Flamborough Castle: a fortified manor house


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.

East Riding of Yorkshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TA 22581 70344

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Flamborough Castle is a good example of a medieval fortified manor house which still preserves some important architectural details. Although now in a ruinous state, with only parts of the tower surviving above ground, the monument as a whole, including its extensive associated earthworks, is relatively undisturbed and will contain foundation walls and other archaeological deposits providing important evidence of the nature of the manorial economy and settlement of the medieval and early historic period, from its foundation early in the 14th century until its abandonment in the 16th century.


The monument includes the remains of a medieval fortified house and related earthworks known as Flamborough Castle, located in a field behind the war memorial in Tower Street, in the village of Flamborough.

The most visible feature of the site is the ruined tower, which stands in the middle of the site. It is constructed of coursed squared chalk blocks and rubble, probably extracted from a small quarry around 100m to the north of the site.

Originally rectangular in plan, only three sides now survive, and include the full length of the south wall, with parts of the east and west walls remaining to an estimated height of 4m. There is one altered doorway to the east with plain jambs and square head, whilst the interior retains putlog holes and chamfered springers for a barrel vaulted basement. Until a few years ago, the vaulted chamber was complete but, due to the decay of mortar, has now collapsed. Part of the first floor, with the footings of a door in the south wall, can be traced above the remains of the vaulting. The only evidence for a second floor is a garderobe drain in the south east corner wall. The drain was enclosed in masonry and can be traced up through the basement and first floor level. There are many putlog holes through the walls which may have been filled with clay or wood.

This tower would have been only one element of a building complex. At the death of Sir Robert Constable in 1537, the complex is said to have included a tower, a hall, a `great parlour', a `lord's parlour', a chapel, a court house, a mill house, and a great barn.

The foundations of other buildings are visible as overgrown earthwork banks immediately around the tower. Stone forming their upper walls has been largely robbed out, probably to construct later buildings in Flamborough, or for lime burning, leaving only foundations and associated demolition debris. The remains thus identified appear to occupy an almost square platform in the centre of the field; this was the core of the medieval manor house. Around this a series of further earthwork banks and ditches define and sub-divide a series of enclosures and access trackways. The earthworks are difficult to interpret clearly but are thought to include stock yards and enclosures within which lesser manorial buildings (those associated with agricultural activities such as barns) were located.

There are good historical data which show that it was the seat of the Constable family for many years, until the death of Sir Robert Constable in 1537. In 1315, William the Constable was licensed to have an oratory, and later in 1351, Marmaduke Constable received licence to crenellate the house. In the 16th century, Leland described it as `taken for a manor place rather than a castle'. The tower survived , and in 1798 it still contained a vaulted undercroft which was used as a cattle shed. Chalk was then being removed and burned for lime, the lime kilns for which are still evident as circular earthworks on the site, to the east of the tower. The tower is also a Listed Grade II building.

The following are excluded from the scheduling: the war memorial and its associated wall and railings, modern post and wire fences which bound the site or cross it and animal feeding troughs, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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 East Riding of Yorkshire, (1974), p155
AM7, (1949)
Earnshaw, J R, (1965)
Information held by Humberside SMR, (1994)
Pacitto, AC, AM107, (1984)


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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