Old Mulgrave Castle: an enclosure castle incorporated into an 18th century planned landscape


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Old Mulgrave Castle: an enclosure castle incorporated into an 18th century planned landscape
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Scarborough (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
NZ 83900 11699

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.

Despite inherent structural weakness of the medieval structure, the curtain walls survive to a height of several metres in places, while the keep survives as a standing structure and the foundations of other internal buildings survive below ground. Unusually, Old Mulgrave Castle was constructed on a new site, away from that of its Norman predecessor. Because the archaeological remains of the earlier stronghold have not been disturbed by later construction, the two monuments considered together offer a relatively rare opportunity for studying the development of medieval fortifications over time. Subsequently the castle was incorporated as a romantic ruin into one of Humphry Repton's most important landscape gardens. The gardens are themselves graded II* and are considered to be of great historic interest.


The monument includes a medieval enclosure castle which was at least partly occupied until the beginning of the 17th century; in the 18th century the ruins were used as the central feature of a planned landscape designed by Humphry Repton in the grounds of New Mulgrave Castle. Old Mulgrave Castle (a Grade I Listed Building) lies at the top of a steep-sided, narrow ridge with the valley of Sandsend Beck to the north and the valley of East Row to the south. The castle is constructed at a point where the ridge broadens out and its curtain walls are cut into the hillside, retaining a terraced platform which is polygonal in plan, measuring 90m east-west by 70m north-south. The interior ground level of the castle is up to 7.2m higher than that of the exterior and over the years numerous buttresses have been added to the curtain walls in order to reinforce them against outward collapse; at the north eastern corner these measures proved ineffective and a 30m stretch of the curtain has fallen away. A 10m wide moat surrounds the castle on its eastern, southern, and western sides, although it has been altered in several places to conform to later landscape schemes. A later trackway ramps down into the moat from the east, runs along the bottom of the moat around the south western perimeter of the castle before continuing westwards; a bank, 5m wide and 1.5m high, is visible on the southern edge of the trackway and is a remnant of the outer bank of the castle moat. The eastern arm of the moat survives as a ditch, 14m wide and 4m deep, but the northern end of this ditch has been altered by the addition of a causeway and a stone-lined pond. To the north of the castle on lower slopes an unusual bank between 1.2m and 1.8m high appears to be an outwork of the defences, although it has little or no real defensive qualities. The main gateway lies on the western side of the castle and is flanked by a pair of cylindrical towers; although the northern tower has collapsed, the southern tower survives to a height of 4.6m. A steep flight of stone steps leading down from the gateway, to the track at the bottom of the moat is a later addition. Opposite the gateway, the side of the moat is revetted with a 1.4m high stone wall which is the abutment of a drawbridge or footings of a defensive outwork. Beyond the gateway, a hollow way runs westward along the spine of the ridge for a distance of 100m; this hollow way is cut by the present trackway at its western end and indicates an earlier route leading to the castle across the drawbridge. An original postern gate may have been located at the north eastern corner of the castle where the later causeway crosses the moat. The most prominent structure within the castle enclosure is the central keep which is square in plan, with four cylindrical corner towers and survives to a height of about 5m; the 16th century mullioned windows are later alterations to the structure, which originally dates to around AD 1300. Although other internal buildings have been demolished, their foundations are visible as low earthworks and, in the 1900s, part excavations by the Marquis of Normanby revealed that most of the interior retained below ground remains of buildings. Some of the Marquis' excavation trenches were not infilled and are still visible, especially to the north of the keep. Old Mulgrave Castle was founded by Robert de Turnham, in about 1200, as the successor to an earlier motte and bailey castle, founded by Nigel Fossard, which lies 700m to the west. Although the castle was mentioned as `ruinous' in 1309, the keep was certainly occupied in the 16th century when its mullioned windows were inserted. The old castle was still of sufficient strategic importance to warrant its assault and part demolition in 1647, during the Civil War. The present house known as Mulgrave Castle was built in 1735 on a new site 1km to the north east and, in 1792, the landscape gardener, Humphry Repton, was appointed to draw up a series of proposals for laying out the environs of the house; the original `Red Book' containing his designs survives and it recorded that he saw the potential of incorporating the ruins of the Old Castle into his landscape. Some alteration of the medieval structure, as noted above, will have been undertaken at that time, although Repton states that such interference was to be kept to a minimum. Photographs taken during the early 20th century show that the interior of the castle was still maintained as well tended grassland with benches laid out around the walls, showing that the ruins continued to be used for recreation.

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.

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Books and journals
Mulgrave Castle, (1990)
Cathcart-King, D J, Castellarium Anglicanum, (1983)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of North Riding of Yorkshire, (1912)
Record No. 07405.0000,


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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