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Richmond Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Richmond in Swaledale; Richemont; Richemunt

In the civil parish of Richmond.
In the historic county of Yorkshire North Riding.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ17130072
Latitude 54.40166° Longitude -1.73762°

Richmond Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Richmond Castle occupies a naturally strong defensive position on the cliff above the River Swale in Richmond. The monument includes the exceptionally well-preserved standing remains of the castle, its three courts (the barbican or outer court, the great court and the second court or cockpit), Castle Bank, down to the edge of Riverside Road, where parts of the south range of the great court survive and the rampart to the north and east of the cockpit and great court respectively. Unlike most castles built during the years immediately following the Norman Conquest, the original building material at Richmond Castle was stone rather than earth and timber. The earliest form of the castle was that of a massive curtain wall around two sides of a triangular great court. By and large, the masonry of this wall dates to the last thirty years of the eleventh century, though the parapets and wall walk on the east side are early fourteenth century. The great court measures 91m north to south and 137m east to west. Unless it carried a timber palisade, the south side was originally undefended, being adequately protected by the steep drop down to the Swale. Three projecting towers defended the eleventh century curtain on the east side while another smaller tower stood at the south-west angle. The curtain on the west side stands to a considerable height and contains an eleventh century sallyport, a subsidiary gate through which the garrison could rush to defend the castle from attack. It also contains a semicircular arch indicating the site of the greater chapel. At the north angle of the curtain, beneath the later keep, is the eleventh century inner gatehouse, which was the principal entrance to the castle and led from the barbican. The outer gatehouse is no longer standing, but the twelfth century east wall of the barbican survives and the line of the west wall is followed by modern walling. In the south-east angle of the great court is the eleventh century Scolland's Hall, named after a steward of the first earl. Originally a two-storey building, with the ground floor being given over to cellarage, the first floor was reached from an external stair and consisted of the great hall and, at the south-east corner, the earl's private chamber, known as the solar. Original windows survive on both floors but differences in the stonework on the south wall indicate some rebuilding in the twelfth century. In the fourteenth century, the hall was modified by the insertion of a new doorway and window. The solar retains marks from a fire and appears to have been remodelled in the thirteenth century after being gutted. Eleventh century masonry also survives in the three rectangular towers projecting from the east curtain. The garderobe or latrine pits and lower parts of Gold Hole Tower (the garderobe tower) are of that date, as are the two lower floors of Robin Hood Tower, both of which are barrel vaulted. Robin Hood Tower also adjoins a blocked eleventh century gateway and housed the eleventh century chapel of St. Nicholas. Dominating the castle is the square keep, 30.6m high and built in the second half of the twelfth century over the eleventh century inner gatehouse. A new gateway was cut through the curtain wall immediately adjacent to the keep and is the present entrance to the castle. It is likely that the original gateway was blocked at this time, but this has yet to be substantiated. The rooms flanking the later gateway are modern and do not form part of this scheduling. Following the general rule, the keep was entered at the first floor, in this case from the wall walk to either side. Including the basement, the keep is three-storeyed with the upper storey leading via a stair onto turreted battlements. Of approximately the same date, ranging along the south side of the great court, are the remains of a brewery, kitchen and other service rooms, along with the foundations of a collapsed wall tower. Also twelfth century is the wall round the outer court, or cockpit, which is thought initially to have been enclosed by a timber palisade. The north section of the wall, and part of the east, is still extant, and, despite the cockpit being used for allotments in the nineteenth century, the buried foundations of two towers survive to south and east. North of Scolland's Hall are the ruins of a group of two-storey buildings built in the fourteenth century and housing a chamber and chapel. Although in a superbly defensive position, Richmond Castle had no great strategic value commanding little beyond the entrance to Swaledale. It owes its excellent state of preservation to its being overlooked by the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War. Its situation was chosen in response to the urgent military needs of its first Norman earl, Alan the Red. In 1071, when the castle was begun, he needed a strong place to protect his men against the rebellious English, who continued their uprisings until suppressed by William the Conqueror's 'harrying of the North' in the 1080s. The castle's subsequent role was tied with that of the Honour of Richmond, which underwent numerous changes of lordship during the Middle Ages and after. Paramount were the links of its earls with the duchy of Brittany, which was inherited in 1164 by Conan the Little, one of Earl Alan's descendants. His new title meant he was subject to both the King of England and the King of France. Considering it wise to surrender the duchy to Henry II, he also betrothed his daughter Constance to Henry's son Geoffrey of Anjou. On Conan's death in 1171, Henry kept the Honour of Richmond until it could be inherited by Geoffrey on his marriage to Constance. After Geoffrey's death in 1186, Constance held the Honour till her death in 1201 when it passed to her third husband, Guy de Thouars. Guy took up arms against King John in 1203, following the murder of Arthur of Brittany, son of Constance and Geoffrey. He consequently forfeited the Honour in 1204 and the castle passed into royal hands until being granted to Ralph de Blundeville, Earl of Chester, in 1205. In 1218, part of the Honour went to Peter de Braine, husband of the eldest of Constance's daughters and Duke of Brittany. However, his share was forfeited to Henry III after he submitted to Louis IX of France. After being restored briefly to the Dukes of Brittany in 1266 and 1298, the Honour was granted by Edward I to his second son John, and then passed to John's nephew, John, Duke of Brittany, upon whose death in 1341, it went to John of Gaunt, son of Edward III. In 1372, Gaunt became King of Castile and the Honour then passed back to the Dukes of Brittany, in this case John de Montfort. He forfeited it twice, in 1381 and 1384, due to his allegiance to Charles V of France. Richard II then gave it to his Queen, Anne of Bohemia, until her death when it was leased to Ralph Neville, Lord of Raby. In 1399, it was given by Henry IV to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, and, from 1425 to 1435, it rested with Henry's son John, Duke of Bedford. It then reverted to the Crown until c.1450 when Henry VI made partial grant of the castle to Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. In 1462, Edward IV gave both Honour and castle to his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, and, in 1478, it passed to Richard, Duke of Gloucester who, as Richard III, retained it till his death in 1484. The Honour merged with the Crown upon the accession of Henry VII in 1485 and became an occasional grant of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs until being conferred on the Lennox family in 1675 by Charles II. The castle has been in State care since 1916 and is also a Grade I Listed Building. During the nineteenth century, the west side of the great court became the site of an army barracks. Cropmarks showing the plan of these barracks can be clearly seen from the top of the keep. During World War One the castle was used to confine conscientious objectors. Graffiti made by these prisoners still survives in the cells and passageway of the cellblock on the south east of the keep/gatehouse. (Scheduling Report)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) passim
      Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) passim
      Jackson, M.J., 2001, Castles of North Yorkshire (Carlisle) p. 62-6
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 78-81
      Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 40-3
      Fernie, E., 2000, 'Castles, Halls, and Chamber Blocks' in The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford University Press) p. 49-88 esp 68-72
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 295-7 (plan)
      McNeill, Tom, 1992, English Heritage book of castles (London: English Heritage) p. 7,33,34,48,49,127
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 197-99
      Furtado, Peter et al (eds), 1988, Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain (London) p. 197
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 524
      Ryder, P.F., 1982 (paperback edn 1992), The Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire (Ash Grove Book) p. 87-107
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 285-6
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 282, 286, 294-5
      Garlick, Tom, 1972, Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 22-3
      Pevsner, N., 1966, Buildings of England: Yorkshire: North Riding (London) p. 292-4
      Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 806 (slight)
      Sanders, I.J., 1960, English Baronies. A study of their origin and descent 1086-1327 p. 140-1
      Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 93-5
      Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield) p. 84-9
      Page, Wm (ed), 1914, VCH Yorkshire: North Riding Vol. 1 p. 12-16 online transcription
      1913, Report of the Inspector of Ancient Monuments for 1913 (HMSO) p. 24-8
      Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 193-5 online copy
      Evans, Herbert A., 1912, Castles of England and Wales (London) p. 89-97
      Thompson, A. Hamilton, 1912, Military architecture in England during the Middle Ages (OUP) p. 90-5 online copy
      Thompson, A. Hamilton, 1909, in Fallow, Memories of Old Yorkshire (London) p. 243-6
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 82-6
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 246-8 online copy
      Speight, H., 1897, Romantic Richmondshire p. 47-59 online copy
      Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 181 online copy
      Whellan T, 1859, History and topography of the city of York and the North Riding of Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 6-24 online copy
      Grainge, W., 1855, Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire p. 348-56 online copy
      Whitaker, T.D., 1823, A History of Richmondshire in the North Riding of the County of York (London) Vol. 1 p. 83- online copy
      Clarkson, C., 1821, History of Richmond (privately published) online copy
      Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 337
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 146-51 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Marshall, Pamela, 2012, 'Some thoughts on the phenomenon of multiple doorways and large openings in Romanesque donjons' Château Gaillard Vol. 25 p. 233-242
      Speight, Sarah, 2004, ''Religion in the Bailey: Charters, Chapels and the Clergy' Château Gaillard Vol. 21 p. 271-80
      Quiney, Anthony, 1999, 'Hall or Chamber? That Is the Question. The Use of Rooms in Post-Conquest Houses' Architectural History Vol. 42 p. 24-46
      Butler, Lawrence, 1992, 'The Origins of the Honour of Richmond and its Castles' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 69-80 (Reprinted in Liddiard, Robert, (ed), 2003, Anglo-Norman Castles p. 91-103 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press))
      Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 313, 315
      Brown, R.Allen, 1984, ‘Castle gates and garden gates’ Architectural History Vol. 27 443-5 (slight)
      Wilcox, R., 1972, 'Timber Reinforcement in Medieval Castles' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 193-202
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
      Faulkner, P.A., 1958, 'Domestic Planning from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 115 p. 150-83 online copy
      Wood, M., 1935, 'Norman Domestic Architecture' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 167-242 esp. 207 online copy
      I'Anson, W.M., 1913, 'The castles of the North Riding' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 374-6
      1911, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 20 p. 132-3
      Armitage, E., 1904 April, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 422-24 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1886, 'Richmond Castle' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 9 p. 33-54 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1882, The Builder Vol. 43 p. 643-4, 676-7 (reprinted in 1886 Y.A.J. without plans)
      Milward, A., 1848, 'On the Norman keep towers of Coningsburgh and Richmond' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 5 p. 52-6 online copy
      Curwen, J.F., Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 6 p. 326-32
      Brock, E.P.Loftus, 1887, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 43 p. 179 (slight) online copy
  • Guidebooks
    • Goodall, J., 2001, Richmond Castle and St Agatha’s Abbey, Easby (London: English Heritage)
      Weaver, J., 1989, Richmond Castle and Easby Abbey (London: English Heritage)
      Peers, C., 1981, Richmond Castle, Yorkshire (London: English Heritage)
      Peers, C., 1953, Richmond Castle, Yorkshire (HMSO)
      Peers, C., 1935,
      Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Dugdale, William (Caley, J., Ellis, H. and Bandinel, B. (eds)), 1817-30 (originally pub. 1655-73), Monasticon Anglicanum (London) Vol. 5 p. 574
      The Register Of The Honour Of Richmond online copy
      Pipe Rolls 1171-87 (see Pipe Roll Society for published references)
      Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 440 online copy
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 491-2
      E36/159, pp. 55-61 (Survey of 29 Henry VIII) The National Archives reference
      SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Shapland, Michael, 2012, Buildings of Secular and Religious Lordship: Anglo-Saxon Tower-nave Churches (PhD Thesis University College London) p. 226 (Robin HoodTower)
      Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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