Upsall 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
- 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-
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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
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