My June 29, 2006 entry on North Yorkshire left out details on certain castles or manors because I had to hand select those I felt offered a more beautiful esthetic or uniqueness of architecture or placement. I didn’t cover all of the sites, either, out of the fact that it would not only make for the longest entry in the history of blog entries but I felt hesitant to cover it in full because I believe there are constraints on how much any person would want to take in on a single English county. As I said before, North Yorkshire is not only the largest county in England, Yorkshire- as a whole- has more castles and castellated manors than any county and that includes Northumberland. The following list mentions those edifices I will leave you to self-discover if you are so inclined.
First there is Sutton Park which is 8 miles north of York , Scampston Hall is 5 miles east of Malton and the delightful Georgian Brockfield Hall in Warthill which is east of York. Not far from there, Hovingham Hall’s Palladian beauty is equal with Nunnington Hall’s 17th century splendor in Ryedale, which is close to Helmsley Castle . The list continues with Percevall Hall , Norton Conyers (fabulous house and history) , Shandy Hall, Skipsea Castle, Cottingham, Driffield and Sheriff Hutton (near York). Please take the information and run with it !
I do want to go over some marvelous castles of which I have unearthed new information and in some cases- photos I have recently put in the now teeming North Yorkshire album. I’ve also added to the South/East and West Yorkshire albums !
In West Yorkshire I want to write a bit about Sandal Castle which is not far from Pontefract ( of which I’ve addedan actual photo of the ruins of both ) and on the humberside (east) Wressle Castle of which there seemed to be very few photographs. I have added one to the South/East album below.
If you look at the North Yorkshire album you’ll see I’ve added several photos of both Danby and Snape Castles of which both are associated with Catherine Parr and quite a bit of history besides that- along with the added luxury that Snape is a genuine Castle Hotel which is relatively affordable to rent. You’ll also see that I’ve added a photo of Clifford’s Tower which I wrote about in my aforementioned entry and I have a few additional notes on that.
What is left of Sandal Castle stands over a strategic position over the River Calder just west of Pontefract and is connected with the Battle of Wakefield, fought close by in 1460 during the War of the Roses. On December 30th of that year, in a blinding snowstorm, the course of English history changed dramatically when the entire House Of York came out against the Lancastrian Henry VI. The defeat of the Yorks, executed primarily by Lord Clifford that day was nearly complete. After that, during the Civil War it was besieged twice by Parliamentary forces and was stripped of many of its defenses, immediately and over time. Remains of the 13th century stone castle plus the motte and bailey are well visible. Visitors to it can go up to the top of the motte where you’ll see splendid views of the Calder Valley. As you peruse the expanded West Yorkshire album you’ll be able to see views of Sandal that are not easily seen by an on site visitor, except from the Visitor Centre.
In East Yorkshire Wressle Castle, four miles from Howden, sits close to the Derwent River. This was a privately owned “courtyard” castle, constructed in 1380-90 for Sir Henry Percy, moated on three sides, with the exception of the entrance moat which was dry. Made of beautiful brick-like square stones which may have been imported from France, it had five towers, of equal size, with a gatehouse five storeys tall, had a great hall, large chambers and a chapel.
This castle was built by the Earl of Worchester and it eventually was passed into the hands of the Earl of Northumberland by association rather than inheritance. A fire in 1796 left Wressle an empty shell with two great towers and the interior was left without floors or roofs. It was also heavily slighted in 1648 during the Civil War by Parliament. Despite all that, it was still occupied up until 1796.
What remains is the medieval moat, mostly as an earthwork relic, and sparse remains of the castle. At some time early in the 18th century one of the moats was landscaped as a formal garden moat and evidence of this still remains. The last owners were the Wyndhams at the time of the fire which left the castle a complete ruin.
In North Yorkshire, Danby and Snape Castles are definitely worth a look and – in Snape Castle’s case- to stay in with its current status. Catherine Parr is associated with both of these castles, one of which is in splendid ruins and Snape which is fully restored and habitable. Snape Castle is a rebuild carried out in the early 15th century but the true beginning of it was as a medieval manor house built around 1250 by Ralph FitzRanulph of Middlehan. Ralph’s eldest daughter married Robert de Neville of Raby and so Snape remained Neville property until late in the 16th century.
In 1532, the 3rd Lord Latimer (John Neville 1493-1542) married Catherine who became his third wife and who resided at Snape for a number of years. Neville, who died six years after the Catholic revolt against Henry VIII’s suppression left behind prime properties. By 1543 Henry VIII had managed to marry Catherine Parr- and the rest is history! !
It was through marriage again that Snape finally fell into hands that could transform the Hall into an Elizabethan work of art. Thomas Cecil, who married John Neville’s daughter Dorothy is the man who crenellated and Gothicized the exterior to its current look. Most of the work was done in the late 16th and early 17th century. It’s current state is due largely in part by the Milbank family who did extensive work in the early part of the 19th century. By the 1920s Snape Castle became, in part , the Thorp Perrow estate (remember when I covered Thorp Perrow?) The Ropner family bought it outright in 1927 and it is now owned by Sir John Ropner. Its corner towers are beautifully made and contributes much to the look of this marvel of architecture !
Eight miles southeast of Guisborough, Danby Castle and an ancient church nearby sit over the Esk Valley in the old wapentake of Langbargh. It was once an extensive fortress but what remains of the building makes it impossible to know its former strength and grandeur.
At the end of the 14th century the state of Danby passed to the Neville family. They remodeled the south range, where their coat of arms can be seen on the south wall of the courtroom. This estate was the official marital home of Lord Latimer and Catherine Parr.
When I wrote about Pickering Castle I officially said that it was a “well-preserved motte and bailey castle with much of the 1119 rebuilt wall, towers and keep intact.” In fact, it was built soon after the Norman Conquest, during the northern campaign. It is actually a motte surrounded by a ditch with two baileys encompassing it. (See the photo and diagram in the North Yorkshire album.) Those two baileys were configured in two curved halves. It was reconstructed in stone between 1180 and 1236 and eventually a stone curtain was added along with a circular shell keep on top of the motte circa 1218-36 the works of which were replaced in the 13th century. The buildings raised within this massive estate were a chapel around the year 1227 along with a constable’s outbuilding and a new hall in 1314.
When you visit the site you will see the results of the Magna Carta War (1215-16). Although the ruins are substantial, getting a feeling for its former magnificence will take some imagination. Edward the II loved this castle and lavished 1,000 pounds on it in 1323-6 which would have been considered excessive spending on a castle! He was responsible for replacing the timber palisade outside the inner bailey in stone. This outer defense had three towers and one served as a prison. By the 17th century the chapel was the only building still in use and today it is an exhibition space. Even though Pickering is in substantial ruins they are impressive to see. I have one good photo of its present state in the photo album for North Yorkshire.
Clifford’s Tower, which I mentioned at the end of my entry in 2006, is an 11th century lookout built high up on a motte, outside the town of York and was rebuilt several times. It is now basically a ruined but well restored tower above the River Fosse. Henry of Reims, King Henry III s master mason at Westminster, (perhaps his greatest craftsman ) designed and built this tower on a new quatrefoil plan derived from French models.
Near Swainbury, Whorlton Castle started as an earthwork enclosure which was redone in stone by Edward II and this was a Royalist stronghold during the Civil War. The remains of a 14th century gatehouse are interesting to see.
Thirsk Castle is what I would refer to as a destroyed castle. Seventy-six years after its creation in 1100, it was pulled down completely by Henry II in retaliation of the revolt of his son, Prince Henry, whom the Mowbrays (the castle’s owners) supported. The King saw to it that castles such as Thirsk were totally pulled down and their stone or brick quarried away thoroughly. Others like this castle were Allington, Northallerton, Benington, Saltwood, Weston Turville, Dunham Massey, Kirby Malzeard and Groby, of course. The Mowbray’s also lost Burton-in-Lonsdale in 1322 when Edward the II confiscated it and tore it down to the ground. If a castle owner wasn’t absolutely loyal to the crown they were considered enemies of order.
Near Lythe, the polygonal curtain walls of Mulgrave Castle were endowed with some great features although it is in ruins from the Civil War. It was built sometime in the early 13th century, still has a gateway, two drum towers which encircled a great tower along with angled turrets and a forebuilding. The great tower dates from 1300 and mullioned windows were placed in the 16th century.
Although I mentioned Knaresborough in my 2006 entry I really didn’t say much about this castle, which is on a par with the largest Loyalist castles in England. It operated in conjunction with York, Scarborough, Richmond and Pontefract. These North Yorkshire castles formed a stranglehold alliance in a large area of wild countryside.
It stands high on a large rock which overlooks the town and the Nidd Valley.
Even though King John was lavish in the expenditures for its upkeep, the extensive building was done under the Kings Edward II and III circa 1307-1350 and the remains are chiefly from this period. Queen Philippa received Knaresborough as her marital settlement and she turned the castle into a splendid residence. As with many, the damage to the structure was done during the Civil War. The great tower was saved at the request of the local residents and was used as a prison.
A prodigious restoration of a neglected tower was made by the Landmark Trust some years back. Culloden Tower was built by John Yorke in 1746, very close to Richmond Castle. It established Hanoverian rule at the time and it sits in parkland on a steep slope above the River Swale, near where Yorke’s home was built. (That was demolished long ago.) This octagonal and spacious tower was rebuilt in Gothic and Classical styles and is beautiful inside and out. It is a great place to stay while you gallivant the countryside of Yorkshire visiting castles.
Only hugs and kisses from
The Castle Lady !
My next comprehensive entry on castles will center on fantastic Northumberland and the smaller sister county of Tyne and Wear and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After that we’re heading much further south! I promise to put up an entry on castle nomenclature and some explanations about castles that might be confusing you in the near future. I’ll make it a New Year’s Resolution. Have a prosperous New Year ahead !