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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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;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.
Modern Authority of Durham.
1974 county of County Durham.
Medieval County of Yorkshire North Riding.

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 besieged 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 besieged 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.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:57:07

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