Bossall Hall: a quadrangular castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
Buttercrambe with Bossall
National Grid Reference:
SE 71708 60718

Reasons for Designation

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the 14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, 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 to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be of national importance.

The monument at Bossall Hall is one of a small number of quadrangular castles in North Yorkshire and its defences unusually comprise a double curtain wall with round towers. Although, in common with many of the other North Yorkshire examples, the castle was demolished to make way for a later house, the plan of the castle is still largely visible in the form of its moat while the foundations of the curtain wall, entrance bridge and internal buildings survive below ground.


The monument includes the remains of the quadrangular castle at Bossall Hall, situated to the west of St Botolph's church on the crest of an area of high land to the west of the River Derwent valley. Although the castle was demolished to make way for the present Grade II listed 16th/18th century hall with its gardens, the castle moat which surrounds the house is for the most part retained as an open ditch and the foundations of the curtain wall are visible in places as earth-covered banks at the edge of the moat. The hall stands on the northern part of the inner island, which measures up to 105m north-south by 70m east-west; the inner moat is visible on all four sides of the island as a dry ditch up to 10m wide by 2.5m deep. A 4m wide bank, thought to contain remains of the curtain wall, surrounds the southern half of the island and varies between about 0.5m high on the western arm to 1.5m high on the eastern arm. Another bank, 4m wide by 0.5m high, lies on the outer edge of the eastern arm of the moat. A causeway across the north-eastern corner of the moat and two footbridges are modern but the brick bridge across the eastern arm was built in 1808 on the site of an original entrance and its stone footings are the medieval bridge abutments. Around three sides of the inner moat is an outer court, ranging between 20m and 35m across and surrounded by an outer moat. The northern arm of this moat is visible as a ditch 8m wide by 2m deep with an outer bank on its north side which is not clearly defined but is about 0.5m high and at most 8m wide. There are no upstanding remains of the outer curtain wall but its footings will survive below-ground. Although the eastern end of the ditch has been infilled since the 1920's, the 1911 edition of the Ordnance Survey map records that it extended for a further 40m east of its present terminal. The north-western corner of the moat is still clearly visible and, although the ditch is shallower, the northern end of the western arm can be seen. The western arm is largely infilled but will survive as a buried feature which runs just outside the walled garden of the hall; the post-medieval garden wall is a substantial 2.5m high structure and it is likely that it is founded on the medieval footings of the outer curtain wall. At its southern end, the western arm of the moat becomes visible again as a slight 8m wide depression running into an east-west ditch which is a westerly extension of the inner moat. This latter feature extends for 6m beyond the outer edge of the western arm where it now forms a small pond; originally this ditch may have continued west, towards a series of springs, and served as a leat supplying water to the castle moat. There is a slight indication that a corresponding feature, possibly the overflow drain, ran from the north-western corner of the outer moat. Although the eastern arm of the outer moat is no longer visible and its north-eastern corner lies beneath a group of stables, the infilled ditch, the curtain wall footings and the foundations of medieval structures within the outer court will survive below-ground; the extent of the outer court on this side is estimated to be equivalent to that on the western side. The village of Bossall is thought to derive its name from Bosa, a 7th century Archbishop of York, who reputedly founded a church dedicated to St Botolph on the site of the present church. Bossall was a thriving community in the medieval period and the buried remains of the medieval village are thought to survive to the north-west of the castle, in Old Bossall field. The quadrangular castle dates from the 14th century. Sir Robert Belt built the existing hall before 1644, probably demolishing the castle walls to obtain building materials for the house, although in 1885 his descendant, W J Belt, wrote that foundations of the double curtain wall, square towers, round towers and a barbican of the castle were still to be seen. Bossall Hall, stables and outbuildings, the garden wall, the made surfaces of paths, yards and driveways, footbridges, the 19th century structure of the brick bridge and all fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features and the earlier stone bridge abutments are included.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Le Patourel, H E J, Moated site of Yorkshire, (1973), 118
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Yorkshire: The North Riding, (1966), 84
Notes on the history displayed in St Botolph's Church,
NY SMR 01641,
NY SMR vertical AP series,
Title: 25" Map Series Source Date: 1911 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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