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Sandal Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

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

OS Map Grid Reference: SE33721816
Latitude 53.65885° Longitude -1.49122°

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

There are masonry footings remains.

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


Sandal Castle is located on high ground overlooking the Sandal area of Wakefield and the River Calder. The monument includes the standing remains of the thirteenth century shell keep castle and the earthworks of the earlier motte and bailey castle. The main earthworks comprise a substantial motte, c.15m high and with a base diameter of c.40m, and a crescent shaped inner bailey measuring c.60m by 25m. The bailey is separated from the motte by a deep ditch which also encircles both features and measures c.15m wide and 5m deep. The ditch is enclosed by a substantial counterscarp bank and is broken on the east side by a modern causeway which gives access to the bailey alongside the surviving medieval stonework of the bridge and gate. Extensive outworks exist to the south-east and represent a Civil War defensive hornwork of copybook pattern. The earliest castle buildings were of timber and were replaced in stone during the thirteenth century. Excavation of the interior carried out between 1964 and 1973 has revealed a number of timber buildings including a square, timber-framed kitchen and an aisled hall or residence. The original wooden tower on the motte was rebuilt as a stone shell keep with circular towers. This would have contained service and garrison buildings and would have had a wall-walk lining the interior. The base of the keep can still be seen along with the foundations, on the south-east side of the motte, of two round towers believed to have guarded the drawbridge between the keep and the barbican. The barbican, whose lower courses are still upstanding, was built on an island of rock in the ditch between the motte and the bailey and is flanked by defensive walls which cross the ditch. In the bailey are the foundations of service buildings and upstanding fragments of walling from the Great Hall and lodgings chambers set upon pillared undercrofts. The bailey also contains a well. Sandal Castle is a Listed Building Grade II-star. The castle was first mentioned in c. 1240 and was held by the Warennes, earls of Surrey. It stands approximately one mile south-east of Low Hill motte and bailey castle, on the opposite side of the River Calder. Although the precise relationship between the two castles is not yet known, it is likely that they were originally built to command the river valley together. Sandal Castle may have been attacked in 1317, and, in 1460, the area to the north was the site of the battle of Wakefield fought between the forces of Queen Margaret and the Duke of York. Richard III made this his chief stronghold in the north, adding the polygonal tower to the keep and providing a new bakehouse; the walls of both buildings are still visible. It was slighted between 1645 and 1648 following a siege after which it appears to have been systematically quarried for its stone. (Scheduling Report)

The first castle at Sandal was erected by William de Warenne in about 1106. His castle was timber-built and is now totally destroyed by the later stone castle. The excavations showed the early structures to have consisted of a wooden palisade, within which lay a timber aisled hall with a small square kitchen. A circular timber keep was built on an artificial mound (the motte), making this first Sandal Castle a good example of a Norman motte-and-bailey castle.
In the thirteenth century a later member of the de Warenne family began to make improvements to the castle. An inner moat was dug, surrounding a newly built stone barbican tower. The material from this moat was dumped over the site of the original timber hall, unwittingly preserving the fine details of its construction for rediscovery in 1973. A stone great hall and chamber were built in the bailey, with ancillary buildings such as stables, kitchens, forge and Constable's lodging, as well as a circular stone keep on the motte. This castle was a major stronghold of the House of York and was improved for residence and defence by Richard III in 1484. The castle survived in this form until 1645 when it was destroyed by successive Parliamentarian bombardments. Since then it stood as a weed-choked ruin until 1964 when, in a series of excavations ending in 1973, the whole site was excavated, including the entire inner moat. (Mayes 1981)

The castle is on a sandstone ridge occupying a commanding position overlooking one of the great North-South roads. It has good views of, and is clearly visible from, Wakefield and the extensive manor of Wakefield.
As with nearly all ruinous castles there was some taking of stone but it was the removal of lead and large structural timbers, which both have considerable more value than most stone (except perhaps fine carved circular columns), which will have resulted in the most damage.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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