Monday, 15 April 2013

Middleham Castle

It’s easy to understand why Richard III loved Middleham, and spent so much time there. Surrounded by the soft green scenery of Wensleydale in Yorkshire, it must have been a calming respite from the upheavals of the war and the court intrigues.
Middleham was granted to Alan the Red, eldest son of one of the Norman lords who supported William the Conqueror, and the first castle was built in the 11th century. The present castle was started about a hundred years later, and in 1270 it devolved by marriage to the Neville family. When Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, was killed at the battle of Barnet in 1471, Middleham was forfeited to the Crown, and Edward IV gave it to his brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester.

Richard had lived at Middleham as a young squire in the household of Richard Neville, and it’s possible that he first met his future wife, Anne Neville, here. The castle became his main base when Edward appointed him Lord of the North in the 1470’s, and his only son Prince Edward was born (and later died) here.
The Great Hall (upper floor)
After Richard’s death, Middleham remained in royal hands until the 17th century when it was sold, and gradually fell into disrepair. Nevertheless, the ruins are still very impressive, and also slightly eerie. There are various stories about people hearing faint music from the castle. One group saw a knight on horseback, and a young boy asked his mother if ‘the soldier’ would show him his sword. My ‘spookiest’ moment came at a Medieval Festival at Middleham in 2000, when a re-enactment group performed various imaginary scenes from Richard’s time at the castle. Seeing ‘Richard’ himself striding around the grounds was somewhat surreal. Even stranger, later in the afternoon, was sitting outside a café in the town, chatting to ‘Richard’ and ‘Lord Stanley’!
The church in Middleham, dedicated to St Mary and St Akelda, was founded in the 13th century, and enlarged in the 14th. In the 1470s, Richard, as lord of Middleham, petitioned to have the church elevated to a collegiate church, with a dean, six chaplains, four clerk, and six choristers, an honour which the church was allowed to retain even when Henry Tudor usurped the throne.
In the 1930s, a memorial window was installed, which shows Richard and his son at one side, and Anne Neville at the other, all kneeling at prayer desks.


  1. Another very interesting post, Paula. I love traveling through British history with you. Always an adventure.

    I love those reenactments. They really bring history to life. I remember seeing one at Fort Wellington, a fort built on the St. Lawrence River during the time of the War of 1812 before Canada was a country.

    Reenactments are great how they give you a sense of the time and how the people lived and felt. So much better than dry facts in a book.

    What fun about the ghost stories! I'd like to go to that castle as well as all the others you've written about.

  2. Aah, I have eagerly awaited this post. Middleham town is wonderful - this is where I always feel closest to Richard and where I first was inspired to write about him.

    A lovely post - it reminds me of many happy times spent in a rented cottage. John and I went every year and loved to walk for miles and miles. We always had good weather! Richard arranged that for us.

  3. Cathy, Middleham is my favourite castle, and the medieval reenactmentthere was the icing on the cake!

  4. It's never rained when I've been at Middleham either, Margaret :-)

  5. A great place to visit - love those ghostly sightings!

  6. Talya, it really is a wonderful castle.

    Rosemary - I didn't see any ghosts, but there was certainly a wierd kind of feeing in one of the towers.

    Thanks, Claudia!

  7. Haunted castles sound like fun and a re-enactment even better. I've heard one can buy a castle for fairly cheap; however, the upkeep is more than most can afford. That's why owners try to dump them.

  8. Paula, I absolutely love reading your articles on British istory and castles. So interesting, and the photos are beautiful.

  9. Joyce, that's very true about the upkeep - far more than the 'average' person can afford!

    Thanks do much, Mary. I'm delighted you're enjoying these articles :-)

  10. I LOVE castles and always see your posts about them as little gifts. This one was no exception. Thanks for this gem!