The Northern Properties

Sheriff Hutton Castle - Acquired 29 June 1471

The castle was built by Bertram de Bulmer, Sheriff of York during the reign of King Stephen.   The castle passed to the Neville family, and in 1377, John Neville, obtained a charter for a market on Monday and an annual fair on the eve of the exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14).  In 1382, John, Lord Neville, secured a license to crenellate the castle.  The castle was passed to John's son, Ralph Neville, the first Earl of Westmoreland.  Upon Ralph's death in 1425, the Neville estates were partitioned.  The younger Ralph retained the title and the Durham estates and Richard Neville inherited the Yorkshire estates.  Sheriff Hutton became the property of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.

Upon the death of Richard Neville ("the Kingmaker") at the Battle of Barnet, his lands were given to Richard, Duke of Gloucester.  Richard often stayed at the castle during his tenure as Lord of the North.  Its close proximity to York made it convenient to Richard.

By the middle of October 1480, Richard was at Sheriff Hutton where he received news from the Earl of Northumberland that the Scots might attempt retaliation for the raiding party that Richard led across the borders.  Northumberland wrote to the magistrates of York ordering them to prepare an armed force.   The men of York send an Alderman to Richard at Sheriff Hutton seeking his advice.

In 1484, Richard established a royal household for Edward, Earl of Warwick, George of Clarence's son, and John, Earl of Lincoln.   In July of 1484, Richard established the Council of the North.  Its chief headquarters was at Sheriff Hutton and Sandal Castle.  In 1485, while awaiting the invasion of Henry Tudor at Nottingham, Richard sent his niece, Elizabeth of York to the castle along with one or two of her sisters, the Earls of Warwick, Lincoln, Lord Morley and John of Gloucester.  The castle, along with Sandal Castle, became the headquarters of the Council of the North.   The Council lasted for a century and a half.  The castle became the property of Henry VII and stayed in the hands of the crown until they were granted to Charles, Princes of Wales, later known as Charles I.  Today the castle is owned by Dr. Richard Haworth.

Penrith Castle - Acquired 29 June 1471

The beginnings of Penrith Castle began in 1399.  William Strickland, later Bishop of Carlisle and Archbishop of Canterbury was granted a license in 1397 to crenellate the castle.  A stone wall was added to an earlier pele tower as a defense against the Scottish raids.  In 1419, Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmoreland inherited Penrith  Over the next 70 years, additions and improvements were made to the castle.  A walled quadrangular castle was built but without the customary angle towers.  Strickland's Tower, the original tower house, flanked the castle's entrance on the northeast front.  Ralph Neville added the Red Tower and a new gatehouse on the northeast.

In July of 1471, the castle came into the possession of Richard, Duke of Gloucester as part of the Warwick inheritance.  Richard added the banquet hall along with other additions.  By 1672, the castle was in ruins.  Orders were given to repair the castle but during the Civil War, it suffered heavy damage.  Today, the castle is in the hands of English Heritage with the remaining areas of the walls and foundation intact.

Pontefract Castle - Acquired 4 July 1471

Pontefract Castle formed the Honour of Pontefract, a large estate granted to Ilbert de Lacy in 1086. Originally as a motte and bailey castle built on a natural rock mound, it acquired two more baileys. All three baileys included buildings and walls, originally of timber but later made into stone.

The de Lacys lived at the castle for two centuries. Upon the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311, the Honour came to Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster. Under Thomas, major building began. These buildings included a variety of flanking towers, a gatehouse with two polygonal turrets, a barbican and a great tower situated on the mound.

The work that Thomas of Lancaster began was finished by John of Gaunt, between the years of 1374-78. The Swillington Tower, named after his steward, can be seen today beside the road under the castle hill.

Richard II lived here after his overthrow in 1399 and died around 1402. As a Duchy of Lancaster stronghold, Pontefract belonged to the Crown, and was considered the principal castle in northern England. It was Richard, Duke of Gloucesterís official residence as Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster (April, 1471). Earl Rivers, Lord Richard Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughn were executed here in 1483.

The castle suffered three sieges during the Civil War. In 1644, a Royalist force broke the first siege. In 1648, the castle was again Royalist and it took another six months to subdue it. The castle surrendered after Charles Iís execution. It was demolished with the consent of Parliament in 1649.

Today there is very little to be seen of the castle. There are a few cluster of stubs of towers only a few feet tall. It was said to have been of quatrefoil, or trefoil, or even of sixfoil plan. In 1989 a document dating 1643 was found in the Scottish Record Office listing the castleís apartments. In the document the great tower is described as being three-storied, with five rooms on each story. It also said that there was a small courtyard inside the tower, which suggests that the five rooms were set in a ring around an open center area at each level.

Sandal Castle  

Sandal began as a motte castle of the 12th century, consisting of a motte about 45 ft high with its own ditch opposite a horseshoe-shaped bailey. After 1200, the castle was converted to stone, with the building continuing to about 1280. Sandal was first held by the Warennes, earls of Surrey. With the death of the 3rd earl in 1150, the property passed to his daughter. She married (her second husband) Hamelin Plantagenet, natural half brother of Henry II, who became the earl in right of his wife. Hamelin was the builder of Conisborough Castle around 1180-90 and it was Hamelin who probably began the stone conversion at Sandal.

The stone conversion began early in the 13th century, with the erection of the structure on the motte. This was a cylindrical tower about 30 ft in diameter. To the northeast of the half-cylinder, a wall projects towards the outer stonework on the motte. This later tower appears to have been a great tower, which had segmented chambers around its inside walls, and two clasping semi-cylindrical towers on its north and northwest sides. The remains of the lower level of a polygonal tower added in 1484-5 to the northwest corner of the great tower on the motte. This had been built by Richard III on the site of a smaller semi-cylindrical tower that also contained a well.

Both the entrance and exit were at the northeast, through a guarded chamber out across a bridge, and also at the northwest, through a passage out across a bridge over the motte ditch to the great towerís gatehouse block. The gatehouse block consisted of a pair of wing walls running parallel and close down the motte slope out of the southeast of the great tower, and into a twin-cylindrical towered gateway flanking the end of the passage between the walls. A drawbridge provided access between the gatehouse and the barbican.  

There were other stone buildings of importance within Sandal, which was enclosed by a curtain wall whose ends went into the great tower more than half way up the motte. The remains of these buildings show that there was a semi-circular range of structures including a kitchen, larder, pantry, great hall, and bailey gatehouse. The curtain wall seems to have had some flanking towers, which were probably square.

From 1353, Sandal was held by Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, 5th son of York, and his successors. Sandal was one of the chief residences of Richard, Duke of York.  In December, 1460, the Duke and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in a skirmish against Lancastrians near Wakefield.  The castle passed to the Dukeís eldest son Edward, who had become Edward IV after the Battle of Towton a few weeks later.  Sandal was also one of the two headquarters of the Council of the North, beginning in 1484.  Richard III spent some time here; in 1484 he authorized the building of a new tower, bakehouse and brewhouse. There is also a statue of the Duke of York erected on the battle site which is now Manygates Middle School in Sandal, just south of Wakefield, in Manygates Lane.

The Crown held Sandal until 1566. In 1558 it was transferred to the Duchy of Lancaster. Eight years later Elizabeth I granted it to several private owners, who could not afford to maintain it. By 1592, the castle was a ruin.  In 1642, Sandal was garrisoned by Royalists who then built a stable block on the ruins of Richard IIIís bakehouse. Outwork defenses were raised beyond the curtain wall. In 1645 it was besieged twice and suffered major damage caused by cannon fire. The castle was then abandoned. The site gradually became more derelict, covered over except for one or two standing wall fragments in the semi-circular range located at the south. Some excavation work was done in the 1890s, at which time a plan was drawn.  The site has been landscaped as a park around the castle precincts. The park and the castle are open to visitors. A model of the castle can be seen at the Wakefield Museum.

For more work on Sandal Castle, see

Scarborough Castle - Acquired September, 1474

Scarborough Castle was begun in the 1130s by Count William of Aumale.  The curtain wall, with the steep, natural slopes of the cliffs, formed a roughly triangular site.  In the 1150's, Henry II seized Scarborough and made improvements on the fortifications.  He raised the great tower on Aumale's first work.  It was 55 ft. square and was over 100 ft. tall, with pilaster buttresses, except on the south face, walls between 11-12 ft. thick, and 15 ft. thick on the west side.  The tower stood on a battered plinth.  It had a forebuilding on the south side, which was about 14 ft. tall, 30 ft. long, and 20 ft. wide, over a stone staircase, some of whose steps can be seen today.   The tower was built of rough stone and mortar, and was faced with fine ashlar.   The windows were rounded at the top, long and slender and were sometimes in pairs.  Lower down the wall the windows were wider.

A narrow causeway on the west side connects the castle headland to the town.  The barbican faces the town, is triangular in shape and has an entrance and exit in a large twin-cylindrical turreted gateway.  The barbican was added by Edward III as a precaution against French raids during the Hundred Years War.

In September of 1474, Richard III was granted the castle and lordship of Scarborough.  In June of 1484, Richard and his wife, Anne Neville, were at the castle.  He supervised the outfitting of his ships, and he returned in July, to take charge of their rearming and revictualing.

Throughout its history, Scarborough was the site of many sieges.  The first in 1312 when Piers Gaveston took refuge.  The rebels did not take the castle but Gaveston surrendered when his supplies ran out.  He was later executed at Warwick.   In 1318, the Scots sacked the town but not the castle.  During the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536, there was an abortive attempt to seize Scarborough.  In 1557, a group of rebels took Scarborough to protest to Queen Mary's Spanish marriage.  During the Civil War, there were two more sieges, one in 1645 and the second in 1648.  The castle endured more bombardment in 1914, when Scarborough was shelled by the German fleet.

Middleham Castle - Acquired 1471

Situated on the southern slope of Yoredale (Wensleydale) lies the formidable remains of Middleham Castle.

In 1069, Alan the Red, one of William the Conqueror's chief supporters was granted the land by Gilpatric. The first site, called William's Hill, sits 250 yards behind the current location of the castle. The entry of Middleham in the Domesday Book refers to the castle as "Medelai", a French corruption of the name meaning the center of a group of hamlets. In or around 1083, Ribald, Alan's brother was granted the castle. After the death of his wife Beatrix, Ribald granted the property to his son, Ralph. Ralph's son, Robert Fitzranulph began building the castle keep in or around 1170-80.

In 1270, Robert de Nevill received Middleham through his wife, Mary, daughter and heiress of Ralph Fitzranulph. Their son, Robert Neville, was killed in a border struggle and his brother, Ralph, inherited Middleham. After his death in 1367, his son John inherited Middleham. John's son Ralph, inherited Middleham after his death in 1388.

After Ralph's death, the lands of Raby and Middleham were divided to his two sons. Richard, Earl of Salisbury inherited Middleham in 1440 after the death of his mother, Joan Beaufort. Richard Neville, known as the "Kingmaker" inherited Middleham. After the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471, Richard, Duke of Gloucester received the lordship of Middleham along with many other properties.

After his marriage to the Lady Anne Neville in 1472, the couple returned to Middleham and established their household. In 1473, Anne gave birth to a son, Edward. Richard spent the next twelve years of his life governing the north for his brother. He encouraged trade in Middleham and secured a license from Edward IV so the village could hold two fairs a year. He earned a reputation for fairness and incorruptibility. He listened to the common manís grievances and performed many acts of kindness. One of his greatest achievements was the Scottish Border campaign where he led his retainers into Scotland on behalf of Edward IV.

After his death, Henry VII seized Middleham where it remained under the crown until 1604. Under James I, Middleham was given to Sir Henry Linley. In 1613, it passed hands to Edward, Viscount Loftus. In 1662, it was sold to Edward Wood. Samuel Cuniffe-Lister, the first Lord Masham made some repairs but in 1906, the second Lord Masham sought to repair and employed Walter Brierley of York. In 1925, the castle was placed in the Office of Works until today, where it is under the care of English Heritage.

In 1994, The Richard III Foundation, Inc., donated a replica of King Richard III's banner to the castle where it is showcased on important events in the castle.  In 1997, the Foundation donated a chalice to the church that is used on the important Ricardian dates for King Richard III, his queen, Anne Neville and their son, Edward, Prince of Wales.  In prior years, the Middleham Restoration Endowment, Inc., a division of the Foundation, raised funds for the fabric of the castle that was used to repair the lintels on the north wall and other preservation work done on the south wall. 

Barnard Castle - Acquired 1475

Barnard occupies a commanding position overlooking the River Tees.   Beginning as a small fortified enclosure in the late Eleventh/Twelfth Centuries, it developed into a 6-1/2 acre oblong structure during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.  It was divided into four baileys or wards; the inner ward inside the small stone walled enclosure, the middle ward to the south, the town ward to the east, and the outer wart which is about equal to the other three together and most of which is bounded by sheer cliff.

The most interesting feature of the castle is it cylindrical great tower, which is located at the northwest of the inner ward astride the curtain wall.  Known as the Round Tower and built of sandstone blocks which are in contrast to the rougher masonry of the curtain wall, it is around 36 ft. across and 40 ft. tall, with a battered plinth, though it was taller in its heyday.  There are indications that the tower, of early Thirteenth Century construction, was raised on the ruins of an even earlier building.   The Round Tower is unusual in that it has a forebuilding.  To the southwest of the Tower, projects a narrow range of rooms that are the remains of a one story Thirteenth Century Great Hall.

 Barnard was besieged by Alexander II of Scotland in 1216.  It was still in the possession of the Bailoils, although the castle's ownership was being contested by the Bishops of Durham.   A descendant to the Bailiols was John, who became Scotland's King in 1292.  When John was deposed in 1296, the castle passed to the Bishop of Durham.  Around 1300, it was granted to Edward I to the Earl of Warwick.  In 1475, Barnard, became the property of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, through his wife, Anne Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.  A white boar, Richard III's emblem, is carved on a window soffit in the west wall of the inner bailey.

Richmond Castle -  Acquired 5 March 1478

Begun by Alan the Red in 1071, the castle was the center of the great estate known as the Earldom of Richmond.   The castle and title passed, through Alan's nephew, to the Dukes of Brittany, who held hem for the next three centuries.  The dukes frequently lost and regained Richmond owing to their changing allegiances between the Kings of France and England.  The connection ended with the Hundred Years War.

Fifteenth Century owners included the Nevilles, Duke of Bedford, Edmund Tudor (father of Henry VII), George, Duke of Clarence until his death in 1478, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III.

The castle was originally built in stone, which was unusual because few castles were constructed of stone before the Twelfth Century.  The original castle did not contain a keep but had a towered curtain and a gatehouse.   Richmond's triangular hilltop was originally walled on two sides, the cliff above the river was considered more than adequate protection on the third.  The western approach was quite steep so this part of the curtain did not contain a tower except for a narrow turret overlooking the river.  One the east front, three square murals were provided, with a gatehouse occupying the northern part of the bailey.

The present keep occupies the site of the original gatehouse.  Only the inner gate arch survives.  The upper floor were reached by a doorway at the first floor level.  Each floor was linked by a straight staircase.  The keep stands 100 ft. high to an embattled parapet and angle turrets.  This is the only part of the castle that remains intact and has a roof.   A new entrance gateway was cut through the curtain wall next to the keep, with additional protection being provided by a barbican, part of which can be seen today.

The east curtain houses Robin Hood's Tower, which has a vaulted chapel at ground level.  There was a second tower that collapsed.   Beyond the tower, there is a gateway, leading into the outer bailey, surrounded by a later Norman curtain.  Gold Hold Tower, is the third and last of Alan the Red's mural towers.  It is attached to Scolland's Hall, believed to be the oldest hall in England.  The hall is still intact, though roofless.  Below the hall is an undercroft, one end containing a postern that leads to the outer bailey. 


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