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Yorkshire Middleham Castle, North Yorkshire

Guarding the entrance to Wensleydale, Middleham Castle dominates the surrounding landscape and was the childhood home of home of Richard of Gloucester (Richard III) and later one of his royal homes.

Middleham 2.jpg

It is a typical medieval castle with massive square keep surrounded by a curtain wall with buildings along the inside.

Its walls stand to nearly their original height and from a distance it probably doesn’t look much different to when it was first built.

The first castle was a wooden motte and bailey castle built on William’s Hill to the south west of the present site by Alan Rufus, second cousin of William the Conqueror around 1086, to defend the Skipton to Richmond road. This was replaced by a large square stone keep around 1170. At a height of nearly 70’, this was one of the largest keeps in England at the time, with three floors and 12’ thick walls. It contained a great hall, living quarters, large kitchen, chapel, dovecot, cellars and two wells in the basement. A gatehouse and bridge were built to the east of the castle

In 1260, the castle passed by marriage into the the hands of the powerful Neville Family who also owned Raby, Brancepeth and Sherriff Hutton Castles. Over the years, they added the curtain wall and attached buildings, providing more comfortable living accommodation.

The young Richard of Gloucester came into the care of the powerful Richard Neville, ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’ and lived at Middleham Castle. He married Warwick's daughter, Anne Neville, and acquired control of all the Neville lands. He lived in Middleham with Anne and their son Edward was born and also died in the castle, aged only 10.

Following Richard’s death after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the castle became the property of Henry VII and remained as a royal castle until sold by James I. At the time of the English Civil War, the castle was in poor condition. Although used to garrison a troop of the the Parliamentary Army, it never saw any action and was slighted by the Parliamentarians to prevent it being taken by the Royalists. After the restoration of Charles II the castle was sold to the Wood family of Littleton in Middlesex, who probably leased it out as a farm.

It was gifted to the State in 1930 and is now in the care of English Heritage.

The castle is surrounded by a curtain wall, much buttressed in places, with towers along it.


The ditch in front of the entrance gateway is now crossed by a bridge rather than the original drawbridge.


Guardrooms protected the gateway. Inside the gatehouse is the keep with a series of service quarters built round the inside of the curtain wall.



These are in ruined condition, but the remains of ovens and a horse mill used for grinding grain can still be seen.



Rooms on the lower floors were used for storage, workshops or servant accommodation. Rooms above, reached by an external covered stair were larger and would have housed more important members of the household or guests. A wooden bridge now long gone, would have connected the upper rooms to the Great Hall in the keep.

There is ramped access into the bottom of the keep with the cellar and kitchen with its huge fireplaces and a well. A spiral staircase gave servants access to the Great Hall above.


The Great Hall was originally reached by an external stone stair, now replaced by a modern wood staircase. This was the chief public space in the castle. It was used for eating and the judicial court was held here. Off it and above the cellars were the private family quarters of the Great Chamber and Inner Chamber.


The inside of the keep is now a roofless shell. The modern wooden staircases leads to a viewing platform at first floor level. It is possible to continue up the original spiral staircase to the top of the keep with its views across Middleton and a training yard for race horses to the original motte.



Pictures were taken on a very dull overcast day so don't do Middleham Castle justice unfortunately....
These are such lovely photos and wonderful information! I will be at Middleham Castle sometime in April and look forward to reading this as I stroll through the castle and grounds. Thanks for the report, Eleanor!

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