The Round Moat, Cambridgeshire…

The Round Moat in the Cambridgeshire village of Fowlmere is a fine example of the many medieval moated enclosures that can be found in England. It has been suggested that The Round Moat dates from the late Anglo-Saxon period and is very similar in design to the Anglo-Saxon fortified enclosure at Goltho in Lincolnshire.

The enclosure at Fowlmere consists of a large platform, surrounded by an earth bank and a ditch. The earth bank would have been surmounted by a timber palisade in order to provide a defensible enclosure. Today, the bank is somewhat dunuded and rises to a height of 2 metres at its highest. The ditch that surrounds the plaform has silted up somewhat so that now at its greatest depth is 1.5 metres in depth, whereas it would have originally been 3 metres in depth and 8 metres in breadth.

Some excavations have taken place at the monument, some cobbled surfaces were found during these in 1887 and 1906. The Round Moat is often referred to as a ringwork and has been described as a possible timber castle. Traces of domestic occupation from the 13th and 14th Century have been found nearby. Another moated enclosure called Crow’s Parlour lies to the south-east.

In all, The Round Moat is a fine example of an early medieval fortification that has yet to reveal all its secrets.

The Earth Bank, The Round Moat
The Earth Bank, The Round Moat
The Moat, The Round Moat
The Moat, The Round Moat
The Interior of the Round Moat
The Interior of the Round Moat
The Moat, The Round Moat
The Moat, The Round Moat

Helmsley Castle (Hamlake), North Yorkshire…

Helmsley Castle is situated in the market town of Helmsley North Yorkshire. The first castle at Helmsley was built around the year 1120 by Walter l’Espec. Walter died in 1154 and had no heir, having had no children. The castle passed to Walter’s sister who had married Peter de Roos who became Lord of Helmsley.

The early castle took the form of a ringwork, rather than the usual motte and bailey design and was constructed of wood, as was common at the time. It wasn’t until the 1186 that work began to reconstruct the castle in stone on the orders of Robert de Roos Fursan. Robert was one of the 25 barons that would guarantee the observance of Magna by King John.

At this time, the circular towers at the southern gateway of the castle were constructed as well as several in other parts of the castle, including the east tower or keep. A new outer bailey was added to south-east of the castle, and a curtain wall was constructed.

Robert died in 1227. After Robert’s death, the castle passed to his first son William. During William’s tenure, a chapel was built at the castle and consecrated in 1248. William died in 1258, leaving the castle to his son, Robert.

During Robert’s ownership of the castle, barbicans were added to both the north and south gates of the castle. Out of the two barbicans, the north barbican was a simple affair. The south barbican on the other hand was more substantial and consisted of a gatehouse, with two drum towers with adjoining curtain wall. Some earthworks were realigned during this time.

Robert died in 1285. His son William inherited the castle and was made Baron of Helmsley. William had a claim to the Scottish throne based on his descent from his great grandmother, Isabel, who was a daughter of William I of Scotland. Though he was unsuccessful with this claim. During his career, William would be appointed Warden of the West Marches of Scotland.

The castle was substantially altered at this time. The east tower was increased in height, the south barbican was strengthened and accommodation was added for the castle guards. A new hall was built, this was linked to the west tower. This new hall was located in the south-east corner of the inner bailey. It consisted of a kitchen and service rooms.

At this time the west tower’s rooms were completely remodelled, every modern convenience of the time was added to provide suitable accommodation for the lord. Gardrobes were added as were fireplaces on every floor of the tower. A bakehouse and brewhouse were also added at this time

William died in 1316. His estates passed to his son, also called William who became Baron of Helmsley. During the next couple of hundred years the form of the castle didn’t change.

In 1478 Richard, Duke of Gloucester bought the castle from Edmund de Roos. Richard would go on to become Richard III, king of England. The castle would go on to be restored to the de Roos family after Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth.

Edmund de Roos died in 1508. On his death the castle would pass to George Manners, Edmund’s cousin. The castle would descend through the Manners family, with the next major alterations occurring during the ownership of Edward Manners. Edward constructed a mansion in the shell of the much earlier west tower and hall. A further alteration to the chapel was made in that it was converted to a kitchen and joined via a passage to the mansion. The south barbican also underwent major alterations, with accommodation being added.

The castle would continue to be owned by the Manners family until 1632 when the ownership of the castle passed to the Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers through his marriage to Katherine Manners. George never lived at the castle.

During the English Civil War (1642-1651), the the castle came under seige by the forces of Parliament in 1644 under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. The royalist forces holding the castle under Sir Jordan Crosland held out for three months before surrendering. After the seige, the castle was ordered to be slighted on the orders of Parliament, to put it beyond use. Much of the east tower, as can be evidenced by visiting the castle today, was destroyed. As well as much of the surrounding defences. The mansion that had been built by Edward Manners was not affected by the slighting. By 1657, the castle had passed to George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham. George died in 1687, the castle was then sold to Charles Duncombe in 1694 who had made his money from banking and who would later become Lord Mayor of London.

Charles died in 1711, leaving the castle to his brother-in-law, Thomas Brown. Thomas laterally changed his name to Duncombe and built the nearby stately home of Duncombe Park and used that as his residence rather than the castle.

Today, Helmsley Castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Helmsley Castle East Tower
Helmsley Castle East Tower
Helmsley Castle Mansion
Helmsley Castle Mansion
Helmsley Castle Mansion
Helmsley Castle Mansion
Helmsley Castle South Barbican
Helmsley Castle South Barbican

Flamborough Castle (Danish Tower), East Yorkshire…

Flamborough Castle in the village of Flamborough in East Yorkshire is a manor house that was fortified in 1351 when Marmaduke Constable was granted a licence to crenellate by the king. The castle is constructed of rubble and chalk blocks which are thought to have been quarried locally.

It is recorded in the 14th Century that the castle consisted of a chapel, a hall, a suite of rooms for the lord, a courthouse, a mill and barn and a tower, the remains of which can be seen to this day, the others being represented by an extensive set of earthworks that can be seen in the field in which the castle sits. There are also earthworks of ditches and other associated manorial buildings.

It has been suggested that there was a castle on the site of the manor house as far back as 12th Century. Flamborough Castle remained the seat of the Constable family until 1537, when Sir Robert Constable died.

Over the following centuries, the castle went into decline with stone being quarried and used in local buildings. Chalk from the castle may also have been used in local lime kilns.

Today, the remains of Flamborough Castle can be observed from the public footpath in Tower Street in the village during reasonable hours.

Flamborough Castle
Flamborough Castle

Ayton Castle, North Yorkshire…

Ayton Castle in the village of West Ayton near Scarborough in North Yorkshire is a towerhouse that was began by Sir Ralph Eure, who had married into the de Anton family through his second wife.

The castle was began in the late 14th Century and was constructed on the site of an earlier manorial centre. Sir Ralph Eure came from Northumberland where pele towers (towerhouses) were a common form of fortification where they were used to protect their inhabitants against Scottish incursions. It has been suggested that construction of the castle was more as a form of status symbol rather than a defensive structure.

The present castle is constructed from sandstone and originally had three floors. There are earthwork remains from the earlier buildings on the site, these are thought to have constituted a range of buildings that included a hall and that were surrounded with a curtain wall with a gatehouse. There are also earthwork remains of fishponds on the site of the castle from this earlier complex.

Recent work has been undertaken to stabilise the structure of Ayton Castle. Today, Ayton Castle is on land owned by Scarborough Borough Council and can be viewed from a public footpath that runs besides it during reasonable daylight hours.

Ayton Castle
Ayton Castle
Ayton Castle
Ayton Castle
Ayton Castle
Ayton Castle

Pickering Castle, North Yorkshire…

Pickering Castle in the town of Pickering is a royal castle that was began soon after the Norman conquest on the orders of William the Conqueror (William I). The castle was built between 1069-1070 during William’s campaign to control the north of England and was used for this purpose and to defend against a potential Danish or Scottish invasion. It was sited on an important route along the north side of the valley.

The castle was originally constructed out of wood, as was the case with many castles and was of a motte and bailey design and would have consisted of a large earthen mound upon which a large timber tower would have been erected. This would have been surrounded by a timber palisade and ditch. Below this would have been the bailey, this too would havee been surrounded by another wooden palisade and ditch.

As time went on, the castle was reconstructed in stone. The first building at Pickering Castle to be built in stone is thought to have been the old hall, this occurred early in the 12th Century. Sums of money are recorded in the Pipe Rolls (the royal accounts) as being spent on the castle in order to improve and repair it over the course of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Substantial works during this period are recorded during the reigns of kings. Henry II, John and Henry III. For instance, during the reign of Henry II it is thought the curtain of the inner ward was erected, a bridge to the inner ward, possibly the shell keep on the motte and and the Coleman Tower.

The most extensive period of reconstruction at the castle was during Henry III’s early reign. A chapel was built and the outer shell of the keep was replaced. The outer defences of the castle would continue to be constituted of wood until the early 14th Century. These defences were maintained by local labour who were required to look after five metres of herisson (wooden stakes arranged in the ground so as to form a barrier to prevent an attack). In 1251 four oaks are recorded as being cut down to be used in the castle, in 1256, forty were cut down. This would was used for these outer defences and in other parts of the castle.

For the first two hundred years of the castle’s life its ownership passed between the kings of England until in 1276 Henry III’s youngest son Edmund Crouchbank was granted the castle when he was created Earl of Lancaster. After Edmund’s death in 1296, the castle was said to be in a poor condition at this time.

His son, Thomas inherited the castle and all of Edmund’s estates. He also gained further estates through his marriage to Alice de Lacey. Thomas would go on to lead a rebellion against the king in 1321 that would ultimately fail. Thomas also hadn’t supported the king’s invasion of Scotland. This led to his execution in 1322. Though under his control the castle was improved, with large amounts of wood being cut for the repairs.

After Thomas’s execution, the castle passed back into the control of the crown. In 1322, the king launched another unsuccessful invasion of Scotland. The Scots then in retaliation launched a counter invasion, this was led by Robert the Bruce. The Scots occupied nearby Malton. In order for Pickering to avoid the same fate of Malton, the town promised to pay the Scots some money not to occupy it and also gave three hostages as a guarantee. The Scots would later withdraw.

Over the next six or so years, extensive building works are recorded as having taken place. In 1326 when the king fell from power, the castle at Pickering was returned to the control of the brother of Earl Thomas, Henry. The castle would then pass to Henry’s son, also called Henry on his death.

In 1361, the castle would pass into the ownership of John of Gaunt. John had married one of Henry’s daughters and so gained control of Pickering Castle. After John’s death, the castle would pass to his son, Henry, who would later become king, reigning as Henry IV. Henry would later give the Duchy of Lancaster, which included Pickering Castle at the time to his son, also called Henry.

Over the course of the next centuries, the condition of Pickering Castle slowly declined, though sums are recorded as having being spent on some minor works during this time.

In the 16th Century, there were several reports on the condition of the castle. These showed that parts of the castle were in a good state of repair, whilst others were in poor condition. The condition of the castle hadn’t been helped by stone and other materials from the castle being quarried for the use in constructing a new mansion locally.

Over the next centuries, the castle decayed further until the castle came into ownership of the Office of Works in the early 20th Century.

Today Pickering Castle is managed by English Heritage and open to the public daily.

Pickering Castle Motte
Pickering Castle Motte
Pickering Castle Shell Keep
Pickering Castle Shell Keep
Pickering Castle Mill Tower
Pickering Castle Mill Tower
Pickering Castle Diate Tower
Pickering Castle Diate Tower
Pickering Castle Chapel
Pickering Castle Chapel
Pickering Castle Outer Ward
Pickering Castle Outer Ward
Pickering Castle Gatehouse
Pickering Castle Gatehouse