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Motte and Bailey castle and site of a bishops' palace

A Scheduled Monument in Northallerton, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.3398 / 54°20'23"N

Longitude: -1.4398 / 1°26'23"W

OS Eastings: 436518.959642

OS Northings: 493954.03544

OS Grid: SE365939

Mapcode National: GBR LLD8.21

Mapcode Global: WHD81.V5KV

Entry Name: Motte and Bailey castle and site of a bishops' palace

Scheduled Date: 7 May 1957

Last Amended: 5 July 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020719

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34845

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Northallerton

Built-Up Area: Northallerton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Northallerton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a motte and bailey
castle and an adjacent fortified palace of the Bishops of Durham. Also
included are parts of a 19th century civil cemetery. The monument is
located near the junction of two streams, Willow Beck to the west which
flows in a north to south direction and Sun Beck which flows north east to
south west and forms the southern and south eastern edges of the monument.

The interest of the Bishops of Durham in Yorkshire was long standing. The
bishop was a Prince Bishop who governed the County Palatine of Durham and
was both a secular and spiritual lord of the area. The bishop held
property throughout the north east that included enclaves of land in
Yorkshire, which dated back to pre-Conquest days. The manor of
Northallerton was granted by William II to Carileph, Bishop of Durham
between 1087 and 1100. The first record of the castle at Northallerton is
in 1130 when Bishop Rufus built a residence, the motte and bailey, in
order to administer and protect property and assets held in the area.
Records show that the castle was either rebuilt or enlarged in 1142 by
Bishop Cumin and further work was carried out in 1174 by Bishop Pudsey.
However, by 1176 the castle had been razed to the ground on the orders of
King Henry II as part of his strategy to remove fortifications not
approved by the crown. After this a more substantial fortified palace was
built to replace the traditional motte and bailey castle which had until
then served as the bishops' administrative centre in Northallerton. The
new palace was built within the area of the former bailey which was
re-modelled and modified to accommodate it. The outer moat was also re-cut
as part of these improvements. It is not known whether any structures were
re-erected on the castle motte. The resultant site of the palace was
similar to a type of monument popular in England at this time known as a
moated site. This was a form of construction whereby high status
residences were surrounded by moats partly for defensive purposes but
primarily as a statement of prestige. The palace was certainly in use by
1199 when the Archbishop of Canterbury stayed there as a guest of the
Bishop of Durham. In common with aristocratic and high status buildings
elsewhere there would have been a programme of enlargement, refurbishment
and refortification often reflecting the latest architectural fashion:
such renovation work happened in 1226, 1292 and 1309. There is a
reference in the early 14th century to a pele tower being built at the
palace on the orders of King Edward II at a time when there was a general
fortification of towns in the north to guard against raids from the Scots.
Despite this in 1317, at a time when the town was ransacked by the Scots,
the palace was successfully attacked by Sir Gosselin Denville.

The palace was an important centre for the administration of the bishops'
lands in Yorkshire and served as one of the major residences for the bishops
and their staff. By having an obvious presence in the town the bishops were
able to protect and consolidate their position in the area particularly
against the rivalry of the Archbishop of York. Part of the significance of
Northallerton for the bishops was that it lay on the main road from York to
Durham and was a regular stopping place for royalty and other dignitaries. It
is reported that King Edward I stayed with his royal retinue at the palace on
six occasions between 1291 and 1304 on his way to and from Scotland. In the
early 16th century, Princess Margaret Tudor the future wife of King James IV
of Scotland stopped at the palace accompanied by 1500 men.

As well as being lords of the manor with the dues and entitlements
therewith, the bishops had an impact on other aspects of medieval
Northallerton. They founded St James hospital in c.1200, gifted an
endowment to the new Carmelite Friary in 1356 and were patrons of the
Grammar School in 1385. The active involvement of the bishops in
Northallerton started to go into decline during the religious upheavals of
the 16th century. It was described by Leland in 1505 that the palace was
`strong and well moated'. In 1539 the palace was still standing but by the
following century had become neglected. In 1663 Bishop Cosins ordered that
stones from the palace be taken and used to repair the Castle Mill and
parts of the market place. By the end of the 17th century the palace was
in ruins and was being used as a quarry. An undated print thought to be
mid-18th century in date shows the palace in a thoroughly ruined state and
a map of 1797 shows no structures on the site. In 1836 the jurisdiction of
the Bishops of Durham as landlords ended and the property passed to the
Diocese of Ripon. The area of the castle occupied by the bishops' palace
was sold to the parish in 1856 and landscaped for use as a civil cemetery,
which was in operation until the late 1940s.

The remains of the early motte and bailey are located in the southern part
of the monument. It was built on a natural piece of dry land between the
two streams, Willow Beck and Sun Beck. Although these becks are now
canalised, in the 12th century there would have been a wet and boggy area
that would have afforded further defence to the southern approaches to the
castle. The motte is a sub-circular flat-topped mound standing
approximately 4.5m high. The top of the mound is 20m across and it is 60m
across at its base. There is a shallow ditch up to 4m wide on the south
and south western sides. On the northern side of the motte the original
encircling ditch has been re-cut by the modified bailey ditch surrounding
the site of the bishops' palace to the north. To the south west of the
motte there are the remains of an irregular shaped enclosure defined by a
low earthen bank and ditch extending south west from the western side of
the motte and by a shallow ditch extending south east from the eastern
side of the motte. The southern edge of the enclosure is currently defined
by Sun Beck and it is likely that this enclosure was to form a dry area.
The relatively poor survival of these features as earthworks is probably
due to the deliberate destruction of the castle in 1176.

The castle bailey was located to the northern, town side, of the motte.
The bailey defences were heavily modified during the construction of the
bishops' palace in the late 12th century and consequently the size and
form of the original castle bailey is currently unknown. The surviving
modified bailey survives as a ditch or moat up to 12m wide and 1m deep
which encloses a raised, irregular shaped area measuring a maximum of 140m
north west to south east by 90m north east to south west. The moat
encloses all but the northern side of the interior. It originally extended
across the northern side but was infilled in the 1940s when the current
cemetery, located to the north of the monument, was established. There was
an entrance through the moat, 15m wide, on the north eastern side, which
still survives as the main access into the centre of the old cemetery.
There is a reference to there having been a stone built gatehouse but it
is unclear whether this was located inside or outside the moat. Outside
the moat, on the western side, there is a flat-topped bank 8m wide with a
narrow ditch on each side, which extends from the motte as far as the
northern angle of the moat. It is thought to be the remains of a formal
promenade dating to the time of the bishops' palace. There is no evidence
that there was a similar bank on the other sides of the moat. Immediately
inside the ditch the ground rises to be approximately 2m above the ground
level on the outside of the ditch. It is thought that this was originally
an internal bank for the defences of the bishops' palace, however the
extent of this has been obscured by later modifications mostly dating to
the 19th century landscaping associated with the cemetery.

Within the interior, the ground has been levelled up to create a platform
standing up to 3.5m above the ground level outside the moat, which is the
focus of the cemetery. In this area there is a regular pattern of paths
dividing the cemetery into blocks. There is also a pair of matching
mortuary chapels standing either side of the entrance way.

In common with similar ecclesiastical and lay residences the bishops'
palace would have been at the centre of a large enclosure known as the
precinct. The boundaries of the precinct can be identified on maps and is
still preserved in the current street plan. No significant remains are
known to survive within the wider precinct area and this area is not
included in the monument. A high status building such as the bishops'
palace would be of a very high standard and be replete with elaborate
architectural details, intended to impress and to reflect the power and
prestige of the occupant. One consequence is that the approach would be
carefully managed to emphasise the status and to ensure the maximum impact
on the visitor. The entrance to the palace was on the north eastern side
and is orientated towards the old market place and parish church, which
formed the focus of the medieval town. The layout of the medieval market
place funnelled the visitor into a narrow entrance which opened onto a
prospect of the facade of the palace, approached along what can be
regarded as a processional way through carefully managed open space. This
situation is shown on the street and field plan on a map of 1797 and is
still preserved in the modern street plan where the wider precinct is
preserved as open space.

A number of features are excluded from the monument. These are: the two
mortuary chapels, all grave stones and memorials, all walls, fences, gates,
sign posts, benches and the surface of paths and driveways. The ground
beneath these features is, however, included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain
by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the
motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey,
adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and
bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their
immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive
monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.
Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally,
with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of
recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for
the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although
many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to
be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they
were superseded by other types of castle.

Although modified by the later bishops' palace the motte and bailey castle
at Northallerton survives well and significant information about the
history and development of the castle will be preserved. It offers
important scope for understanding the history of the post-Conquest in the
north of England.

Bishops' palaces were high status residential complexes designed to
accommodate episcopal courts and lodgings for their large retinues;
although some were little more than country houses, others were the
setting for the finest craftsmanship in construction and furnishing and by
an innovation in architectural style and displays of decoration. Episcopal
courts were mobile in the medieval period and required a number of
palaces. They served the dual purposes of residence and the exercise of
administration, and therefore usually comprise a series of buildings,
including a great hall, which was used both for hospitality and for
meetings, a chapel, private apartments, offices and service buildings such
as kitchens and brewhouses. Commonly, especially from the 14th century,
these buildings were arranged around one or more courtyards, and many
palaces were enclosed by walls and/or a moat as a mark of status as well
as defence.

The earliest recorded examples of bishops' palaces date to the seventh
century. Many were occupied throughout the medieval period and some
continued in use into the post-medieval period; a few remain occupied
today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces have been identified and documentary
sources confirm that they were widely dispersed throughout England. As a
rare monument class which provides an important insight into the lives and
characters of a group at the apex of medieval European society, all
positively identified examples are considered to be nationally important.

Remains of the bishops' palace at Northallerton survive well and
significant remains will survive beneath the later cemetery. It preserves
important evidence of the form and development of a rare monument class in
the region. Taken together with the earlier castle the monument preserves
significant evidence of the development of an episcopal residence from a
motte and bailey castle through to a high status dwelling. In addition it
offers scope for understanding the history and importance of the Bishops'
of Durham as powerful and influential members of the political and
spiritual elite in the north of England.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Chandler, J, John Lelands Itinerary: Travels in Tudor England, (1993), 551
Hough, I, Nature of the Bishops of Durham Involvement in Northallerton, (2000)
Newman, CM, Late Medieval Northallerton, (1999)
Tyler, A, Historic Town Studies Archaeological Priorities Northallerton, (1985)
Tyler, A, Historic Town Studies Archaeological Priorities Northallerton, (1985)
Emsley, K, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Yorkshire Enclaves of the Bishops of Durham, , Vol. VOL 47, (1975), 103-108

Source: Historic England

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