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Skipton Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Skipton in Craven; Scipton; castellum de Scipetun

In the civil parish of Skipton.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire West Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD99135200
Latitude 53.96389° Longitude -2.01526°

Skipton Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

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


Skipton Castle. The first castle was probably built by Robert de Romille, in the last quarter of the 11th cent. and it would be a timber structure with wooden stockade surrounding the rock platform; there is no trace of there ever having been a mount. The castle is well sited strategically, commanding two important Roman road junctions and the Aire Gap through the Pennines. Lady Anne Clifford largely rebuilt the castle in 1657-8 after it had been almost wholly dismantled by order of Parliament after the Civil War. The curtain and towers of what is now known as the Conduit Court and a strong inner ward incorporating some earlier work (prob. late 12th c.) were probably built between 1310 and 1314 by Robert de Clifford. Unfortunately, this inner ward has been much altered and rebuilt. To the east of Robert de Clifford's inner ward, and abutting on its north east tower, is a range of state apartments terminating in an octagonal tower. These were built in 1535. The gatehouse was rebuilt in the 17th century but the lower courses of the towers at its corners are probably 14th cent. work (Illingworth). It is very probable that in the 12th cent. Skipton Castle was very roughly treated if not actually destroyed (Dawson). "... of the original structure only the Norman doorway remains, with its portcullis grooves and a few fragments of masonry ... the interior of the quadrangle was reconstructed in the reign of Henry VII ... in the outer court is the chapel of St. John, now used as an outbuilding" (TCWAAS, 1955 {sic. ref. unconfirmed}). The precincts of the castle contain no defensive earthworks though indications that some may have existed on the E. side are apparent in the form of an embanked footpath and a slight depression at the base of the curtain wall. No defences are necessary on the N. or NW. sides which are protected by almost sheer natural earth and rock faces down to Eller Beck. Elsewhere, modern buildings have destroyed all traces of an outer Bailey or other earthworks which may have existed on the level S. side. An exception occurs at SD 9919 5189 where a well defined ditch (surveyed at 1:2500) may constitute the remains of the Bailey to the original castle. This feature, if produced across the road known as The Bailey, would connect with the eastern defences noted above, as well as to a walled-in, sunken garden 1.8m. deep adjoining the E. side of the gatehouse (F1 ECW 12.4.62). (PastScape)

Skipton Castle is strongly defended to the N. Only to the eastern side of the castle may the line of the former defences be traced and these are discussed below. The fabric of the castle is largely as described by authorities 2-7, and 9. The castle remains in private hands, it is open to the public although the eastern ranges are maintained as a private residence. The line of the eastern defences may be followed along the line now utilised by a raised garden walk. This walk is revetted to either side by a stone wall 0.6m to the W, eastwards the path is raised by 0.8m. Although probably not exactly on the line of the eastern defences the raised walk may be seen to approximate to the line of this defence. The southern end of the walk ends on a reduced masonry bastion, the wall to the E is simply a garden wall enclosing an orchard. Westwards the wall links to a semi-circular wall tower which in turn gives access onto a wall walk. The wall walk is raised 2.2m above a dry moat now used as an enclosed garden. The bailey of the castle falls gently westwards, it has been considerably modified by the cutting of garden paths. In the pasture field to the S of the castle, SD 9919 5189 are the earthwork remains of the castle bailey. The surviving earthwork isa single bank and ditch about 70m in length, the bailey bank is 0.9m in height at its northern end rising to 1.8m to the S. A spread scarp falls away westwards into the interior. The bailey bank is cut to the W by a stone wall, a low scarp to this wall marks the edge of the construction trench to this wall. The bailey is cut to the N by the A 6131. 'The Bailey' S of the present curtain wall to the castle and sunk below the level of the bailey. Within the area of the bailey are two ridges, which may either be remnants of a furlong of ridge and furrow or orchard banks. The ditch of the bailey is marked by a scarp parallel to this bank. The straight appearance of this scarp is probably due to later modification by ploughing discussed below. At 'A' on the bailey bank is a backfilled archaeological excavation trench. The trench was cut by Mr H Baten, a local archaeologist in the early 1980's (Williams 1981, 10). This excavation produced a three period defensive sequence On the western side of the ditch. The sequence began with a clay rampart with timber palisade, followed by astone wall with a rubble platform to the rear, the third and final phase was a timber revetment. A date in the early C12th was suggested for the original cutting of the ditch with the final silting of the ditch in the late C13th or early C14th. To the W of the bailey bank and ditch are the remnants of two furlongs of ridge and furrow. The spacing of the ridge to the W is about 5m, the ridges are slight, not more than 0.1m in height. The ploughing of this furlong has straightened the outer side of the ditch, a back scarp to this featuresurvives which probably represents an outer bank although it has been over ploughed by ridge and furrow. The ridge and furrow to the E is separated by a former boundary bank 0.5m in height, the ridging is spaced at 4m intervals. To the S of the boundary wall the area is a large tarmacked car park and to the W a nursery. (PastScape ref. Field Investigators Comments – F3 WDC 06-JUL-88)

Skipton Castle, Grade I The unoccupied part contains Norman fragments but is mostly early C14; it was partly demolished in 1649 and then restored in mid C17 by the Countess of Pembroke. Entrance flanked by massive round towers, leading to Conduit Court with centre well and 2 and 3 storeyed buildings around it, external staircase, buttresses, rainwater-heads of 1659 with lead pipes and heraldic ties. Clifford arms and Bromflete arms over doorways. Kitchen of C14, scullery, carving rooms etc. C13 watch tower. Banqueting hall on 1st floor, muniment tower, wine cellars etc. All massive, limestone. The occupied part comprises the long east range of the Castle, containing the Long Gallery etc, built 1535, restored 1659. Large polygonal tower on east end has an ogee-headed window of C15. 2 symmetrical polygonal bay windows of 2 storeys. Outer gatehouse to Skipton Castle. Grade I Beginning of C14. 2 massive round towers, castellated, with 2 chimneys and round stair turret, segmental arched entrances, small-paned windows. Upper portion restored mid-C17 with Clifford motto "Desormais" in parapet. In one room is a pretty "grotto" of shells. Former chapel at Skipton Castle. Grade I Freestanding, to west of Castle, in the Bailey. Small rectangular stone building, with large open Decorated window on east gable end and another on south side, now built up and with inserted C18 doorways. Old doorway on north end of west side. Sedilia inside. Another Decorated window covered by an added shed. (Listed Building Reports)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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