Over the years, one subject in Brownhills history that keeps recurring is Knaves Castle, the lost geographic feature that existed on the south side of Watling Street at about the spot where the west end of Deakin Avenue exists today. It’s not really known if Kanves Castle was natural, or a man made or modified earthwork, and as no trace remains.
Having been destroyed in the early part of the last century, the nature of this feature remains mysterious.
Reader Andy Dennis (and also Kate Cardigan, of Lichfield Lore) have both drawn my attention to a PDF download available online, from the website of the Staffordshire Archeological & Historical Society, which contains an exhaustive analysis of the supporting evidence for Knaves Castle, and what this reveals. The author, David Horowitz, also ruminates on the origins of the name Ogley Hay at some length, too.
I’ve featured the work of this excellent organisation before – in the case of the Lost Stonnall Hoard – and they still exist, turning out great work like this.
I commend the work of these excellent historians highly to readers of the blog. Also available in this volume are extensive articles on Early Medieval Lichfield and the 1655 Petition Against the Inclosure of the Needwood Forest – also excellent works.
You can download Staffordshire Archaeological & Historical Society Transactions Volume XLVI by clicking here, or on the image below; I include the introduction as a taster of this wonderful work.
Please feel free to comment about this below, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
KNAVES CASTLE: A LOST MONUMENT ON OGLEY HAY NEAR THE SITE OF THE STAFFORDSHIRE HOARD
With Some Thoughts On The Name Ogley Hay
by David Horovitz
In July 2009 the great Anglo-Saxon treasure known as the Staffordshire Hoard was brought to light, with other associated artefacts found nearby in November 2012. The finds were made some 41⁄2 miles south-west of Lichfield in a field at Ogley Hay and close to Watling Street, which bisects the county horizontally. A little over 3⁄4 of a mile to the west of the site, on the south side of Watling Street, lay an enigmatic earthwork, sometimes described as a tumulus, long known as ‘Knaves Castle’. Valuable overviews of the historic landscape of the Ogley Hay area published in 2010 and 2011 (including a paper in these Transactions) record that when road-widening was carried out in 1971 no sign of any barrow or ditch was found at Knaves Castle, and it had then been concluded that the feature was probably natural. In addition, in a paper presented to a symposium on the Staffordshire Hoard at the British Museum in March 2010 it was claimed: ‘that Knaves Castle really existed is likely, but what it actually was remains unknown’.
In fact, much has been recorded about the feature, even if some of the evidence is equivocal, and its enigmatic but distinctive characteristics are deserving of close investigation in their own right. The feature has special significance, however, in the light of its proximity to the Hoard find-spot, self-evidently a site of the greatest archaeological importance. This paper collates such information as is presently available on the now-destroyed feature known as Knaves Castle and its vicinity, including nearby Watling Street; considers and suggests what type(s) of monument could have been represented by the feature in the light of that evidence; and examines the rôle that may have been played by the feature in the Anglo-Saxon period. The paper concludes with a consideration of some local place-names which seem to point towards the existence of a prominent personality in this area during the Anglo-Saxon period.
KNAVES CASTLE AND THE DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE
Almost 31⁄2 miles west of the Roman settlement at Wall (Letocetum), the site of Knaves Castle is on high ground, formerly a great heath, noted for its commanding views: in 1823 it was included in a list of only ten eminences and views in the whole of Staffordshire published by The Gentleman’s Magazine, and in 1752 it was even said of the site that ‘[t]he prospect from it is perhaps as beautiful as from any part of England. Here we view great part of Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, and several counties in Wales. In short, there is an open and delightful prospect to every point of the compass’. Even allowing for hyperbole (it remains unclear how the different counties could possibly have been identified by the author), it is evident that the site enjoyed noteworthy views.