Danby Castle: a quadrangular castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

North Yorkshire
Scarborough (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NZ 71712 07236

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.

Although partially demolished and altered by its subsequent use as a farmhouse and outbuildings, a majority of the original structure of Danby Castle survives to almost full height and the full ground plan will survive as buried foundations. Unusually, Danby Castle was constructed on a new site away from its Norman predecessor at Castleton and the two monuments considered together offer a relatively rare opportunity to study the development of medieval fortifications over time. In addition to the castle itself, a small adjacent enclosure has been identified; this will contain the below-ground remains of structures relating to the agricultural or economic functions of the castle. Danby Castle was reputedly a residence of Catherine Parr, wife of King Henry VIII.


The monument includes the quadrangular castle, known as Danby Castle, which lies on the south side of the Esk valley, 1.25km south east of Danby village. The castle is situated near the foot of the scarp at the northern end of a spur of Danby High Moor. Although partially demolished and altered by its subsequent use as a farm, substantial parts of the great hall, service and solar ranges, and three of the four corner towers remain upstanding, while the later farm buildings are largely constructed of re-used materials obtained from the original structure of the castle. The castle is square in plan, originally comprising four wings arranged around a quadrangle, with four rectangular towers projecting diagonally from the corners. The Grade I Listed farmhouse incorporates the south east tower, which survives to three storeys and once contained the castle chapel; although the farmhouse is presently in use as a dwelling and thus excluded from the scheduling the ground beneath it will retain medieval foundations and is included. The adjacent two-storeyed south range survives as a roofed building whose upper floor is used periodically as a court room while the ground floor or undercroft is used for agricultural purposes. Because the south range has remained roofed and in use, the fabric has been protected from the elements and its original features include an intact vaulted ceiling to the central chamber of the undercroft. However, there have also been a number of alterations to this range over the years, including the insertion of new windows and a fireplace. Access to the upper storey is via a partially demolished and reconstructed forebuilding which contains a staircase roofed with large stone slabs. The south west tower has been demolished to its foundations except for the outer skin of its south east wall, incorporating two original window openings, which is retained as a 2m high garden wall. This tower will have been similar in plan to the upstanding towers. The west range has also been demolished, although its foundations survive below ground. A ruined staircase, similar to that giving access to the south range, survives at the junction of the west range with the north west tower and north range. The west wall of the west range will lie roughly on the line of the modern dry-stone field wall which runs south from the north west tower. The north west tower survives as a roofless shell to a height of 7m; several features, including a garderobe, fireplace and the wall off-set which originally carried the first floor timbers, are visible. The original ground floor entrance to the tower gives access to the former kitchen in the north range. The latter room, with its two fireplaces, occupied the entire ground floor of the range and was open to the roof at the west end. The eastern end of the range had an upper storey the placements for whose timbers are visible on the walls. Although partially altered in the 18th or early 19th century to be used as a farm building, the north east tower survives to the top of the first floor (6.5m high); it originally comprised two large chambers, one on each floor, with garderobe chambers and fireplaces built into the wall. Stone corbels supported the first floor timbers and access to the upper storey was provided via a newel stair in the south east corner of the tower. The east range, containing the great hall, was largely demolished and rebuilt as a smaller barn in the 18th century but the full length of the west wall, containing four tall medieval window openings, survives to almost full height (5m). The north end of the hall, now the north wall of the barn, retains the original doorways leading to the kitchen and the ground floor of the north east tower. The southern part of the west wall of the hall is free-standing, linking the barn with the south range, and contains a 2.3m wide, arched gateway giving access to the courtyard. The medieval hall is estimated to have been at least 10m wide and the foundations of the original east wall will survive below ground to the east of the later barn. To the west of the castle, a partially buried boundary wall, running from the north west tower to the road, forms a small trapezoid enclosure measuring 30m by 25m across. The ground within this enclosure is slightly uneven, demonstrating the presence of buried building foundations; these remains will be those of ancillary structures, such as stables and workshops, associated with the castle. Danby Castle was built to replace the earlier earthwork castle at Castleton, reputedly destroyed by fire in the 14th century. The arms of Brus of Skelton, Neville, Latimer and Roos are all to be found incorporated into the stonework. William Latimer is thought to have erected Danby Castle between 1300-1302. Later in the 14th century the castle passed to the Nevilles and there is a tradition that Catherine Parr, widow of John Neville lived at Danby during her courtship with Henry VIII. Later in the 16th century, Danby passed to the Danvers family. The manor was bought by John Dawnay, later created Viscount Downe, in the 17th century and has remained in the property of the Dawnay family until the present day. The farmhouse is excluded from the scheduling, as is an old wooden threshing machine built into the barn on the east range; the ground beneath these features is, however, 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:
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Books and journals
Napper Collerton Partnership, , Danby Castle: North Yorkshire, (1991)


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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