Upsall Castle: a quadrangular castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Upsall Castle: a quadrangular castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 45397 86993

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, the basement storey of the quadrangular castle at Upsall is thought to be well preserved, retaining the complete groundplan of the building. The infilling of the ruins will have protected the masonry from the elements, assisting their preservation. The castle has important associations with the Scrope family who built the quadrangular castle at Bolton, one of the first castles of this type, and may have been the work of the master mason John Lewyn who also designed castles at Sheriff Hutton, Lumley and Wressel.


The monument includes the remains of a 14th century quadrangular castle which survives beneath the terraced platform on which stands the 19th century Upsall Castle. The west and south elevations of the 14th century castle form the sandstone retaining walls of the terrace and survive to a height of at least 4m. A plinth at the base of the wall is offset by about 0.3m and pilaster buttresses at roughly 5m intervals protrude by 1.5m. The lower courses are of dressed stone but rubble core is exposed on the upper parts. The ground floor of a 16m square tower, the `Kitchen Tower', is located at the eastern end of the south elevation; the interior now forms a sunken garden which may be entered via a spiral staircase, and niches, probably chimney flues, are visible in the walls. East of the Kitchen Tower, the terrace wall is of 19th century construction but medieval structures are thought to survive behind it. A mason's mark is visible just above the plinth close to the Kitchen Tower. About 20m from the south-western corner, the voussoirs of the arch of a blocked opening have been observed. Although part of the west elevation lies beneath a landscaped embankment, stones of the upper courses of the wall protrude through the surface indicating its line and a `D'-shaped bastion tower survives to a total height of about 8m. The remains of the interior structures of the castle, including the north and east ranges are thought to survive below ground, having been infilled when the garden terrace was constructed. On the basis of the observed remains, the overall dimensions of the buried remains of the castle are estimated as 85m east-west by 65m north- south. The construction of the quadrangular castle is attributed to Geoffrey Scrope who acquired the manor in 1327 and whose family are famous for building a similar castle at Bolton in Wensleydale. It is thought that the Scrope's castle replaced a Norman castle at Upsall, although there are no visible remains of the earlier stronghold. Another quadrangular castle lay just 600m to the north-east of Upsall, at Kirby Knowle. The castle at Upsall was partially demolished in the Civil War and was in ruins in 1660. The castle wall ruins are listed Grade II. A manor house which then occupied the site was replaced in the 19th century by the present house at which time the landscaping of the ruins was also executed. The 19th century house is excluded from the scheduling, as are two flights of 19th century steps leading down from the terrace. The retaining wall to the south of the embankment on the west side of the castle and a small stone-built shed abutting the west wall are also excluded from the scheduling. The ground beneath all these features, however, is 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.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of the North Riding of Yorkshire, (1923), 40-1
NAR Record, (1972)
Oetgen, J, (1992)


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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