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Ravensworth Castle, County Durham

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Rawyneshelme; Ravenshelme; Ravensholme; Raveneswath

In the civil parish of Lamesley.
In the historic county of Durham; County Palatinate of.
Modern Authority of Gateshead.
1974 county of Tyne and Wear.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ23255914
Latitude 54.92624° Longitude -1.63896°

Ravensworth Castle, County Durham has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.

Description

The remains of Ravensworth Castle of which there are three phases; a medieval quadrangular castle, an 18th century country house, and a 19th century country house. The medieval fortified house, the standing remains of which are Listed Grade II-star, was built in the style of a quadrangular castle, which is a typical form of the 14th century. The remains include two corner towers, sections of curtain walling and deposits preserved beneath the present ground surface. The two surviving corner towers are in the north east and south east corners of the quadrangle. Both stand 10 metres high, almost their full original height, although the crenellation of both towers is now absent. They are of roughly coursed sandstone construction quoined with ashlar. Sections of curtain walling survive attached to the towers. These are of roughly coursed rubble construction, 1.5 metres wide, and standing up to 4 metres high. The two surviving sections of the east curtain extend 7 metres out from each of the surviving corner towers. The section attached to the north tower decreases in height by a series of steps. The section attached to the south tower also decreases in height with distance from the tower. The surviving section of the south curtain wall extends west from the south tower for 7 metres and is of two parts. The first 3 metres from the tower is of roughly coursed rubble construction and has a splayed window at ground level. The south curtain wall has been extended with well coursed ashlar. An 18th century house was erected within the medieval quadrangle in 1724 and altered and improved under the advice of James Paine by 1759. It was demolished prior to the erection of the second housin 1808. No identifiable remains of it are visible, although the remains will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. The second house was built between 1808 and 1846. The main house lay immediately west of the medieval castle and the majority of it was demolished in 1953. (PastScape)

Though altered the surviving remains of the medieval fortified house and the 18th century country house will provide information on the form and evolution of the site known as Ravensworth Castle. The 19th century country house, although not included in the scheduling, continues the story of development on the site into the 19th and 20th centuries. The monument includes the medieval remains of Ravensworth Castle, which is situated in woodland 600m south east of Trench Hall. There are three phases to the castle; a medieval quadrangular castle, an 18th century country house, and a 19th century country house. The monument includes the remains of the medieval fortified house and the below ground remains of the 18th century country house built within the area of the medieval castle. The 19th century country house, Listed Grade II-star, and stable block, Listed Grade II, are not included in the scheduling. The medieval fortified house, the standing remains of which are Listed Grade II-star, was built in the style of a quadrangular castle, which is a typical form of the 14th century. The remains include two corner towers, sections of curtain walling and deposits preserved beneath the present ground surface. The two surviving corner towers are in the north east and south east corners of the quadrangle. Both stand to 10m high, almost their full original height, although the crenellation of both towers is now absent. They are of roughly coursed sandstone construction quoined with ashlar. The quoins of the south tower (between 0.5 and 1m wide) are wider than those of the north tower, (approximately 0.25m wide) and the north tower is only quoined above a chamfered string course at first floor level. The south tower is also larger (8.5m by 6m) than the north tower (7.5m by 6m). The north tower has a brick vaulted basement level entered and lit from an opening in the west wall. A doorway in the south wall gives access to a stair leading up to the principal chamber of the tower. An additional stair, immediately inside the doorway, leads up the south wall to the roof and also provides access to the top of the east curtain wall. The principal chamber has a pointed vault supported on a chamfered string, a fireplace in the north wall, a window in the east wall, a recessed shelf in the south wall and access to a garderobe which extends along the south side of the chamber. A doorway in the west wall, which provided access to the curtain wall, is partially blocked to form a round headed window. The south tower has a basement level entered via an opening in the west wall. A small room is immediately on the left of the entrance and is lit by a window in the west wall. The principal chamber is entered through an internally rebated doorway. It has a slab vault, a blocked window in the east wall and a fireplace in the south wall. A narrow chamber is accessed from the principal chamber and runs the length of the north wall. A doorway in the north wall of the tower gives access via a stair along the west wall to the upper levels of the tower. It is lit by a four-light window at first floor level in the west wall. The principal chamber of the first floor has a slab vault, an inserted window in the west wall and a firepalce in the south wall. This room gives access to a small chamber built into the south curtain wall and a long narrow chamber running the length of the north wall with a stone sink at its western end. The principal chamber of the second floor has a rounded vault carried on a roll moulded string course. The chamber has a projecting fireplace in the north wall, a window in the east wall, and a recessed shelf and blocked window in the south wall. The south wall also gives access to a garderobe in the south west corner. The stair gives access to a mezzanine level and the roof. Sections of curtain wall survive attached to the towers. These are of roughly coursed rubble construction, 1.5m wide, and standing up to 4m high. The two surviving sections of the east curtain extend approximately 7m out from each of the surviving corner towers. The section attached to the north tower decreases in height by a series of steps; this was first depicted in 1728 on an illustration by Nathaniel and Samuel Buck. The section attached to the south tower also decreases in height with distance from the tower, although the stepped profile depicted in the 1728 illustration has been altered by a stair leading onto the wall from the first floor of the north tower. The surviving section of the south curtain wall extends west from the south tower for 7m and is of two parts. The first 3m from the tower is of roughly coursed rubble construction and has a splayed window at ground level, and above this a room contained within the wall which is accessed from the first floor of the south tower. The south curtain wall has been extended with well-coursed ashlar. The 18th century country house was erected within the medieval quadrangle in 1724 and altered and improved under the advice of James Paine (the architect who also designed nearby Gibside chapel) by 1759. It was demolished prior to the erection of the second house in 1808. No identifiable remains of it are visible, although remains will be preserved beneath the present ground surface. Plans of this house prior to the alterations of the mid-18th century show features of the medieval period incorporated into its fabric. The second house was built between 1808 and 1846. The main house lay immediately west of the medieval castle but some of its service buildings and yards overlay the medieval centre or, in the case of the stable block, stand to its east. The majority of the house was demolished in 1953. Two parts of the 19th century house are within the medieval quadrangle: a gateway and the remains of service buildings. The Tudor arch gateway is flanked on either side by a 4m long, 4m high wall terminating at a 7m high round turret. It is of coursed ashlar sandstone and the crenellations, which only survive above the gateway, extended along the walls and on the turrets. The surviving remains of the service buildings are constructed of a mixture of roughly coursed rubble and brick. The gateway and service block within the area of the medieval centre are included in the scheduling as they may retain medieval fabric within their structures. The first reference to the place name of Ravensworth occurs in AD 1080 in association with Bishop Flambard. It was granted to the bishop's nephew, Richard Fitz-Marmaduke in whose family it remained until the 14th century. The castle then passed by marriage to the Lumleys, who retained it until the latter part of the 15th century. In 1489 it passed by marriage to Sir Henry Boynton of Sedbury and similarly in 1530 it passed to Sir Henry Gascoigne. In 1607 the castle was bought by Sir Thomas Lidell, in whose family it remained until 1976. (Scheduling Report)

2 eastern towers and fragments of curtain wall; dates given as C12 (Pevsner and Williamson); late C13 (Boyle); 1290 (Longstaff). C14 plan of 4 towers and curtain wall forming square enclosure with no keep; (compare Ford 1338, Chillingham 1344, Raby 1378) Coursed squared sandstone with ashlar dressings. 3 storeys. Southern tower has elliptical-headed entrance in the north face, 4 lancet windows in west ground floor of late C13 type. North tower has mullioned and transomed window in first floor north face. Historical note: Ravensworth Castle was the property of the Fitz-Marmadukes; then in C14 and C15 of the Lumleys; then of the Gascoignes, from whom Thomas Liddell, a Newcastle merchant, bought it in 1607. It remained in the Liddell family until 1976. Sir Thomas Liddell, later Lord Ravensworth, demolished all but these towers of the house then standing. (Listed Building Report)

Medieval castle of which two C14 corner towers and part of curtain wall survive. Later modifications include major C19 house by Nash and stable block. House largely demolished in the 1950s; remaining fragments in poor condition. Stables more complete, but roofless and in very bad condition. Feasibility study for re-use of stables, consolidation of castle and house prepared by North of England Civic Trust. Condition: Very bad (Heritage at Risk 2008)

Two square towers and fragments of the attached curtain wall remain of what was presumably a quadrangular castle of 4 angle towers connected by a curtain wall to form a square enclosure. The surviving north tower comprises a brick-vaulted half-underground room, a large stone-vaulted room at mezzanine level, and a small mural south chamber. The south tower comprises a vaulted room on each of the 4 floors and mural chambers. The earliest reference to the place-name is c.1080 when it was in the hands of Bishop Flambard from whom the manor passed through various hands (in the 14th and 15th century the Lumleys) until in 1607 it was bought by Sir Thomas Liddell, in whose family (later Barons Ravensworth) it remained until c.1976. The first reference to the castle is 1405/06, although its actual date of origin is probably late 13th or 14th century. The towers survived the Liddells' constant rebuilding of their houses, now almost all gone, in the 18th and 19th centuries. This is an important, largely unknown and wholly unrecorded monument (Tyne and Wear HER (Sitelines))
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Wilkinson, Phillip, 2003, Restoration - Discovering Britain's hidden architectural treasures (Headline Book Publishing) p. 114-117
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles and Tower Houses of County Durham (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 55
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 32-3
      Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 151-2
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 137
      Pevsner, N., 1983 (Revised by Williamson, Elizabeth), Buildings of England: Durham (London, Penguin) p. 389-90
      Hugill, Robert, 1979, The Castles and Towers of the County of Durham (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 88-91
      Pevsner, N., 1953, Buildings of England: Durham (London, Penguin) p. 195-6
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 353-4 online copy
      Whellan, F., 1894 (2edn), History, Topography and Directory of the County of Durham p. 1207-8
      Surtees, R., 1816-40 (1972 Reprint), The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham (London) Vol. 2 p. 208 (slight) online transcription
      Brayley, E. and Britton, J., 1803, Beauties of England and Wales; Durham Vol. 5 p. 179
      Hutchinson, Wm, 1785-94, The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Vol. 2 p. 527-31 online copy
      Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 89
  • Periodical Articles
    • 2003-4, 'Ravensworth Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 75-6 (news report)
      Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 228
      Bell, H.E., 1939, 'Calendar of deeds given to the society by the Earl of Ravensworth' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 43-70
      1895, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 6 p. 48-50
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 156-7, 339, 554, 565
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 78-9 online copy; Vol. 4 p. 27 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 42 online copy
      English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 44 online copy
      English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 57 online copy
      English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 54 online copy
      English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 53 online copy
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The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of English Heritage, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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