Richard III Society

Yorkshire Branch

Castles and Fortified Manor Houses

Barnard Castle

While not strictly a Yorkshire castle, being just over the border in County Durham, Barnard deserves its place in this list for its connections to two of the most powerful figures in the Wars of the Roses period. The castle began in 1095 when William Rufus granted his supporter Guy de Baliol the Gainsford estate confiscated from Robert Mowbray. Guy decided on the area around present day Barnard and proceeded to build a small castle overlooking the River Tees deep below. Thirty years later his nephew Bernard de Baliol began to rebuild the castle in stone, a work carried on by his son. The castle began with a keep surrounded by a strong wall, and over the next 300 years grew to have an inner and outer ward, a chapel, the Headlam, Constable and Mortham towers, new domestic quarters, a Round tower and Great Hall as well as.

Next owner was Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III, who married Warwick’s younger daughter Anne, and was given Warwick’s northern estates by his brother Edward IV. Richard is known to have visited Barnard several times and made many improvements. Richard also intended to make an ecclesiastical the usual offices. To the Ricardian the most significant small piece of Barnard is in the oriel window in the ruined Great Chamber on which is still to be seen, though very weathered, a carving of Richard III’s heraldic badge Blanc Sanglier.

In 1216 the castle was besieged by barons in opposition to King John, and only ended when the besieging commander, John enemy Eustace de Vesci was killed by an arrow shot by the defenders. In 1223 John de Baliol 5th Lord married Dervorgulla of Galloway, whose mother was the daughter of David I of Scotland. After John’s death Dervorgulla founded Baliol College Oxford, and Sweetheart Abbey in her native Scotland in his memory. In1290, with the Scots succession in turmoil Edward I of England chose Devorgulla’s son John as King of Scotland over Robert de Brus of Annandale. King John’s reign was a short four years before he fell foul of Edward and was imprisoned, leaving Barnard to fall into the hands of Edward’s henchman Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham? In 1307, as he lay dying Edward took the castle from the Bishop and bestowed it on Guy de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick. The castle remained in the possession of the Earls of Warwick for further hundred and sixty years.

Marriage to the Beauchamp heiress Anne brought the title Earl of Warwick and Barnard into the ownership of Richard Neville. Although one of the best known characters of his period, Warwick seems to have played little part in Barnard’s history and his death at the battle of Barnet in 1471 brought Barnards connection with the Warwick title to an end. The college of St Mary’s the town church. His death at the battle of Bosworth put an end to these plans. Like all of Richard’s northern castles Barnard fell into neglect. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public.


Bolton Castle

From a distance Bolton Castle on the slopes of Wensleydale looks to be complete. It is only on a visit one realises the damage done when Cromwell’s men slighted the castle during the Civil War.
The great southern range of the castle was built under the supervision of Sir Richard Scrope in 1378. A year later Sir Richard obtained a licence to crenelatte from Richard II. The castle is built around a square courtyard. Access is through a great gateway which still retains its portcullis. Any attackers penetrating the gateway would have found themselves in a perilous position. Four gate portcullises at each corner denied access to the interior, and archers firing from the windows surrounding the courtyard would have quickly made the courtyard a killing ground.

The most untouched part of the castle is from the south west to the south east. This range houses the brew house and bake house. The south east tower gives access to six rooms and a Mess Hall with a kitchen next door which would have been used by the castle garrison. The South East tower was the most untouched part of the castle by Cromwell’s men. This tower housed the family accommodation. The ground floor houses a horse mill and threshing room and armourer’s workshop. A spiral staircase leads to the granary and continuing upwards the chapel. The next floor begins the family’s private accommodation, the Solar, nursery, and Lords and Lady’s Bedchambers. The stair continues up to the roof. To the left of the stairway is a passageway the leads to the Great Chamber and the Guest Hall, (now the Tea Room). The north range contains the stables and the dungeons. In the North West tower is the remains of the Great Hall, and at the east end of the range the butteries and the Kitchen.

Bolton’s chief interest for Ricardians lies in John Scrope, 6th Lord Scrope of Bolton. John was a friend and supporter of the Earl of Warwick. He fought for the house of York at the battles of Northampton and Towton. At the latter he was badly wounded. John supported Warwick in his rebellion against Edward IV and was present at the battle of Barnet. Pardoned by Edward, he became a close friend and advisor to Richard of Gloucester both as Duke of Gloucester and King. As may be expected he fought for Richard at the battle of Bosworth. Pardoned by Henry VII, he tried to raise the north on behalf of the house of York in 1487. He was pardoned again on payment of a large fine, but ordered to live within twenty miles of London, so the King “could keep an eye on him”.

Bolton was one of the castles used to house Mary Queen of Scots as a prisoner during the reign of Elizabeth I. It is now owned by the Orde Powlett family, descendants of Scrope family through the female line. It is open to the public, and well worth a visit.


Burton Agnes Manor House

If you visit Burton Agnes Hall and miss the small manor in its shadow you are missing a treat. Here lies what remains of the much larger medieval manor? Burton Agnes Manor was built in 1173 by Roger de Stuteville. It is believed to have got its name from his daughter Agnes. Serving as the family home for 500 years before the building of the Hall, the manor has remained, passing through the female line many times, in the hands of Roger’s descendants. The lower floor has massive piers supporting a grained vaulted roof re-enforced with heavy chamfered ribs. On one of the piers has been chiselled a game of Nine Men’s Morris by some medieval hand. The upper room of the manor is thought to have been the great hall when the manor was enlarged by Sir Walter Griffiths and still retains its original `timber roof. After the building of the Hall the old manor was used as accommodation for servants and encased in brick to harmonise with the Hall. Behind the manor is an old water wheel which would originally be powered by a donkey. The Hall is managed by English Heritage.


Conisborough Castle

As early as 877 there was a Viking settlement at Conisborough, but the first positive mention of a large dwelling on the site is of a Saxon manor. During the reign of Edward the Confessor the manor belonged to Harold Godwineson, later Harold II. His defeat and death at the battle of Hastings led to the lands being given by William I to one of his foremost knights William de Warrene. William by this time Earl of Surrey is named as owner in the Doomsday survey of 1087.His grandson William the 3rd Earl died in 1147 leaving his estates to his only child his daughter Isabel. Isabel married twice. Her first childless marriage was to William of Blois the younger son of King Stephen. Her second husband was the half brother of Henry II Hamline Plantagenet.

It was Hamlin who rebuilt Conisborough in stone. The layout today is still visible, a strong curtain wall with a single gateway. Around the walls were grouped the great hall, kitchen, chapel and other offices. But it is the great ashlar Keep that was and still is the castles most notable feature. Circular in structure interspaced by six great buttresses, the interior consisted of a vaulted windowless basement with a well. The next floor housed the Lords spacious private bedchamber. A further floor with a staircase leading up to the roof had a small private chapel. Most of the buildings around the court are now only visible at ground level, but Hamlin’s keep continues to dominate the town.
Hamlin and Isabel’s children took their mothers name and continued to hold Conisborough until the early 1300’s when the last Earl became embroiled in an argument with Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster and lost his castle. When Lancaster was executed for rebellion against the King, the castle became the property of the crown and not until 1326, a year before his death was the castle returned to Warrenne control.

On Warrenne’s death the castle once again became crown property. Edward III gave the castle, and the other Warrenne castle Sandal, to his fourth surviving son Edmund of Langley, later Duke of York. The estate was administered by Edmund’s mother Queen Philippa during his minority. At least one of Edmund’s children Richard, later Earl of Cambridge was born at Conisborough. Richard married Anne Mortimer great granddaughter of Lionel of Clarence, second surviving son of Edward III. The couple appear to have made their home at Conisborough and here their two children, Isabel and Richard were born. Anne died shortly after the birth of her son in 1410, and Richard married again. This marriage was of short duration since in 1415 Richard was executed on a charge of treason. His widow continued to live at Conisborough until her death.

Richard of Conisborough’s only son had succeeded his uncle as Duke of York, and he was embroiled in the early years of the Wars of the Roses. He was killed at the battle of Wakefield in 1460 and when his son became Edward IV the castle once again became crown property. There is no evidence that either Edward IV or Richard III ever visited Conisborough.

Despite its royal connections the castle was largely neglected. By the reign of Henry VIII the castle was sadly dilapidated. In 1561 Elizabeth I granted the castle to her cousin Henry, Lord Carey. The Carey’s held the castle until the early 1700’s but due to the dilapidated of the castle it was never lived in. It was probably due its ruined state the castle escaped slighting during the Civil War of the 1600’s since by that time the castle was in a ruinous state making it in no condition to be used defensively by either side. By 1737 the castle had passed into three hands of the Duke of Leeds.
Conisborough was bought during the 1940’s by Conisborough local council and in 1949 was given into the care of English Heritage. In recent years it’s Keep has been sensitively restored and one floor shows a reconstruction of a 13th century chamber. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.


Flamborough Castle

There had been an earlier building on the site of Flamborough castle, but the present remains date from 1351 when Marmaduke Constable obtained a licence to crenellate from Edward III. The manor house constructed on the site was enclosed by an earlier clay rampart. Marmaduke strengthened this with a ditch and chalk curtain wall, enclosing a tower and other buildings. The tower built of chalk had a vaulted basement, three walls of this still stand today to first floor height.

During the period of the Wars of the Roses the castle was owned by Sir Robert Constable, and later by his son Sir Marmaduke Constable. Robert fought for Edward IV at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross and Towton. Marmaduke was a close associate of Richard of Gloucester and served in his campaign against the Scots in 1481-82. He was present fighting for Richard at the battle of Bosworth. He later made his peace with Henry VII. He was one of the commanders of the left wing at the battle of Flodden in 1513.


Harewood Castle

It is thought there was a castle at Harewood during the 12th century but the present ruined castle was built by Sir William Aldburgh whose licence to crenalatte, dated 1367, was granted by Edward III. On his death the castle passed into the joint ownership of his daughters, Elizabeth married to Sir Richard Redman, and Sybil married to Sir William Ryther.

The castle was for some reason built against a slope. The towers are not exact replicas of each other but consist of five levels each. The NE tower houses the portcullis. The main part of the castle, on two floors, consists of an upper and a lower Hall. The separate space at the north end of the lower hall houses the kitchen and pantry, that of the upper hall a solar. On the east side of the upper hall is a chapel. The castle is undergoing excavation.

The descendants of Elizabeth and Sybil remained at the castle for many years. Many of them were buried in the nearby church of All Saints. The effigies in All Saints are amongst the finest in the country. Among them is that of Edward Redman and his wife Elizabeth Huddleston. Edward was a staunch Yorkist, an Esquire of the Body to Richard III, and fought at Bosworth. The church, now cared for by the redundant churches Fund, is well worth a visit.


Helmsley Castle

After the Conquest Helmsley was held by William the Conquerors half brother, Robert of Mortain. It is thought the Robert was probably responsible for the building of the castle since it greatly resembles his other castle Berkhampstead in design. Both have double ditches. An inner deep ditch and a strong wide wall surrounds a single court. In the west corner stands a circular tower the inner room of which is square. In the north corner is another tower. Between the two stands the Gateway with D shaped towers. This is flanked by the foundations of a barbican. At the southern corner stands a tower rising to a height of two floors the lower of which is vaulted. The hall was built adjoining the solar tower. A buttery and pantry were situated at the south end. The kitchen which was housed separately adjoins the west gate along with the brewery and bake house. The rectangular solar tower housed the Lords private apartments complete with its own latrine, fireplaces and fine square windows. The Keep is situated on the NE side of the court. It originally housed the chapel. In 1248 a new chapel was consecrated and the Keep underwent alteration. It was given an extra storey making it four storeys high. The new storey contained a room with a fireplace. The original chapel and roof space were then converted into two separate floors.

Robert of Mortain held Helmsley until 1088 when his nephew William II forced him to give it up. In 1120 the castle passed to the l’Espec family. In 1154 Walter l’Espec retired to Rievaulx, the Abbey he had founded. He left his estates to his sister Adeline and her husband Peter de Roos. In 1186 Robert de Roos replaced the wooden castle with one in stone. His grandson married Isabel Belvior the Leicestershire heiress. Their grandson added height to the curtain wall as a deterrent to Scots raiders.

In 1479 Edmund de Roos sold Helmsley to Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. However after Richard’s death at the battle of Bosworth, Henry VII returned the castle to Edmund? Edmund died childless in 1508 and the castle passed to Sir George Manners his nephew. By a twist of fate was the husband of Anne St Leger the niece of Richard III. In 1525 their son Thomas, was created Earl of Rutland. In 1632 the castle passed to Katherine Manners who married the son of the 1st Duke of Buckingham. In 1644 the castle was garrisoned by royalists but surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax a siege lasting three months. The castle eventually, through marriage, became the property of the Earl of Faversham in whose family it remains. It is managed by English Heritage.


Hornby Castle

Hornby castle Bedale was built in the late 14th century by the St Quentin family as a tower house. The tower, named the St Quentin tower, still stands at the NW corner of the present castle although greatly altered internally.

The castle passed into the Conyers family by the marriage of Margaret St Quentin to John Conyers in the early 1400’s. Their grandson John fought for the Yorkist’s at the battles of Blore Heath, Northampton and Towton. His son eldest John, married Alice Neville the daughter of William Lord Fauconberg.

The castle on the site, apart from the St Quentin Tower is 16th century, greatly remodelled in 1800.


Knaresborough Castle

Knaresborough is mentioned in the doomsday Book under its Saxon name Chednaresberg. The Pipe Rolls of Henry I in 1129-30 record its custodian as Eustace FitzJohn. In 1170, one of the four men responsible for the murder of Thomas Becket, Hugh de Morville fled. King John used Knaresborough as one of his favourite hunting lodges. John spent £1,300 during his time as king excavating a deep ditch round the castle. It is thought that by the end of his reign the castle has a stone wall. Nothing now remains of this. During his troubles with his barons the castle was garrisoned for the King.

By the reign of John’s grandson Edward I Knaresborough had grown to a formidable size. It was known to have a White Tower, chapel, great hall, great chamber and great gateway. The towers of the gateway were in the shape of D’s. Edward II added the Kings Tower and gave Knaresborough to his favourite Piers Gaveston. Knaresborough was besieged with Edward in residence in 1312. In 1317 the castle was in the hands of Thomas of Lancaster having been seized from the King by John de Lilburn. Edward recovered the castle when he breached the curtain wall during a siege the same year. In 1318 the Scots burnt the town but the castle remained untouched.

Edward III granted the castle to his Queen Philippa of Hainault. Philippa was fond of the castle and used it frequently until her death in 1369. Three years after his Queen’s death Edward gave the castle to his third surviving son john of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. When John’s son Henry IV sent Richard II north into captivity, Knaresborough gave the deposed King shelter for a night on his way to Pontefract. In 1322 Knaresborough became part of the dower lands of Henry V’s Queen Catherine of Valois.

The castle appears to have played no part in the Wars of the Roses. Surveys for Henry VIII and Elizabeth I show that repairs were badly needed. During the 1590’s it was leased to Sir Henry Slingsby who rebuilt the upper storey of the courthouse. During the civil War the castle was garrisoned by the Royalists until 1644 when it surrendered after a four month siege. The curtain wall had been breached during the siege, but four years later in 1648 the order was given to demolish the castle. The wall was indeed demolished but the courthouse was left for further use and the Kings Tower used as a prison.

In 1888 the castle was leased from Queen Victoria by the district Council. The Kings Tower still stands. In its early days it was the centre of the castle. The entrance was under a portcullis through an anteroom and into an audience chamber. Below this chamber was a room with a ribbed vaulted ceiling and a fireplace. The NW corner of this room has a turret in which was the latrine with room for a bath. There are two rooms to the SE opening off the court possibly the porter’s accommodation. The floor below has a rib vaulted ceiling with a central pier. A spiral stair runs up the building to the top storey. This part is now in ruins, but is thought to have been the bedchamber and a small chapel. The courthouse is now a museum. It retains its 1590 mullioned windows and court furniture placed there by Sir Henry Slingsby. Knaresborough is now open to the public.


Markenfield Hall

Markenfield Hall was built in the late 13th early 14th century by Canon John de Markenfield chancellor to Edward II. Edward granted a licence to crenellate Markenfield in 1310. The whole was finished before John’s death in 1323. The house we see today is remarkably unchanged from that time. A moat 8ft wide runs around the whole house crossed by a bridge complete with gatehouse. The buildings form a court but the main part is built in an L shape in the NE corner of the complex. A hall of considerable runs the length of the long arm with a solar to the east. The house has its own chapel to the east with a further room beyond. A rib vaulted undercroft runs under the whole of the building. The north and south walls contain windows of two lights and the chapel has its own door which also leads to the chamber and solar.

During the Wars of the Roses period the house was occupied by John Markenfield’s descendant Sir Thomas and his wife Eleanor Conyers. Thomas was a supporter of Richard of Gloucester later Richard III, to whom he was a knight of the body. He fought for Richard at the battle of Bosworth. He and Eleanor are buried in Ripon Cathedral. Thomas’s son Ninian fought at the battle of Flodden in 1514. The family were Catholics and Ninian’s son took part in a Catholic rising against Elizabeth I. This led to the loss of the Hall which Elizabeth granted to Sir Thomas Edgerton her master of the Rolls. Markenfield is now open at certain periods of the year.


Middleham Castle

Set in the lovely Wensleydale countryside, the castle was built in the 12th century, though the earthworks of an earlier Motte and Bailey castle survives on the high ground known as Williams Hill behind it.

The great Keep of Middleham was built by Ralph, nephew of Alan the Red, Earl of Richmond who died in 1168 or his son Robert who died in 1184. In 1270 the estate passed to their descendant Mary FitzRanulph, who married Robert Neville of Raby.

The extensions and improvements to the castle eventually provided accommodation that was palatial for its time, with every comfort and convenience required by a Lordly household, Middleham became a luxurious home, with well lit chambers, a chapel, great hall and extensive latrine blocks in its walls, together with carefully planned gardens complete with ponds and fountains outside, overlooked by the private apartments on the south side.

When Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland died in 1425, he left his Yorkshire estates to his second wife Joan Beaufort. She in turn passed them to her eldest son Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury on her death in 1444.He held the castle until his death at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, the castle came into the position of his eldest son Richard, Earl of Warwick. Edward IV was the Earl’s cousin and, in accordance with the custom of the time, the King’s youngest brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, joined the household along with sons of other lordly families, to complete his education.

The Earl of Warwick was killed at the battle of Barnet on April 14th 1471. The following July Edward IV granted Richard of Gloucester the Lordship of Middleham, along with Sheriff Hutton, Penrith and Barnard Castle. In 1472 Richard married Anne Neville, Warwick’s younger daughter and Middleham became their home. Their son Edward was born at the castle in 1474. Richard was now the dominant power in the north of England and Middleham, known locally as the Windsor of the north, was at the centre of a number of great households, the homes of Richard’s northern supporters.

When Richard became King in 1483 Middleham necessarily saw yes of him, but work continued on the castle and its surroundings. This work was halted when news arrived of Richard’s death at Bosworth. The castle remained in royal hands but was never visited by the Tudors.

Since 1984 the castle has been in the care of English Heritage, attracting thousands of visitors each year, intrigued by its past associations and the times when the most important people in England stayed within its walls.

By Lynda Telford. With additional material.


Nappa Hall

Nappa Hall still stands on the slopes of Wenseleydale virtually unchanged from the day it was built. The estate came into the hands of the Metcalfe family  in 1419 when Sir Richard Scrope enfeoffed James Metcalfe with 400 acres of land called Nappa in payment of a debt. Two years later, after the death of Sir Richard in France, his widow attempted to reclaim the land and not until 1459 were the Metcalfe’s fully confirmed as owners. At this point James is believed to have begun the house.

The first part built was the Pele tower at the west end. This tower had four floors, the ground floor housing the Great Chamber. The Hall and the east tower are believed to have been added by James son Thomas. The east tower was two storeys in height, the ground floor housing the pantry and buttery.

During the period of the wars of the Roses the Metcalfe’s were staunchly loyal Yorkists. James was a close associate, indentured retainer and sub steward to the Lordship of Middleham to Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. He fought for the house of York at the battles of 1st St Albans and Blore Heath. He died in 1474. Like their father his sons were staunch Yorkists. Edmund the eldest son he was present at the battles of Hedgeley Moor and Hexham in 1464, and is thought to have died as a result since that is the year given for his death. Thomas the second son, became a supporter of Richard of Gloucester and received many important offices under Richard. He fought for York at the battle of Bosworth. He died in 1504 aged 80. His brother Miles was also one of Richard of Gloucester’s trusted advisors and held several offices under him, the chief of his offices was that of Recorder of York for which he was recommended by Edward IV. Unlike his brother Thomas who was pardoned by Henry Tudor, Miles was singled out for animosity. Henry tried to have him removed as Recorder but was foiled when York City council refused to comply. He died in November 1485 and was buried in York Minster. Thomas’s sons, James, Ottiwell and Francis are also believed to have fought at Bosworth. Nappa has recently been sold and is in private hands.


Pickering Castle

Pickering was begun by William I around 1070 during his campaign to subdue the north of England. His son Henry I is known to have stayed there and may have built the Old Hall. Originally a Motte and Bailey design, the castle grew as structures were added. It consisted of an inner and outer ward. Only one tower, the Coleman tower stood in the inner ward. The New Hall which stood beside the much smaller Old Hall, was remodelled by Thomas of Lancaster for his wife Alice de Lacy in 1314. The hall had two floors the upper of which contained the private apartments. Edward IV built the chantry chapel of St Mary in 1460. This was abolished by Henry VIII in 1547.

The Pipe rolls of Henry II, Richard I and King John all show expenditure on the castle. The castle was fortified during the struggle between Henry III and Simon de Montfort, and in 1267 Henry granted the Lordship of Pickering to his younger son Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. Edmund’s son Thomas forfeited the castle when he rebelled and was executed during the reign of Edward II. Edward II visited the castle in 1323 and ordered a stone curtain wall with towers. Edward III returned the castle to Thomas of Lancaster’s brother Henry, later Duke of Lancaster. Like Pontefract after the marriage of his daughter Blanche to John of Gaunt the castle became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. The castle does not appear to have played any part in the Wars of the Roses. Its remains are now in the care of English Heritage.


Pontefract Castle

Pontefract castle may have been begun as early as 1076 and is mentioned in the Doomsday book. It has a long and at times very bloody history. The building was begun by Ilbert de Lacy. His son Robert forfeited the castle in 1106 to Henry I and Henry granted it first to Hugh de Laval and later to William Maltravers. King Stephen returned it to Ilbert de Lacy’s descendants. Henry de Lacy and his son Robert were responsible for enclosing the inner bailey. When the de Lacy family died out the castle passed to a family connection Roger FitzEustace in 1194. Roger built the stone keep at the SW corner. His son John, created earl of Lincoln by Henry III, continued the building of the castle. The castle eventually passed to Alice John’s great granddaughter, who married Thomas Earl of Lancaster. Thomas was executed for treason in 1322, and the castle passed to Edward II who ordered some work on the structure. Edward III returned the castle to Thomas of Lancaster’s brother Henry, who became Duke of Lancaster. It was the marriage of his daughter Blanche, to Edward III’s third surviving son John of Gaunt, later Duke of Lancaster that brought Pontefract into the ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Richard II was imprisoned in Pontefract and murdered here in 1400, supposedly in one of the chambers excavated in the upper bailey. Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou are said to have visited Pontefract shortly before the battle of Towton. Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, was briefly imprisoned here after the battle of Wakefield before his execution. Edward IV was held at Pontefract by the Earl of Warwick in 1469, until unrest in the country forced Warwick to release him. Richard III as Duke of Gloucester knew Pontefract well in his capacity of Chief Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of the Trent. It was at Pontefract that the executions of Anthony Lord Rivers, Lord Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan took place in 1485. For some time during the 19th century the site even housed a liquorice factory making the famous Pontefract Cakes. Pontefract has been subject to extensive excavation. The remaining parts include the shell of the keep, the Swillington and Paper towers and the chapel. The site is open to the public.


Ravensworth Castle

Five miles from Richmond, very little remains of Ravensworth Castle once the home of the FitzHugh family. When the castle was begun is unclear but it is known that King John visited in 1201. The ruins of the castle visible today are those of the castle built by Henry, Lord FitzHugh around 1391. It was at this time Henry received a licence from Richard II to enclose 200 acres to make a park. His grandson Henry 6th Lord FitzHugh founded a chantry in the castle chapel in 1467. What is left today consists of the remains of the gatehouse, fragments of the walls and belfry tower. Most of the stone was quarried away by the villages after the castle was abandoned.

During the period of the Wars of the Roses Ravensworth was the home of Henry, 6th Lord FitzHugh, his wife Alice Neville and their numerous children. One of Henry’s daughters Anne married Francis Lord Lovell, Richard III’s friend and Councillor. Henry’s grandson George was the last of the male line of FitzHugh’s and on his death in 1512 the estate passed to his cousin Sir Thomas Parr, Lord of Kendal. Thomas was the son of Elizabeth FitzHugh who had married Sir William Parr as his second wife. He was the father of Katherine Parr, last of Henry VIII’s six Queens. Katherine’s brother William inherited Ravensworth after his father’s death but by that time the castle was in a state of decay.


Richmond Castle

Richmond Castle occupies a triangular site of no strategic value high above the river Swale in Swaledale.

After the death of Edwin, Earl of Mercia in 1071, his Yorkshire estates were given by William I to Alan the Red, son of Eudes Count of Penthievre. Alan’s castle was built in stone from the outset, and few other English castles have such an amount of masonry from the first twenty or so years after the Norman Conquest. There is a Barbican at the apex of the triangular Great Court, to the east of which is the Cockpit, a private walled garden. The Keep is built on the original gatehouse, the inner archway of which survives. The Great Hall, (Scotland’s Hall), is in the SE corner of the Great Court and is thought to be the oldest domestic building of its type in England.

Alan and his two brothers and his nephew held Richmond until 1137. It then passed to the Count of Brittany. In 1174 the Scots King William the Lion was held prisoner in the castle. From 1181 to 1186 the castle belonged to Geoffrey, the third son of Henry II and his wife Constance of Brittany. After Geoffrey’s death in 1186 Constance held the castle until her death in 1201. The castle then passed to her second husband Ranulph de Blundeville, Earl of Chester. The castle eventually again passed into the hands of the Duke of Brittany Constance’s descendant, but in 1341 after the death of the last Duke, Edward III created his third surviving son, John of Gaunt Earl of Richmond. Richard II granted the castle to his Queen Anne of Bohemia. His successor Henry IV passed it to his third son John Duke of Bedford. Edward IV granted the castle to his brother George, Duke of Clarence, and after his execution to Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

By Ralph Taylor. With additional material.


Sandal Castle

The Manor of Wakefield was granted to William de Warenne, 2nd Earl of Surrey in 1107 by William II. Shortly afterwards he began his castle at Sandal as a wooden Motte and Bailey construction. With his death of his son the 3rd Earl, the castle passed to his only child Isabel. Isabel married twice. Her first marriage to William of Blois, younger son of King Stephen, was childless. Her second to Hamlin Plantagenet half brother of Henry II produced four children who took their mothers surname. It was Hamlin who began the task of rebuilding the castle in stone, a task completed by his son William, 6th Earl. Sandal continued in the possession of the Warennes, with just one short break, until the death of the 8th Earl in 1334. By now the castle was a strongly built Keep on a Motte surrounded by a deep rock cut ditch and guarded by a barbican. The outer bailey contained a great hall and a chapel as well as the usual offices, the whole surrounded by a strong wall with a gatehouse.

After the death of the last Warenne, Edward III gave Sandal, along with the other nearby Warenne castle Conisborough, to his fourth surviving son Edmund of Langley, later Duke of York. Both running of both castles were overseen by Edward’s Queen Philippa of Hainhault during Edmunds minority. In 1415 the castle became the property of Richard Duke of York. He was in residence on December 30th 1460 when he was lured out to his death at the battle of Wakefield. His son Edward IV is not thought to have visited the castle, but Richard III ordered the building of a new tower on the keep in 1484. After Richard’s death the castle fell victim to neglect and began its decent into decay. Very little remains today, but the view from the Motte overlooking the River Calder is very fine, and the site now has an excellent visitor centre.


Scarborough Castle

There have been buildings on the site of Scarborough castle since Roman times. The area saw much fighting in the pre-Conquest period when raids by the Danes and Norsemen were frequent. There is known to have been a settlement on the site in 966Ad by the Vikings and the name of this settlement Skathi’s Burgh is a forerunner of the present day Scarborough. William le Gros, Earl of Albemarle constructed the first stone castle on the site in 1135. Its chapel survives today, although it was altered in the 14th century. It was Henry II who erected the three storey Keep we see today with remains of its fore building, which once stood forty feet high. The top of the Keep has disappeared but fireplaces on the first and second floors may be seen to give some idea of the scale.

The only land approach to the castle site is guarded by a large semicircular gateway with two smaller flanking towers. The remains of a Roman signal station, two chapels, a hall, the Mossdale Hall, built by King John and converted into a prison in the 18th century, have been excavated in the bailey, towards the sea.

The castles outer defences have been reinforced over the years but the site and strength of the building, an important Royal fortress, meant it was only damaged on a very few occasions.

Edward I visited Scarborough in 1275 and spent £2,200 on repairs. Edward II gave the castle to his unpopular favourite Piers Gaveston, causing it to be besieged by the first time. Edward III reconstructed the Great Barbican.

Richard III visited the castle in 1484 at a particularly unhappy time in his life. He and Anne Neville had just lost their only child, Edward, and Richard brought Anne to Scarborough to recover from her grief. One of the Towers was named Queens Tower in her hionour.

The castle continued to lead a busy life throughout the religious upheavals in Tudor times. James I unwilling to continue the upkeep sold the castle to the Earl of Holderness. The castle was besieged twice during the English Civil War and slighted in 1649. In 1746 during the period of Jacobite risings the castle was garrisoned, and this was repeated during the Napoleonic Wars. It was still garrisoned in 1914 when it was shelled by German battleships. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.

By Angela Moreton. With additional material


Sheffield Castle

The scant remains of Sheffield’s once proud castle lie in the present day in a basement beneath the Market Hall. Immediately before the Conquest the area was known as Hallam was owned by Waltheof, Earl of Huntingdon. Waltheof was executed for treason against William I in 1076, and has the dubious distinction of being the only English or Saxon, to be executed by William. His lands were given to his widow, William’s niece, Judith of Lens. Judith’s tenant for the lands was Roger de Buseli. Roger preferred to concentrate on his lands at Tickhill and in time the Sheffield lands came into the possession of the Lovetots.

Sometime around 1100 William de Lovetot erected the first castle on the site in timber to the Motte and Bailey design, with a ditch was dug around the whole. A chapel was also erected near what is now Lady’s Bridge.

The Lovetots remained Lords of the manor until Maude de Lovetot married Gerard de Furnival in 1213.The wooden castle was destroyed in 1266 by fire during the struggle between Henry III and Simon de Monteford. In 1270 the then lord Thomas Furnival was granted leave to replace the castle in stone. The new castle was surrounded by a deep moat which was said the be 30ft wide and 18ft deep. Over the years the castle grew in size until by the time Thomas, 5th Lord Furnival died the castle covered and extensive area.

Thomas left his lands to his only child Joan who married Sir Thomas Neville, younger brother of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland. The only child of this marriage, a daughter Maude, married as his first wife John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury.  Their great grandson George, the 4th Earl married Anne Hastings, daughter of William, Lord Hastings. George was a minor at the time of the battle of Bosworth, but despite his uncle and the family retainers supporting Tudor at the battle, George was present in support of Richard III. He died in1538 and is buried in Sheffield Cathedral in a beautiful tomb flanked by his two wives.

The castle was one of the places used to house Mary Queen of Scots in the reign of Elizabeth I, during the time the 6th Earl was her custodian. Its end came during the English Civil was when it was destroyed by order of Oliver Cromwell in 1644, most of the stone being carried away by the citizens and used for building. Only the remains of the gateway are easily visible today.


Sheriff Hutton Castle

Although it is known as a Neville castle, Sheriff Hutton was first built by Bertram de Bulmer in 1140. The castle now in ruins was built by John, 3rd Lord Neville around 1382 when he obtained a licence to crenellate from Richard II. The castle greatly resembled in appearance another great northern castle Bolton. Both were built around courtyards. Sheriff Hutton had towers of more or less uniform appearance, albeit different heights, at the north south and west corners. The tower at the east corner was of different design, and with a smaller tower formed the gateway where the Neville arms are still visible. The Se range appears to have held the main apartments for the family, with the Lords bedchamber in the south tower which id four floors in height. The ranges would have housed a private hall, great hall and chapel, along with the usual offices, bake house, brewery, pantry ect. The outer court housed the stables and the armoury.

Like Middleham Sheriff Hutton was left by Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland, to his second wife Joan Beaufort, and passed in succession to her son Richard, Earl of Salisbury, and to his son Richard, Earl of Warwick. After Warwick’s death at the battle of Barnet, Edward IV granted Sheriff Hutton, along with the rest of Warwick’s northern estates, to his brother Richard of Gloucester, who married Anne, Warwick’s younger daughter. Richard used the castle regularly, and made it the base for the Council of the North. Before Bosworth many of the heirs of the house of York were sent to the castle for safety including Edward IV’s daughters Elizabeth and Cecily, George of Clarence’s children Margaret and Edward, and John de la Pole, who as head of the Council of the North used the castle as his headquarters. The Tudors continued to use the castle as the headquarters of the Council until 1547 when the headquarters moved to the Kings House in York. From that time the castle was allowed to slowly decay. It stands today on private land and is considered too unsafe for close inspection.


Skipton Castle

The first mention of a castle at Skipton is in 1130, but not until 1194 was it built in stone by William, 2nd Earl of Aumarle. In 1274 it passed into the hands of the crown. Edward I kept it in his own hands, but his son Edward II granted the castle to his favourite Piers Gaveston. By 1310 the castle had been passed to the first Clifford owner Robert. Robert was killed at the battle of Bannockburn and in the years that followed the castle suffered from neglect. Robert’s heir Roger was embroiled in the rebellion of Thomas of Lancaster and not until 1330 did Edward III return the castle to Roger’s son Robert. At this time the castle was more or less as it is seen today The chapel was added around this time.

By the mid 1450’s the castle was owned by Thomas 8th Lord Clifford a Lancastrian supporter. He fought at the 1st battle of St Albans in 1455 and was killed in battle. The castle passed to his son, John who fostered a deep hatred of the Duke of York and his family. John Clifford fought for Lancaster at the battle of Wakefield where the Duke was killed. He was also responsible for killing in cold blood the captured Edmund Earl of Rutland after the battle. John fought at the second battle of St Albans. A few weeks later he was in command of a force attempting to prevent the Yorkist army crossing the Ferrybridge on their way north to confront the Lancastrians. For a time he was successful, but the battle turned and Clifford was killed fleeing with most of his retinue.

Edward IV confiscated Clifford’s lands and passed them first to Sir William Stanley, and then to Richard of Gloucester. The Clifford’s were restored to ownership under the Tudors.
The castle at Skipton is in a remarkably good state of repair. It suffered slighting during the English Civil War, but was completely restored in the late 1600’s by Lady Anne Clifford. The castle is open to the public.


Tickhill Castle

There is mention of a castle at Tickhill in the Doomsday Book as being owned by Roger de Buseli. In 1102, the castle was being held by Robert de Bellesme in support of Robert of Normandy against William II. The only remains from that period are the footings of the gatehouse and the bailey curtain wall. By 1194 the castle was a Motte and Bailey design with an eleven sided keep which had been built by Henry. At this time the castle was owned by Prince John and was under siege due to his attempt to replace his brother Richard I as King. The siege only ended with Richard’s return to England. When John became King the castle was enlarged by the addition of a barbican, kitchen, stable and granary.

Henry III gave the castle to his son Edward who then passed it to his wife Eleanor of Castile. In 1322 the castle underwent another siege. By this time it was owned by Isabella of France wife of Edward II. From Isabella ownership passed to Phiilippa of Hainhault, Queen of Edward III, and then to her son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. In 1399 after his son Henry Bolingbroke usurped the throne as Henry IV, the castle became crown property. The castle was garrisoned by Royalists during the Civil War. Like many other castles at the time it was slighted.

The site is still owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and is open to the public one day a year.


Topcliffe Castle

Built by William de Percy, Topcliffe was his chief residence until the later building of Alnwick castle. In 1174 the castle to have been in the possession of Geoffrey Plantagenet, at that time Bishop elect of Lincoln. Geoffrey fortified the castle in support of his father Henry II. He placed the castle under the command of William de Stutvilleand and spent £7-10-2d on the fortifications. During its heyday Topcliffe was a great size of Motte and Bailey design. Little remains of this but the earthworks on which it stood are known as the Maidens Bower. Topcliffe entertained only one royal visitor in its time. Edward II spent a day there in1333.

The castle was eventually replaced by a manor house on the south-west corner known as Cock Lodge. It was from here Henry Percy, the 4th Earl of Northumberland rode out to collect taxes for Henry VII in 1489 and never returned. He was killed by a vengeful mob on Topcliffe Moor probably in retaliation for his betrayal of Richard III at the battle of Bosworth as much as resentment against the taxes.


Upsall Castle

Like many other northern castles Upsall stands in ruins. Built near South Kilvington. The castle was begun by Geoffrey le Scrope sometime after his purchase of the manor in 1327. Most of the work is credited to his son Henry.

Only the tower in the south east corner remains of the old castle. The tower remains stand 10feet in height and 36feet square. The foundations of the south wall run along a length of 130feet west until turning north another 140feet ending in another tower. Scattered around this part are window heads with the Scrope arms. The castle as a whole appears to have been demolished around the time of the Civil War.

In the Wars of the Roses period the castle belonged to Thomas, lord Scrope of Upsall and Masham, cousin of john Lord Scrope of Bolton. Thomas was an indentured retainer and sometime ward of Richard of Gloucester. His wife was Elizabeth Neville one of the daughters of John Neville, Marquis Montagu, Richard’s cousin. Thomas fought for Richard at the battle of Bosworth. Pardoned after the battle, in 1487 he joined his cousin John in trying to raise the north in support of the house of York. On failure of the rising both were taken south an imprisoned in the Tower. Released after the payment of a large fine, Thomas was never again allowed to return north. He died still a young man leaving only one child a daughter. His title and lands passed to all three of his brothers in turn before the title died out. On the death of the youngest of these brothers, Geoffrey, the castle passed into the Strangways family.


West Tanfield Castle

Very little remains of the castle of West Tanfield. William I gave the estate to Alan le Roux (the Red), Earl of Richmond. The first mention of a dwelling on the site comes in 1315 when John Marmion obtained a licence from Edward II to crenellate his house. The only remains today are the well house, which may have provided water for the house, and the Marmion Tower adjacent to St Nicholas Church. The Marmion Tower was once the Gatehouse to the manor. It is a particularly fine example. The tower is almost square and has three storeys. The gateway floor has a barrel vaulted roof. On the south side is a room which evidently was the guardroom, to the left side is the stair giving access to the upper floors. There is no provision for a portcullis. The first floor room is unaltered from its early days. There is a fine oriel window in the south wall and further windows in the west and east walls. The north wall contains the fireplace. All the windows have seats in their sills. The upper floor is now roofless. The Tower is in the care of English Heritage.

The church has one of the finest effigies in the country, that of Sir John Marmion and his wife Elizabeth Quentin. John was a supporter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and fought for him in Spain. John died childless and the estate passed to the daughter of his younger brother Robert and his wife Lora Quentin, Elizabeth Marmion. Elizabeth married Sir Henry FitzHugh who built a small castle outside the church around 1400. Their grandson Henry 6th Lord FitzHugh married Alice Neville, sister of the Earl of Warwick. Henry was a close supporter of his brother in law, and supported him in his rebellion against Edward IV. After his death in 1472 his widow Alice spent a good deal of time at West Tanfield. There is a legend that she once gave refuge to her son in law Francis Lovell during the time after the battle of Bosworth when he was evading Henry VII. Tanfield, like the reminder of the FitzHugh estates eventually passed to the Parr family. No trace is now left of the manor house.