The 12th century was the great age of English castle-building, when hundreds were built as bastions of local Norman lordship. Within a century most were abandoned and then forgotten. A Manchester University team has been investigating one of these little-known historic monuments.
Above Overgrown and largely forgotten, Buckton Castle stands high above the Tame Valley, where it once guarded the eastern approaches to the lands of the Earls of Chester. Here, excavations are under way in the north-west corner of the 12th century masonry enclosure.
An estate survey of 1360 carried out for the Black Prince declared: 'There is in the same place one demolished castle called Buckeden of no value and there is in the same place one hall, one chamber and one chapel and they are submitted at farm and rent yearly.’ At the time, the Black Prince was the lord of Longdendale, where Buckton (as it is now known) lay.
In the medieval period, Buckton Castle was within the manor of Tintwistle, which was part of the lordship of Longdendale. The manor comprised an extensive tract of land at the north-eastern extremity of Cheshire, much of it high moorland, and the castle occupied a strategic position overlooking the Tame Valley, guarding the eastern approaches to the territory of the Earls of Chester, who held the lordship until the second half of the 12th century.
It is uncertain, however, when exactly the castle was built. The 12th century was a period of feudal warfare, and the Earls of Chester had good reason to raise castles on their borders. In