The situation of Bury Castle had possibly been a habitation site since Saxon times. The site stood on a sand and gravel bluff rising 96m above OD in the medieval town centre, overlooking the Irwell valley to north and west.
The ‘Castle’ designation probably originated after 1469 when the manorial lord, Sir Thomas Pilkington, was granted a licence to enclose his manor house with crenellated and embattled stone walls and towers.
As a result of his allegiance to Richard III, at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, Pilkington forfeited his estates which passed to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby.
In 1865, workmen digging a sewer came upon foundations of the manor house. Under the direction of Charles Hardwick, the 19th century antiquary, excavation was extended to reveal remains of a building measuring 25m by 19.2m, with walls 1.8m thick. It was enclosed by a moated and buttressed wall 36.5m by 34.5m square.
Between 1973 and 1977 B.A.G. re-opened and widened Hardwick’s excavation of the south arm of the moat. This showed widening of an earlier moat, which had been cut back into the house platform to a depth of 2.5m. It retained the platform with a buttressed wall 0.5m thick, making the south moat 14m wide. In other areas the moat width seems to have varied between 6-10m.
Two trenches dug in the north east corner of the moat, not seen by Hardwick, revealed a similar enclosing wall construction.
Medieval pottery was found on the house platform but not in the moat.
Refs: Hardwick, C. ‘On the Ancient Castle at Bury, Lancashire’. Trans. Historic Soc. of Lancashire & Cheshire Vol. 20 (1868) pp 17-32.
Tyson, N. ‘Excavations at the site of Bury Castle, 1973-77’. The Greater Manchester Archaeological Journal 2. (1986) pp. 89-130.