C is for Castles. We visited dozens of castles during our 15th century tour, too many to show here, so I’ll just give you a taster of some of the castles in Yorkshire (apart from my favourite one which will have its own separate post later in the month!).
Skipton is a market town in North Yorkshire, with a well preserved castle and a historic church. The castle was owned by the Clifford family from the 14th to 17th centuries. The Cliffords supported the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses. According to the volunteer guide we chatted to during our visit, some people are confused by a ‘Lancastrian’ castle in Yorkshire. The war, however, was not between the geographical counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, but between the noble families of York and Lancaster, therefore it’s quite possible to have Lancastrian supporters in Yorkshire (and vice versa).
John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford, was known as ‘Butcher Clifford’ because of his slaughter of the Yorkists at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. He’s also said to have murdered Edmund, eldest son of the Duke of York, in cold blood on Wakefield Bridge.
The castle was founded in the 11th century but was strengthed with massive fortifications in the 14th century. It is one of the best preserved medieval castle in England.
The huge gateway shows the Clifford motto ‘Desormais’ (meaning ‘henceforth’) cut in stone, and also the Clifford coat of arms.
Spofforth CastleWe found this castle quite by chance on our of our trips to Yorkshire, and were glad we took a detour of a few miles from our intended route. The castle belonged to the Percy family and dates from the 13th century. Its importance declined after Henry Percy bought the manor of Alnwick in Northumberland, and it was last inhabited about 1604, and then reduced to ruins during the English Civil War. Nevetheless, the ruins were fairly substantial, and some parts, particularly the Great Hall, were reminiscent of the much larger Middleham Castle.
This one was first built in the 12th century, and came under the control of the Crown in the 13th century. Rebuilt in the early 14th century by Edward II, it was the favourite castle of Philippa, wife of Edward III. After her death, it was granted by Edward to his son, John of Gaunt, and thus became part of the huge Duchy of Lancaster estates. It still remains Crown property, therefore ‘officially’ it belongs to the Queen but here's the sign saying she's leased it to the local council!
This was built in the 12th century by the Warrenne earls, who were linked by marriage to the Crown. The cylindrical keep is an unusual design, as there are no others like it in England. In the 14th century, on the death of John de Warenne without heirs, the castle reverted to the Crown, and was granted by Edward III to his youngest son, Edmund, duke of York. Edmund’s second son, Richard, duke of Cambridge, (the grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III) was born at Conisbrough about 1385. The castle later gained fame in Walter Scott’s novel, ‘Ivanhoe’.
Unlike many medieval castles, this one was only started by the Scrope family in the late 14th century, originally taking 20 years to build, with most of the stone quarried nearby. Compared with many castles, it is very well preserved and offers wonderful views of Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales.
Richard Scrope, the grandson of the castle builder, was married to Margaret Neville, sister of Cecily (the mother of Edward IV and Richard III). His son fought for Richard at Bosworth, and later supported Lambert Simnel’s rebellion against Henry VII. On both occasions, he managed to gain a pardon, on condition he lived within 22 miles of London, so the king could keep an eye on him!
A later occupant of the castle, in the 16th century, was Mary Queen of Scots, who spent six months here, in the custody of Baron Scrope. In the 17th century, the castle passed by marriage to the Powlett family who still own it today.
The castle which stands on a promontory of rock overlooking the North Yorkshire seaside resort was founded in the 12th century and came into royal possession in 1159. Henry II and later King John added outer walls and other buildings, and by the 13th century the castle was one of the largest fortresses in England.
Edward IV granted the castle in 1472 to his brother Richard, who improved the harbour and the castle defences. As Richard III, he was the last king to stay at the castle, while assembling a fleet to resist the expected invasion of Henry Tudor.