Castle towers with curtain wall and adjacent buildings. Early/mid C14, probably incorporating earlier buildings; licence to crenellate 1379. Partial demolition and rebuilding c.1620; extensive C18 alterations and additions by D. Garrett, J. Paine, J. Carr; c.1814 by Joseph Browne; 1844-8 by William Burn; 1864 and later by Austin and Johnson. Property of Neville family until forfeited to Crown after 6th Earl of Westmorland took part in 1569 Rising of the North; 1626 acquired by Sir Henry Vane, whose descendants became successively Baron Barnard (Thomas Vane, in 1698), Earl of Darlington (Henry Vane, in 1754) and Duke of Cleveland (William Harry Vane, in 1833).
Coursed blocks of millstone grit (Bulmer's Tower) and limestone with plinth, some quoins, and ashlar dressings; roofs Lakeland slate. Irregular plan: 9 perimeter towers, from north clockwise: Clifford's, Kitchen, Mount Raskelf, Chapel, Bulmer's, Octagon, Joan's, Neville Gateway and Watch: linking buildings and wall; Keep in yard, attached to south-west corner of Kitchen tower; smaller yard beside Kitchen. Apart from Octagon and pentagonal Bulmer's, towers are rectangular. Great Hall runs along east side of main yard, linking Kitchen and Octagon towers. Principal entrance is Neville Gateway in west front, which has 4-storey splayed projections flanking 4-centred-arched gateway, with trefoil-pendant decoration, under machicolations and renewed 2-light window; Garter ribbons round badges of Neville (John de Neville, Knight of Garter 136-9, died 1388) his second wife Elizabeth Latymer, and St. George's cross, in band below top machicolations. Flanking turrets have Garrett quatrefoils on ground and loops on top floors, with C19 lights on other floors. This front of Neville gate is an addition corresponding to front extension of John's Tower at right, to which it is linked by 2-storey medieval wall with L-plan C18 one-storey additions. Joan's Tower originally 3 storeys, raised to 4 by Carr; 3 windows on west front, the left in a projecting bay with single trefoil-headed light on each floor; 2 right bays have 2-light windows, those on first-floor with cusped ogee-headed lights and on second floor with trefoil heads. To left of Neville gate a 3-storey, 4-bay section links Clifford's Tower, 5 storeys with irregular fenestration and C18 door, with high one-bay Watch Tower. 3-storey section has 'Old Servants' Hall' on ground floor, probably former guard room, with trefoil-headed lights; 3 similar first-floor and 4 paired second-floor windows.
North elevation on left return has heavily machicolated curtain wall linking Clifford's and Kitchen towers, with wide low-2-centred arch inserted. South elevation on right return has 2-storey 4-bay range with paired lights linking Joan's Tower with Octagon, Burn's 1845 construction replacing Carr's incomplete round tower, on site of medieval south tower destroyed by fire mid C18. Burn's high 5-light transomed window in dining room to right of Octagon, and ante- library extruded addition to left; and at east end the 5-stage tapered Bulmer's Tower with left stair-turret, which has shouldered head to ground-floor entrance, and varied fenestration.
East front shows 2 initial 'b's under head-stopped dripmoulds, John de Neville's reference to his ancestor Bertram Bulmer, on top floor of tower. C19 windows in 3-bay link to Chapel Tower, which has high C19 doorway replacing medieval barbican, of which fragments survive in Raby House Farm and The Folly (q.v.). 2 tall turrets flank recessed 2-light chapel window with reticulated tracery under machicolation. To right of chapel a 3-storey bay links to Mount Raskelf; in link a door and 2-light window have hollow-chamfered cusped surrounds. Mount Raskelf has 3 set-back storeys, each with one window of paired cusped lights. Set back at right is massive kitchen tower of 3 set- back storeys with 2 first-floor windows and central octagonal roof lantern, raised by Carr. Passage through Neville gate has ribbed vault on slender half-octagonal crenellated shafts, and guard-room doors with diagonally-stopped chamfers; inner earlier passage barrel-vaulted on chamfered ribs.
Interior: Medieval structures little altered are kitchen, keep, and 'Old Servants' Hall'. Kitchen probably by John Lewyn: basement vaulted with 8 ribs springing from central octagonal pillar. Main floor has 4 wide-arched ovens. Blocked flight of steps on south (with C17 balustrade) leading towards Great Hall and giving access to passage in wall linking kitchen windows and roof on 2 pairs of segmental-arched ribs, the crossing framing central louvre. Keep, formerly with no external access, has 8-foot thick walls, with garderobes and wall chambers, original window openings, and vaulted ceilings. 'Old Servants' Hall' in similar style but with 2-centred-arched vault. In Clifford's Tower a medieval stair on segmental arches runs in the south wall from first floor to roof levels. In Bulmer's Tower stair turret there are blocked medieval doors of several periods. Extensive C18 alterations include rooms on first floor of south range, with Palladian door to north corridor with key block inscribed HGV 1729, unattributed at time of survey. James Gibbs drawings exist for unexecuted work at Raby.
Garrett's work of c.1745 includes state rooms in Clifford's Tower, particularly the richly-decorated 3-apsed drawing room, with niches in the window apses, and the dining room, which have enriched mouldings on dados and 6-panel doors, and rococo stucco ceilings with modillion cornices. (Perritt was paid for in 1737 for plaster work; if Thomas Perritt it would be among his earliest work - he was made Freeman of York 1737/8. Other payments to 1753 were to Thomas Perritt and to Rose and Perritt). Garrett's Hunters' Gallery in Gothic style links Clifford's and Watch Towers at first-floor level; it has head corbels and egg-and-dart moulded ogee arches, and lantern with intersecting broad glazing bars. Paine, restoring interior in mid C18, executed interior work including Gothic bedroom in Neville gateway, and several classical-style rooms.
Carr's work beginning c,1767 included alterations and additions to domestic arrangements in kitchen yard, but most significantly the creation of a carriage- way through the castle from west to east, with necessary removal of ceilings and floors in great hall and in Chapel Tower. He inserted 2 rows of octagonal columns and false vaulting in the lower, now entrance hall, where visitors would alight; raised the vault of the east gate; and demolished the barbican to allow the exit of carriages.
Circa 1814 Joseph Browne enlarged the dining room in the south range, and encased the entrance hall pillars in red scagliola. Between 1843 and 1848 William Burn made extensive alterations, including a vigorous Jacobean-style drawing room in the Octagon Tower, and new roofs for the Great Hall and the Chapel.
Austin and Johnson's work included a grand Jacobean-style north stair to the Baron's Hall or Great Hall, and the renewal of many windows. In 1901 J.P. Pritchett restored the interior of the chapel and revealed medieval aumbry, sedilia and piscina, although below the present ground level; the west arcade of the chapel was filled with painted portraits. The chapel windows contain reset medieval glass from France and Flanders, C16 German and other heraldic glass. (Listed Building Report)