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Richmond Castle: eleventh to fourteenth century enclosure castle

A Scheduled Monument in Richmond, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.4015 / 54°24'5"N

Longitude: -1.7372 / 1°44'13"W

OS Eastings: 417157.242805

OS Northings: 500699.229906

OS Grid: NZ171006

Mapcode National: GBR JK9J.PY

Mapcode Global: WHC6D.9M0M

Entry Name: Richmond Castle: eleventh to fourteenth century enclosure castle

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 18 March 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010627

English Heritage Legacy ID: 13277

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Richmond

Built-Up Area: Richmond

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Richmond with Holy Trinity with Hudswell

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


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
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
Features within the protected area which are excluded from the scheduling
are: all modern buildings and walling, the surfaces of paths and drives, and
all English Heritage fittings such as notices, grilles, and flagpole. However
the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but
this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there
are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they
developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive
experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The
majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were
built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier
medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were
new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or
leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure
castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration
in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration
along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward
I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples
retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Richmond Castle is a very well-documented example of an early enclosure
castle, important not only for the excellent state of preservation of its
twelfth century keep and other later medieval remains, but also the
exceptionally good survival of its earlier eleventh century features. It is
one of a very small number of stone castles built in the first twenty years
after the Norman Conquest to retain almost all its eleventh century masonry,
and Scolland's Hall is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, great halls in
the country. The remains of other structures and features, relating to all
phases of the castle's history, will survive within the open areas of its
three courts.

Source: Historic England


Sir Charles Peers, Richmond Castle, 1981, Official EH Guidebook

Source: Historic England

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