Moulton Castle – Newburyport, Maudslay Park

Moulton Castle - Maudslay State Park

Growing up working on one of the oldest farms in America (run by the same family since the 1680s), my interest in local history was definitely the cause of some long-winded conversations with some of the old-timers. The farm was located adjacent to Maudslay State Park in Newburyport. In fact, the park itself used to be part of the farm before it was sold off to the Moseley family (Originally spelled Maudesleigh) around the turn of the century (1900s).

One bit of local history that always really interested me was the “Moulton Castle” that used to sit on what is now called “Castle Hill” in Maudslay State Park. To sum up, Henry Moulton was this civil war soldier. After the war, he came back and built a very real castle in Newburyport. I’ve known about it since I was a teenager, but every time I tell someone about it I always get the same response; “Yeah, right. A castle in Newburyport…”

Well, alas I have proof that I can share! A close friend of mine, and son of the farmer I grew up with, just gave me what may be the “only” remaining copy of this:

moulton castle poem maudslay

It’s a poem by Charles Clinton Jones about the castle. It must have been written and printed after the castle came down, but other than that I know nothing about it. I’ve looked online for years, trying to find some sort of documentation on the castle. Literally, you’d think I was searching for the lost ark. No one seems to know it ever existed. How has something this incredible just vanished in history. I mean come on, a castle in Newburyport!!

Here is the rest of the booklet:

One of the few pictures that exist of the actual Moulton Castle (I’ve seen at least two):

moulton castle maudslay state park

The poem by Charles Clinton Jones:

moulton castle hill

Moulton Castle
By Charles Clinton Jones.

It stood on a pine fringed hill-top
O’er looking the ancient town,
And the winding course of the river;
That turreted castle brown.

For more than a generation
It guarded the country-side,
The city and bay and islands,
And the marshes low and wide.

Grimly it stood looking seaward,
And when the day died out of the sky,
It saw in the gathering darkness
Plum Island’s twinkling eye.

A little more to the northward
Burning the night like coals,
Yellow and red alternate
The changing lights of the Shoals.

Full many a sailor scanning
The land with his searching glass,
Has seen along the horizon
That turreted hill-top pass.

And many a traveler turning
His face toward home again,
Wearied with traffic and travel
In the busy haunts of men,

Rejoiced to see in the distance
Those towers ‘bove the tree-tops rise,
Clear cut in the their somber beauty
‘Gainst the background of the skies.

 

And often in drive and ramble,
As we cast our eyes around,
A view of the brown old castle,
To our great delight we found.

When the two old bald-headed eagles
Return to their haunts in the spring,
At sight of if its rugged outline,
They quickened the eager wing.

And many a flock of swallows
In nests ‘neath the sheltering eaves,
Have gendered their broods of younglings,
And flown again with the leaves.

But now it is gone, and the hill-top
Is bare as the Tyrian stone,
While o’er it the breezes murmur,
And the night winds make their moan.

The sheltering pines about it
Their dark green branches toss,
Chanting a dirge-like anthem
For their own and the country’s loss.

The sailor and homebound traveler
Will scan the horizon well,
But never a sign will greet them
Of its ancient sight to tell.

The birds in the their springtime coming,
And their southward flight in the fall,
Will look in vain for its turrets,
And its brown expanse of wall.

And tho’ a far grander mansion
Shall take its place on the hill,
The picture of the Moutlon Castle
Will remain in memory still.

The back page with printer’s mark: C.S. Morse Printer

Moulton castle

Just the back cover:

Newburyport castle

As of today, there is only an impression in the ground where the castle once was. I’ve had a coffee on the big stone front steps that are all that remain. If you look around the top of castle hill you will find them.

Other things about the castle:

  • The chandelier from the front hall is hanging in my friends house
  • There was a well with a miniature replica of the castle on the roof. It vanished when the castle was taken down. I’ve been looking for it since I was like 15
  • After the war, for years Henry Moulton would send a ship into Boston to gather the men who fought with him. The would camp on the front lawn of the castle and celebrate for a couple weeks. From what I’ve been told by the family, they would fire off their guns and a canon while they party. I’ve even used a metal detector in “Bootleggers Field” and pulled out some musket balls. Cool stuff

Update:
Huge thanks to Connie Day for finding a link to the book “Moulton Annals“. Here is an image from it:

castle hill maudslay

Great picture. I can see just where it was taken, and will probably go there soon and take a picture of what it looks like now.

Comments

Great find! I often wonder about the structures around the Moseley Estate but haven’t had any luck online.

I actually live about 30 minutes from the estate and didn’t realize there was a castle with my last name there! A friend of mine that’s going to an event that I’m planning at the estates gave me a heads up on the castle. So I’m very intrigued, sharing the name and all, It would be awesome to find out if I’m somehow related. ^.^ I’ll have to look into it, but by chance is there somewhere where I could read the poem and see the picture a bit better? That would be so awesome.

My father has come to learn that the woman who had last been living there, was kind of odd. She didn’t want people to know about her home life or something, to the point where in her will, she asked that the buildings be torn down, but she also wanted the estate to be kept up by the state. So after the buildings where taken down, the state turned it into a park it seems.

andrew's picture

Sure, I’ll post the poem when I get a sec. I also have some more castle images that I will scan and post at higher resolution.

I’m great friends with the family that built it (formerly Moulton). Having an interest in local history, I used to talk at great lengths about the castle, and Maudslay in general. There is so much to see in there that no one seems to really know about. Cool stuff!

There are pictures of the castle in the book “Moulton Annals” written by Henry Moulton and completed by his daughter. There is a copy of the book at the Newburyport Historical Society. The book talks at length about the castle and grounds.

Bill Moulton

MOST AWESOME!!!!! Coolest story ever. Its so amazing there…and a real treat to walk around. The chandelier is a sight to see I bet.

Thumbs up.

The castle was really beautiful.

Great find!!
I love Maudslay! Live only a few minutes away and I take my children there all the time. I would love to know about the old foundations. I have been looking on the web and haven’t found much information at all. I know they have a tour in the summer..which I will def check out. But I’m so curious now….and wondering if anyone knows some website with info??
Thanks!!:)

I grew up just down the street in Sandy Acres across from Mosely Pines. The Mosely Estate was literally our back yard. We used to slide down Castle Hill in the winter. I went to school with Dick Chase of Arrowhead Farms on Ferry Road near the base of Castle Hill. He is a descendant of The Moultons. And as you’ve stated they owned much of the Mosely Estate at one time. My grandfather told me that the castle was raised due to back taxes. And you’re right, there’s not much information on the internet about this. Hope this helps.

Regards,

George

I always wondered what the castle looked like
I actually lived in the house on Ferry Road closest to the where the castle stood and visited and played at the site when i was a small boy..A friend of mine and myself went there yesterday for a visit 11/14/10

The castle was really beautiful.

Great find! I often wonder about the structures around the Moseley Estate but haven’t had any luck online.

There are pictures of the castle in the book “Moulton Annals” written by Henry Moulton and completed by his daughter. There is a copy of the book at the Newburyport Historical Society. The book talks at length about the castle and grounds. Bill Moulton

I love Maudsley and was looking for pics when I found your blog. Thanks to William Moulton, who posted above, I did a search for “Moulton Annals” and found the entire book online which can be viewed with photographs here: http://www.archive.org/stream/moultonannals00moul#page/n479/mode/2up In case that link doesn’t work, the page number where the first photo of the castle appears is page 405. There are two photographs of the castle.

This is the text referring to Moulton Castle:

“Moulton Hill, Newburyport, Mass., has been the home of eight generations of Moultons, William 2nd having built his house at the foot of the hill where, more than two hundred years later, his descendants were living.

In 1866 Capt. Henry W. Moulton of Newburyport came into possession of this estate, which already for six generations had been held by different branches of the Moulton family. Here he erected the noble and picturesque building – which, from its Gothic architecture, became known for miles around as “Moultan Castle.” Sir Edw. Thornton, the British minister, passed four summers here with his family and retinue of servants, during Mr. Moulton’s absence in Idaho, where he served as U. S. Marshal. The view from the summit of the hill is very beautiful and extensive, including at least fourteen different towns and villages. No lovelier prospect can be found in all New England and, indeed, many who have traveled extensively in both the old and the new world, claim never to have seen a landscape more beautiful.

Here the author of this volume passed many happy hours, enjoying the loveliness of nature and dreaming of the vanished Moultons who had lived and moved on this same spot in other days. Here, at the very summit of the house, in a lofty chamber called facetiously “the high room,” the present volume of “Moulton Annals” sprang into being. Surrounded by his beloved books and the portraits of the friends he held most dear, Mr. Moulton delighted to occupy his leisure hours, which were all too rare, in literary pursuits, no subject being more congenial than his lineage.

History repeats itself, and like the last Sir Thomas of Gilsland, Mr. Moulton left no son to assume his name and estate. A few months previous to the death of Mr. Moulton, in 1896, Moulton Hill passed out of the family.”

andrew's picture

Awesome find! Thanks!

There is a stereoview of Moulton Castle out there. (I’d attach a copy of the image, but I don’t know how to get it into this blog posting!) Also, the same year that Moulton Castle was built, another castle was built near Deer Island called Hawkswood. It was built by Rev. J.C. Fletcher. I obtained the photographs, personal letters and other items of one of Newburyport’s first photo journalists: Philip Coombs.

He used the wet plate process, and spoke of a good day in which he made 3 successful negatives! Outdoor photographs were so novel in 1861 that quite a few of his images (actually taken in 3D stereo) were newsworthy events written about in the local newspaper. All of Philip’s photographs were taken in 1861, and provide a fascinating insight into life leading up to the Civil War. He was friends with J.C. Fletcher and John G. Whittier..

I’ve written a book that tells Philip’s story – just need to find a publisher for it. Anyone know one? The title of the book is: “1861: A Newburyport Photographer Captures The Time, The People – and Even EMILY DICKINSON’s TERROR”.

NOTE: William Moulton was among the first settlers of Newbury, MA 1635, (with my ancestor Henry Short) As I understand it they all laid claim to land at that time.

I realize this is an old post, regardless thanks Andrew for the photos of the book. When we moved to the area 26 years ago my wifes grandfather told us about the Castle where his mother was born. We’ve since learned more of the Moulton family and Capt. Henry a civil war captain and Newburyport and Beacon Hill real estate developer. And we now have the same photo as above in our livingroom. Very cool, thanks.

I have a relative, Nathan Moulton in my family. In fact my grandfather's mother was Annie Celestia Moulton and I have a picture of her with my grandfather. Is there anything in a library that can give me furthur information. My grandfather's name was Lester Spear and they lived in Lynn, MA.

Thanks. Suzanne Lacey (suzelacey@yahoo.com)

Thanks for this! I often walk in Maudslay and have wondered about "Castle Hill Trail". Now I know! A beautiful park, and thanks so much for the pictures.

Hello Moultons!
My Grandmother Amy Moulton Lee from Nova Scotia was born shortly before the "Moulton Annals" was published.
I live in Lexington, MA, I have been to the castle on many occasions, playing saxophone for many weddings and events.
Whaddya know!

What I do know is that the Moultons were a very important family in New England. Great work

I've been doing research on my family and have found out quiet a bit on The Molton,Moulton Family.Have found missing Family members?Please contact me at lestermolton@yahoo.com I will share what I've found?

The recently published book The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Harvard historian, Jill Lepore, talks about Moulton Castle in her first chapter. William Moulton Marston was the original author of the Wonder Woman comic books in the 1940s. He was also the grandson of the man who built Moulton Castle and spent many Sundays there as a child with his 4 aunts and his maternal grandfather. He had an intriguing life which Lepore explores and it gives a whole overlay of drama to the Moulton Castle! Wish the castle were still there.

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