Halton Castle itself was built circa-1070 by either Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester or his tenant, Nigel of Contentin, probably in the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The castle occupied a high promontory that offered a naturally strong defensive position. The only vulnerable approach, on the north-west side, was protected by a deep ditch cut from the rock. The intent behind the castle was invariably to secure control of the important crossing over the estuary (which from circa-1178 was served by a ferry) and to exploit the valuable riverine resources which included an abundant supply of Salmon. . . . It was rebuilt in stone in the late twelfth/early thirteenth centuries with the bailey being enclosed by a substantial stone curtain wall. Towers, a square one on the west side and a later round one to the north, were added in the subsequent years. A substantial Great Hall was built within the castle’s grounds perhaps enhancing a structure that had stood since the fortification was first erected. Foundations of a circular structure may be indicative of a shell keep.
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The South View of Halton Castle in the County of Chester (from Wikimedia Commons).
The present castle dates from the 13th century but it is clear from excavations that it supercedes a motte and bailey castle which occupied the north western side of the site. This form of castle was introduced by the Normans and consisted of a mound of earth capped by a timber fortification. A ditch was cut into the bedrock on the east side and the attached bailey occupied the rest of the crown of the hill. The ruins of the castle at Halton survive well despite the later insertion of a courthouse on the site of the gatehouse and the creation of a folly garden within the ruins. It has within the western half of the interior the buried remains of an extensive range of late medieval domestic buildings as well as the remains of six lock-ups from the 18th century refurbishment of the site as a courthouse and prison.
The importance of Halton was recognised at the opening of the Civil War, when a garrison was placed there for the king by Earl Rivers in June 1643, but a year after the post was reduced and taken possession of for the Parliament by the force under Sir William Brereton. Shortly afterwards the castle was dismantled and turned into a ruin. An ancient print reproduced by the Historic Society of Cheshire shows the old fortress standing on a cliff over the river, with the town below it;the enclosure of high embattled walls is of circular form, holding nine large square mural towers, at intervals,the lower gatehouse being flanked by two of them. On the opposite side of the enceinte is shown a similar gateway, leading probably to an inner ward not seen. Ormerod too gives a sketch of the ruins as they may have been at the beginning of the present century. This view shows half-octagonal flanking towers to the entrance gateway, with the lofty Edwardian windows of John of Gaunt’s period.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol II” James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p.175