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Bowes Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bough; Castelli de Bogis; Beoves; Bouys

In the civil parish of Bowes.
In the historic county of Yorkshire North Riding.
Modern Authority of Durham.
1974 county of County Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY99231348
Latitude 54.51679° Longitude -2.01354°

Bowes Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also 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*.


A ruined castle, whose present remains comprisie a Norman keep of circa 1171-87, foundations of a forebuilding and a moat. The castle was constructed on the site of a former Roman fort, which had probably been built to guard the Stainmore pass route. The castle was originally part of the estates known as the "Honour of Richmond" but passed to the crown in 1171. An earlier timber castle may have been initially built by Alan of Brittany in the 1130s. The castle was rebuilt by Henry II: in 1173-4, the castle was unsuccessfully beseiged by the forces of William of Scotland. Later the castle was granted to other lords but reverted to royal ownership in 1471. The unpopular grant of the castle to John de Scargill by Edward II in 1322 was met by a revolt of the local tenants who beseiged and took the castle. The castle was reported as being in ruins in 1325, and was said to have been dismantled in the 17th century. Hutchinson, who visited the site in 1776, stated that it was surrounded by a deep ditch with a platform to the south (this description of the topography is a reference to the Roman Fort, see record 17561). It incorporates some Roman masonry. The moat, now dry, survives only around parts of the west and south sides; it was cleaned out earlier in the 20th century and is now 2.4 metres deep. The keep survives: this is rectangular in plan. It is built of ashlar facing and a sandstone rubble core. The keep would originally have comprised three storeys with a first floor chamber and hall (PastScape)

Keep with foundations of forebuilding to east. Circa 1171-87 by Richard the engineer for King Henry II. Sandstone rubble core faced with ashlar and incorporating some Roman masonry. Square plan. 2 storeys standing and ruinous third storey. Double-chamfered plinth. Each face has projecting corners and a broad flat central buttress with set-back wall panels between. Fragmentary roll-moulded band above first floor. East front: remains of forebuilding with triple-chamfered plinth to north; first-floor round-arched north doorway has set-back voussoirs and is flanked by small round-arched openings. South-east corner has slits and contains partly- reconstructed spiral stair. South front: first-floor round-arched hall window of 2 orders (inner order chamfered)to east; several round-headed loops to west. Badly-damaged west front: exposed mural passages and a first-floor garderobe chute to south; projecting section at foot of chute has 2 round-arched openings; fragmentary large windows to north. North front: large round-headed first-floor window with set-back rounded jambs. Interior: ground-floor has several springers for destroyed rib vaults; north-east corner contained first-floor kitchen with fireplace and a simple flue leading out through north wall. (Listed Building Report)

A large well is just outside the wall of the keep. It could have easily been built within the keep, as so often suggested as necessary for defence, but the major consumers of water were horses and no other water supply is nearby. Clearly the difficulty of carting numerous gallons of water through the castle overcame any defensive considerations. The keep has very large windows on the first floor, at a level easily accessible with a short ladder, which give excellent views over the beautiful countryside. The history of the sieges of this castle are interesting; a royal army failed to to take it in 1173, when it was new, yet a local mob took the castle in 1322. It was called ruinous in 1325. Was this because of damage from the siege or was it anyway beginning to fail in 1322. Regardless the current ruins show it must have still been a strong building in 1322 and this shows the most important factor in resisting a siege is not the force of the attacking army or the strength of the building besieged but the resolve of the defending forces.
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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) p. 139
      Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 96
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 113
      Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) passim
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 25
      Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 48-9
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 288-9
      Jackson, M.J., 1996, Castles of Durham and Cleveland (Carlisle) p. 19-20 (plan)
      Furtado, Peter et al (eds), 1988, Ordnance Survey guide to castles in Britain (London) p. 175
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 514
      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. 193
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 113-4
      Garlick, Tom, 1972, Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 14-5
      Pevsner, N., 1966, Buildings of England: Yorkshire: North Riding (London, Penguin) p. 85
      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. 574
      Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield) p. 33-5
      Page, Wm (ed), 1914, VCH Yorkshire: North Riding Vol. 1 (London) p. 44-5 online transcription
      Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 12-13
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Bailey, J., 1910, History and Antiquities of Bowes
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 211 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 259-64 online copy
      Whellan, T., 1857, History and topography of the city of York and the North Riding of Yorkshire (T Whellan and Co) Vol. 2 p. 468-9 online copy
      Grainge, W., 1855, Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire p. 376-82 online copy
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 75-8 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • 2012-13, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 2012 report' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 104-118
      Mesqui, Jean, Renn, Derek and Smals Laurens, 2008, ''The Portcullis in Medieval Great Towers: An Impression' Château Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 289-95
      (A. Whitworth), 1994, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1993' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 38 p. 207 online copy
      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))
      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
      Simms, R.S., 1954, 'Bowes Castle' Archaeological Journal Vol. 111 p. 218
      Anon, 1913, 'Bowes Castle' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 413-4
      Clark, G.T., 1882, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 7 p. 80-5 (reprinted in MMA)
  • Guidebooks
    • Kenyon, Katy, 1999, Barnard Castle, Egglestone Abbey, Bowes Castle (London: English Heritage)
      Simms, 1934, Bowes Castle (HMSO)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 1894, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the eighteenth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1171-2 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 18) p. 55 online copy (£240 spent on works of the castle of Bogis)
      1895 The Great Roll of the Pipe for the nineteenth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1172-3 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 19) p. 2 online copy (£100 spent on works of the castle of Bogis)
      Anderson, A.O. (ed), 1922, Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286 (Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd) p. 283 onlline copy (Giraldus Cambrensis short account of siege of 1174 - english translation)
      Brewer, J.S. (ed), 1873, Giraldi Cambrensis opera Vol. 4 Speculum Ecclesiae; De Vita Galfridi Archiepiscopi Eboracensis sive Certamina Galfridi Eboracensis Archiepiscopi (Rolls series 21.4) p. 367 online copy (Giraldus Cambrensis short account of siege of 1174 - latin transcription)
      1896, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the twentieth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1173-1174 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 21) p. 49 view online copy (£44.16.4 spent on repairs and military works at Bogis following the expedition of the Scottish King)
      1908, (reprinted 1930), The Great Roll of the Pipe for the twenty-sixth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1179-1180 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 29) p. 75 view online copy (£39.10.4 for works at Bouys)
      1915, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirty-third year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1186-1187 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 37) p. 82 view online copy (£23 for works at the turris de Boues)
      1925, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirty-fourth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1187-1188 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 38) p. 82 (£6 for works carried out at the turris de Boues)
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 477-8
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
      Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 339
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 31-2 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) p. 213-25 Available at Durham E-Theses Online
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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