never was a royal residence and there is no connection with any monarch. True, it was in royal hands for a short period when Thomas Il was in disgrace and although there have been many ingenious explanations, they are not convincing.

In the crook of the road junction of Hogsgate and Hallgate there used to stand a mansion known as Kings Hall’. This old house was demolished and nothing remains of it. It is shown in the OS map of 1880. There was a well know Elizabethan attorney called Thomas King who lived at Kings Hall, Moulton.

In the Bryants map of 1828, there is shown Hall Hil (on the castle site) and Kings Hall on the Hallgate site. In the 17th century Dugdale map of South Holland, Moulton Hall is on the Haligate site, while the castle site is not marked. Presumably there was nothing left of it. Stukely places Multone Hall facing over the marsh and shows nothing on the castle site. Over the years, has local tradition confused the Hall lived in by the family of Kings with the castle site? Or was there a Multone Hall before the castle site was developed? Or after?

Until the castle site is excavated there is no prospect of finding the answers, and never has been. During the last war a Home Guard bunker was dug at the side of the mound but nothing much was found except medieval pottery and charred earth.

Aerial photographs reveal much around the mound site which was clearly a small part of the extensive development, perhaps a settlement. Perhaps even the original settlement of Mula. Again, this can only be revealed by excavation.

Meanwhile, all we have to go on is an isolated mound, not of easy access with a man-made ditch circling it. The archaeologists’ opinion is that it is late 12th cent a fact that it was referred to as a ‘castle belonging to Thomas of Multone’ in 1216.

It seems unlikely that Moulton ‘castle’ ever was a castle in the accepted sense as Lincoln and Stamford. These were part of the Norman strategy, intending ense, to defensive. Nor is there the least evidence of a motte and bailey type of castie be Taillebois built for himself in Spalding (which has now disappeared forever) while lvo was a strong Norman fortress to keep the hostile natives in order.

The most likely explanation is that it was a moated manor house, a quite peaceable dwelling, still capable of defending itself if necessary by the moat surrounding it. If the moat is 12th century, it seems likely the dwelling dates from then too. It might have been a hall, perhaps thatched with reeds, surrounded by barns, stables and other buildings, within a settlement that often springs up round the lord’s house.

Whatever it was, Thomas l’s family built it. It was in King John’s time that the de Multones felt the need to protect and fortify their home, as Thomas, by joining the barons, was running considerable risks. Thomas’s role as an apparent confidant of King John, given several royal offices, when he turned rebel must have realised he was in some danger. Particularly after John had demonstrated his ferocity to some other rebellious barons.

Thomas would see he had a naturally strategic site, with open views to all sides. fresh water nearby and surrounded by a wide moat. He could make it impregnable with comparative ease. It must have the appearance of a castle, so he would construct high stone walls and a turreted gatehouse inside the ditches. The stone could be brought by river from Barnack to Flete Haven, the way Moulton Church had been bult in 1180. Labour would have been no problem for him. It would not take long to be completed and it may have looked very grand and castle-like indeed, on its mound in the flat countryside. This, of course, is pure hypothesis but is the most likely of explanations.

This idea takes in the mystery of Holbeach church porch. The parish church has a very unusual north porch, consisting of a longer than usual porch fronted by two conical stone towers. Quite out of keeping with the rest of the church, they have an almost military appearance. They stand like sentinels, do not fit architecturaly and are not bonded in the porch, looking ‘odd’. Tradition says they came from Moulton ‘castle’ and Nicholas Pevsner gives credence to this; he says they are not ‘eclesiastic’ or ‘contemporary to the rest of the porch’ and they may have been ‘brought from elsewhere’, just the two towers. If not from Moulton, from where else? Why should the 1342 builders of the church imitate castle architecture? There is also a crumb of support for this, in the Holbeach church accounts for 1526, when the castle was in ruins. There is an item of building expenditure which may relate to the moving of items from Moulton ‘castle’.

After the Barons’ Civil War and re-instatement of Thomas Il, the Moulton family still had a base there; Sir Lambert collapsed and died there: John the second baron married a local girl and almost certainly lived there.

It is said one of the Dacres lived there in 1460, and in 1461 there is an item reterriig to a repair to the castle in the account book for the Manor of Moulton Dominorum. Some say the Welbys lived there one time. A recent aerial photograph shows clearly the D shaped site with an entrance (a break in the moats) and a path leading across the field from the junction of four fields. In the surrounding fields are many marks of former buildings. Inside there are two round marks which have not yet been identified.

The finds at the site over the years on field walks, have been green glazed medieval pottery of 13th and 14h century, Roman pottery and coins (Hadrian) and part of a medieval floor tile, green glazed. A medieval brass hawk’s bell has also been found nearby. There is broken masonry in the moat.

In about 1536, John Leyland®, the early antiquary who was library keeper to Henry VIl, went on his journey round England and recorded “Thomas de Moulton, Knight, had his castle in the Fenne, half a mile from Quapelode, where of some small part yet standeth. The Lord FitzWalter hath it now and the Lord Marquis hath another part of it. Lord Richard hath for life the Marquis’s part, By Stukeley’s time it was in ruins and gradually the stones were removed and used elsewhere. Now only earthworks are visible and ponies are grazed upon the site,

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