Richmond Castle: eleventh to fourteenth century enclosure castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 17161 00710

Reasons for Designation

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, 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 with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Richmond Castle is a very well-documented example of an early enclosure castle, important not only for the excellent state of preservation of its twelfth century keep and other later medieval remains, but also the exceptionally good survival of its earlier eleventh century features. It is one of a very small number of stone castles built in the first twenty years after the Norman Conquest to retain almost all its eleventh century masonry, and Scolland's Hall is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, great halls in the country. The remains of other structures and features, relating to all phases of the castle's history, will survive within the open areas of its three courts.


Richmond Castle occupies a naturally strong defensive position on the cliff above the River Swale in Richmond. The monument includes the exceptionally well-preserved standing remains of the castle, its three courts (the barbican or outer court, the great court and the second court or cockpit), Castle Bank, down to the edge of Riverside Road, where parts of the south range of the great court survive and the rampart to the north and east of the cockpit and great court respectively. Unlike most castles built during the years immediately following the Norman Conquest, the original building material at Richmond Castle was stone rather than earth and timber. The earliest form of the castle was that of a massive curtain wall around two sides of a triangular great court. By and large, the masonry of this wall dates to the last thirty years of the eleventh century, though the parapets and wall walk on the east side are early fourteenth century. The great court measures 91m north to south and 137m east to west. Unless it carried a timber palisade, the south side was originally undefended, being adequately protected by the steep drop down to the Swale. Three projecting towers defended the eleventh century curtain on the east side while another smaller tower stood at the south-west angle. The curtain on the west side stands to a considerable height and contains an eleventh century sallyport, a subsidiary gate through which the garrison could rush to defend the castle from attack. It also contains a semicircular arch indicating the site of the greater chapel. At the north angle of the curtain, beneath the later keep, is the eleventh century inner gatehouse, which was the principal entrance to the castle and led from the barbican. The outer gatehouse is no longer standing, but the twelfth century east wall of the barbican survives and the line of the west wall is followed by modern walling. In the south-east angle of the great court is the eleventh century Scolland's Hall, named after a steward of the first earl. Originally a two-storey building, with the ground floor being given over to cellarage, the first floor was reached from an external stair and consisted of the great hall and, at the south-east corner, the earl's private chamber, known as the solar. Original windows survive on both floors but differences in the stonework on the south wall indicate some rebuilding in the twelfth century. In the fourteenth century, the hall was modified by the insertion of a new doorway and window. The solar retains marks from a fire and appears to have been remodelled in the thirteenth century after being gutted. Eleventh century masonry also survives in the three rectangular towers projecting from the east curtain. The garderobe or latrine pits and lower parts of Gold Hole Tower (the garderobe tower) are of that date, as are the two lower floors of Robin Hood Tower, both of which are barrel vaulted. Robin Hood Tower also adjoins a blocked eleventh century gateway and housed the eleventh century chapel of St. Nicholas. Dominating the castle is the square keep, 30.6m high and built in the second half of the twelfth century over the eleventh century inner gatehouse. A new gateway was cut through the curtain wall immediately adjacent to the keep and is the present entrance to the castle. It is likely that the original gateway was blocked at this time, but this has yet to be substantiated. The rooms flanking the later gateway are modern and do not form part of this scheduling. Following the general rule, the keep was entered at the first floor, in this case from the wall walk to either side. Including the basement, the keep is three-storeyed with the upper storey leading via a stair onto turreted battlements. Of approximately the same date, ranging along the south side of the great court, are the remains of a brewery, kitchen and other service rooms, along with the foundations of a collapsed wall tower. Also twelfth century is the wall round the outer court, or cockpit, which is thought initially to have been enclosed by a timber palisade. The north section of the wall, and part of the east, is still extant, and, despite the cockpit being used for allotments in the nineteenth century, the buried foundations of two towers survive to south and east. North of Scolland's Hall are the ruins of a group of two-storey buildings built in the fourteenth century and housing a chamber and chapel. Although in a superbly defensive position, Richmond Castle had no great strategic value commanding little beyond the entrance to Swaledale. It owes its excellent state of preservation to its being overlooked by the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War. Its situation was chosen in response to the urgent military needs of its first Norman earl, Alan the Red. In 1071, when the castle was begun, he needed a strong place to protect his men against the rebellious English, who continued their uprisings until suppressed by William the Conqueror's `harrying of the North' in the 1080s. The castle's subsequent role was tied with that of the Honour of Richmond, which underwent numerous changes of lordship during the Middle Ages and after. Paramount were the links of its earls with the duchy of Brittany, which was inherited in 1164 by Conan the Little, one of Earl Alan's descendants. His new title meant he was subject to both the King of England and the King of France. Considering it wise to surrender the duchy to Henry II, he also betrothed his daughter Constance to Henry's son Geoffrey of Anjou. On Conan's death in 1171, Henry kept the Honour of Richmond until it could be inherited by Geoffrey on his marriage to Constance. After Geoffrey's death in 1186, Constance held the Honour till her death in 1201 when it passed to her third husband, Guy de Thouars. Guy took up arms against King John in 1203, following the murder of Arthur of Brittany, son of Constance and Geoffrey. He consequently forfeited the Honour in 1204 and the castle passed into royal hands until being granted to Ralph de Blundeville, Earl of Chester, in 1205. In 1218, part of the Honour went to Peter de Braine, husband of the eldest of Constance's daughters and Duke of Brittany. However, his share was forfeited to Henry III after he submitted to Louis IX of France. After being restored briefly to the Dukes of Brittany in 1266 and 1298, the Honour was granted by Edward I to his second son John, and then passed to John's nephew, John, Duke of Brittany, upon whose death in 1341, it went to John of Gaunt, son of Edward III. In 1372, Gaunt became King of Castile and the Honour then passed back to the Dukes of Brittany, in this case John de Montfort. He forfeited it twice, in 1381 and 1384, due to his allegiance to Charles V of France. Richard II then gave it to his Queen, Anne of Bohemia, until her death when it was leased to Ralph Neville, Lord of Raby. In 1399, it was given by Henry IV to Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, and, from 1425 to 1435, it rested with Henry's son John, Duke of Bedford. It then reverted to the Crown until c.1450 when Henry VI made partial grant of the castle to Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury. In 1462, Edward IV gave both Honour and castle to his brother, George, Duke of Clarence, and, in 1478, it passed to Richard, Duke of Gloucester who, as Richard III, retained it till his death in 1484. The Honour merged with the Crown upon the accession of Henry VII in 1485 and became an occasional grant of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs until being conferred on the Lennox family in 1675 by Charles II. The castle has been in State care since 1916 and is also a Grade I Listed Building. During the nineteenth century, the west side of the great court became the site of an army barracks. Cropmarks showing the plan of these barracks can be clearly seen from the top of the keep. During World War One the castle was used to confine conscientious objectors. Graffiti made by these prisoners still survives in the cells and passageway of the cellblock on the south east of the keep/gatehouse. Features within the protected area which are excluded from the scheduling are: all modern buildings and walling, the surfaces of paths and drives, and all English Heritage fittings such as notices, grilles, and flagpole. However the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling.

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:


Sir Charles Peers, Richmond Castle, 1981, Official EH Guidebook


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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