Scarborough Castle, North Yorkshire…

Scarborough Castle in the seaside town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire sits on a headland that overlooks both the South Bay and North Bay of the town. It has a position in the town that gives it unparalleled views that demonstrate its strategic importance.

The occupation of the site the castle sits on dates back to the Iron Age having been the site of a hill fort. It was later the site of a Roman signal station in around 370AD, the foundations of which can be seen to this day. The signal station encompassed a square tower which sat in a courtyard that was square protected by a curtain wall. This enclosure was surrounded by a ditch. There were several of these stations built along the coast of Yorkshire in order to protect the country from Anglo-Saxon raids. They were abandoned in 410AD when the Romans withdrew from Britain.

The next occupation of the castle site would be during, possibly, the Anglo-Saxon period. During this time it is thought a settlement was built. Though the next definite period of occupation is during the Viking period from where the founding of the modern town traces its history. In 966/967 AD two Viking brothers called Thorgils and Kormak lead a raid on Ireland, Wales and England. It was during this raid that Thorgils and Kormak founded what would become the modern town of Scarborough. It is thought the town’s name is derived from Thorgils nickname of ‘Hair Lip’ or ‘Skarthi’ in Viking and the Viking word ‘borg’ which means ‘stronghold’. So stronghold of Thorgils. The history of Scarborough and the Vikings is a mixed one, with Harold Hardrada going on to raid the town in the months prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

It should be noted at this point, it has also been suggested in recent years that the roots of modern day Scarborough actually traces its history back to the Anglo-Saxon period.

Scarborough Castle itself was founded in about 1130 by William le Gros, Count of Aumale. William was created Earl of York by King Stephen in 1138. He then set about establishing his control of the region. The first castle was constructed out of wood, as were many castles of the period. William is recorded as enclosing the headland that the castle occupies with a wall and erecting a great tower where the remains of the keep stands today.

In 1154, King Henry II aceeded to the throne. He set about regaining control of all royal castles. Scarborough Castle was built in a royal manor and thus fell into such a category. He took control control of the castle and on his orders in 1159 the reconstruction of the castle in stone began and took about 10 years.

A new town was established beneath the castle. A sum of £650 is recorded as being spent on the castle, this was mostly spent on the construction of the keep. It has been suggested the keep or `great tower` was constructed as a status symbol. No major works next occurred at the castle until the reign of King John. It is known that King John visited the castle and during his reign he spent quite a large sum improving its fortifications as he saw it as a key strategic stronghold in the north. Construction during John’s reign included a new curtain wall and a new hall. An inner bailey was created at this time,  In total, John spent over £2,000 on the castle. More money was spent on Scarborough Castle during John’s reign than any other castle.

After John’s death in 1216, his son Henry III continued to invest in the castle. Henry added a barbican between 1242-1250. The barbican was completed in 1343. The barbican that can be seen at the castle has been much modified since then. Henry never visited the castle and it seems to entered a period of decline toward the end of his reign (1216-1272).

It is recorded that the governors of the castle during this period often acted with imputiny, imposing tolls, seizing goods and generally causing issues for the local population.

In 1265, the castle was put under the stewardship of Prince Edward who would go on to become Edward I. Edward’s reign lasted from 1272 to 1307, during this time he held court at Scarborough Castle on several occasions. Hostages from his campaigns in both Wales and Scotland were imprisoned at the castle..

In 1308, Henry Percy, Baron Percy was occupying the castle. During his tenure at the castle a new brewhouse, bakehouse and and kitchen in the inner bailey were added. Edward II (1307-1327), made Isabella de Vesci the governor of both Bamburgh and Scarborough castles in 1312. During that year, Piers Gaveston the king’s favourite sought sanctuary at the castle when pursued by the Barons who imposed the ordinances of 1311, which sought to restrict the powers of the king (Edward II). The Barons saw Gaveston as the king’s favourite as a threat to their interests. In 1312, he was made governor of the castle by the king. Though his time in the role of governor was short, he was seized at the castle following a short seige. He would later be executed. King Edward responded by revoking the royal status of the town in return for not supporting Gaveston.

The next significant period in the castle’s history was during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453).  Scarborough was raided on several occasions, with John Mercer of Scotland leading a raid in 1378. In 1393, with the threat of French invasion growing, a survey was undertaken of the castle’s defences. Henry VI ordered major repairs between 1424 and 1429.

Richard III (1483-1485) was the last monarch to stay at Scarborough Castle in 1484. He was there to prepare a fleet in order to repel a possible invasion by Henry Tudor, later Henry VII. Richard would die the following year.

The next major conflicts at Scarborough occur in the early 16th Century, when both French and Scottish forces attacked the castle. In 1536, a revolt broke out against Henry VIII’s (reigned 1509-1547) religious reforms. The revolt was known as the Pilgrimage of Grace. Robert Aske the leader of the rebellion lead an assault in the castle which was unsuccessful. Renovation work was undertaken at the castle in 1537. The governor at the castle was Sir Ralph Eure. He reported that some of its walls had fallen down at this time.

In 1557, the castle was attacked by forces lead by forces loyal to Thomas Wyatt the Younger who lead a rebellion against Mary I. Thomas Stafford lead the attack on the castle, his forces held the castle for three days. Stafford would later be executed for treason.

The next period of major events to effect the castle was during the English Civil War. When the war broke out in 1642, the castle was held by Parliamentary forces under the leadership of Sir Hugh Cholmley. Sir Hugh and his forces would latterly switch sides to the Royalist cause. The fortifications of the castle were enhanced, with a new new gun battery being added.

With Scarborough Castle and the town in the hands of the royalists, Parliament saw Scarborough as a valuable asset that wasn’t under their control.

In 1645, Parliamentary forces attacked the town of Scarborough. It took them three weeks to capture it. Sir Hugh and his forces retreated to the castle where they held out for five months.

The castle came under heavy and sustained bombardment. The bombardment was so intense that half of the keep collapsed as can be evidenced today. The seige was one of the most bloody of the civil war, there was large amounts of hand-to-hand fighting. The leader of the attacking Parliamentary forces, Sir John Meldrum, was killed in heavy fighting near the castle barbican.

On 25th July 1645, with the conditions in the castle having become dire with scurvy being rife, lack of supplies and able men, the castle garrison surrendered. After the seige, the castle was refortified by Parliament. In 1648, the castle garrison under the leadership of Matthew Beyton declared their support for the king as Parliament had failed to pay them. The castle then suffered a second seige during which Parliament regained control of the castle. In total, the castle changed hands seven times during the war. The castle would later be used as a prison during and after the Commonwealth years. The castle was returned to the control of the crown when the monarchy was restored.

One of the most famous people to be imprisoned at the castle was George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). He was held at the castle from April 1665 to September 1666. During the Glorious Revolution that ousted James II (1685-1688) from the throne, the castle was captured by forces loyal to William of Orange. The castle had been in decline prior to its capture and hadn’t been garrisoned.

In 1745, during the Jacobite Rebellion which aimed to restore the Catholic Stuart dynasty to the throne, the castle was refortified. A barracks building was constructed in the walls of King John’s Chamber and new gun batteries added by 1745. In 1748, the Master Gunner’s House was constructed.

During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), the castle was garrisoned and but saw no action. This garrison remained in place until the middle of the 19th Century.

During the First World War,  on the morning of 16 December 1914, two German warships bombarded the town and castle. The two German ships was also go on to attack Whitby and Hartlepool. During the bombardment, seventeen people were killed with 80 seriously wounded. The castle itself sustained heavy damage with the barracks, keep and curtain wall being badly affected.

The castle became the responsibility of the state in 1920 when the barrack block which had been damaged during the bombardment was demolished.

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

Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle Keep
Scarborough Castle Keep
Scarborough Castle Keep and Curtain Wall
Scarborough Castle Keep and Curtain Wall
Scarborough Castle Barbican
Scarborough Castle Barbican
Scarborough Castle, Roman Signal Station
Scarborough Castle, Roman Signal Station
Arches, Scarborough Castle Keep
Arches, Scarborough Castle Keep
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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