Middleham Castle: twelfth century tower, keep, castle and fourteenth century concentric castle.


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1010629

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 09-Apr-1992


Ordnance survey map of Middleham Castle: twelfth century tower, keep, castle and fourteenth century concentric castle.
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Richmondshire (District Authority)

Parish: Middleham

National Grid Reference: SE 12664 87592


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid- 15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104 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 to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Middleham Castle is a well-documented example of a tower keep castle which evolved into a concentric castle in the later Middle Ages. Its importance lies in its excellent state of preservation and in its associations with Richard III and one of the most important families of the later Middle Ages, the Nevilles. Of particular significance is its wide range of surviving ancillary buildings, and also the form of its Norman keep which, as a hall- keep, is one of the rarer type of keep castles. Intact archaeological deposits survive both inside the inner ward and outside to the south and it is one of a very small number of keep-castles nationally to have escaped being slighted during the Civil War.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


Middleham Castle is situated in the town of Middleham in Leyburn, North Yorkshire. The monument consists of a single area containing the impressive standing remains of the Norman keep, begun in the mid-twelfth century, the fourteenth century curtain wall and later domestic buildings, and the surrounding ditched enclosure. The keep is of the rarer type of tower keep, known as a hall keep. It is rectangular in plan, measuring 32m x 24m, with ashlar faced walls up to 3.7m thick. Originally entered at first floor level from a flight of stairs up the east side, it is divided longitudinally by a central wall. The floor at this level has gone, but the eastern half contained the great hall and the western half the lord's private chamber, or solar, and inner chamber. Below, the basement floor contained a vaulted cellar to the east and, to the west, the main kitchen and a smaller cellar. Garderobes (latrines) can be seen on the main floor to south and west, extending into turrets added in the fourteenth century when the walls of the keep were heightened by the addition of a clerestory, a row of windows set above the main storey to let in light. Of similar or later date is the great window looking out of the lord's solar over Wensleydale, created by knocking through the wall between two earlier, Norman windows. Built on to the east side of the keep is a thirteenth century chapel which originally had three storeys, the two lower serving as a vestry and possible priest's lodging. The upper storey contained the chapel itself and was entered from the hall. Adjoining the chapel building to the east is the base of a tower which contained a gateway to a bridge over the east ditch. An abutment on the outer bank of the east ditch shows where the bridge led to the outer ward of the castle. This eastern outer ward is now built over and does not form part of the scheduling. The ditch is visible on the north and east sides of the castle, and also 40m to the south, where it appears to have been modified at some stage to form a fishpond. The ditch is less than 10m wide and, currently, only c.5m deep; it therefore does not seem to have formed part of a formidable defensive system. Although the early keep must have had outer defences, the only standing remains at Middleham are of the curtain wall round the inner ward, which was first built in the early fourteenth century. The earliest sections consist of a 7.3m high wall with a parapet walk, extant on all four sides of the enclosure, and the bases of the main gatehouse and three corner towers. The walls and all but the south-east tower were heightened in the late fourteenth century and service rooms and lodgings were built against the curtain from the fourteenth century onwards, first along the south and west walls and later the north. The north-west tower, already heightened in the late fourteenth century, was enlarged and heightened again at the time these lodgings were constructed in order to provide garderobes for the new north range. This range contained six separate lodgings which, like those of the other ranges, were intended for retainers, guests and officials. Another garderobe tower was built midway along the west curtain. In the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, a horse mill and large oven were added to the south range. The tower keep castle was begun in the mid-twelfth century by Ralph FitzRanulph and represents a shift from the site of the earlier Norman ringwork known as William's Hill, 300m to the south-west. Through marriage to Ralph's daughter Mary, the castle passed to the Nevilles of Raby until passing in 1460 to the `Kingmaker', Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. After his death in 1471, it was forfeited to the Crown. Edward IV then gave it to his brother Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III. Richard married Anne Neville, the Kingmaker's daughter, and their only son, Edward, was born at Middleham and also died there. After Richard's death, Middleham passed to Henry VII and remained Crown property until 1604 when it was given by James I to Sir Henry Lindley. Having passed through a number of hands since that time, it came into State care in 1930 and is also a Grade I Listed Building. Excluded from the scheduling are the ticket office and all English Heritage fittings such as notices, interpretation boards, bridges and catwalks, the flagpole, modern waIling and fencing, benches and the surfaces of paths. 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: 13276

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Murray, J, Handbook for Travellers in Yorkshire, (1867), 286
Official DOE Guide (pamphlet), Sir Charles Peers, Middleham Castle, (1965)

End of official listing