Crayke Castle: a motte and bailey and later stone castle of the bishops of Durham, incorporating part of an Anglo-Saxon monastic cemetery


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Crayke Castle: a motte and bailey and later stone castle of the bishops of Durham, incorporating part of an Anglo-Saxon monastic cemetery
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Hambleton (District Authority)
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Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

The motte and bailey at Crayke was remodelled in the 15th century in a more conteporary fashion as a tower house. Tower houses were prestigious defended residences permanently occupied by the wealthier or aristocratic members of society. Crayke Castle remained in use as a residence of some of the most powerful lords in the region, the bishops of Durham, thoughout the medieval and early post-medieval periods. Because the castle subsequently remained in domestic use, later buildings associated with the monument are exceptionally well- preserved and, despite the alterations wrought by successive occupiers, many elements of earlier structures are visible, providing good evidence of each phase in the development of the castle. The monument also includes the only known archaeological remains of the pre- Conquest monastery at Crayke which comprise part of the Anglo-Saxon cemetery.


The monument includes a Norman motte and bailey castle whose wooden fortifications were later replaced with a stone tower house and which was built over part of a pre-Conquest monastic cemetery; the castle was held by the bishops of Durham. The monument is situated in a commanding position at the top of a prominent natural outcrop 3km south west of the Howardian Hills. The motte lies beneath the later structures and is still visible to the north of the castle as an earthwork mound rising about 2.5m above the natural hilltop, forming a platform on which later buildings were constructed. The inner bailey defences have been altered over the years and only survive as earthworks at the south east side as a short section of bank, although the line of the southern edge to the bailey is retained by the present garden wall alongside Crayke Lane. The inner bailey occupied most of the crown of the hill above the 100m contour, extending to the north of St Cuthbert's Church and measuring up to 210m east-west by 90m north-south. Originally the buildings on the motte were constructed of timber but were quickly replaced in stone. Several phases of building and rebuilding are known to have occurred, culminating with work undertaken for Bishop Neville in the mid-15th century. Subsequently, the castle was made untenable as a fortress by an act of Parliament in 1646 and by the 18th century the main range was in use as a farmhouse. Two distinct and self-contained buildings are visible. Of these the larger block, known as the `Great Chamber', has been restored and now forms a domestic residence. This was originally constructed in the 15th century but was slightly altered and added to in the 18th and 19th centuries. In its original form it had kitchen ranges appended to its rear, north side which linked it to a hall referred to as the `Old Hall' in a description of 1441. Today the vaulted undercroft of the main kitchen range survives and is used as the modern kitchen: although no further remains of the north ranges are visible, their foundations will survive below ground. The construction of the stone castle included the creation of an inner bailey enclosed by a stone wall which roughly corresponded with the earlier bailey and also, at a later date, an outer bailey defined by a curtain wall which extended along the bottom of the steep slope to the north of the castle. The remains of the footings for a projecting tower in the inner bailey wall survive as a platform on the north edge of the outcrop approximately 40m north east of the castle. Small scale excavations at the east end of the bailey found evidence for the location of a gatehouse allowing access to the castle via a hollow way; this route still survives as Love Lane which runs northwards along the eastern boundary field. Within the inner bailey, the earthwork remains of a large rectangular building in the field north of the churchyard has been identified as a barn listed in the 16th century survey of the castle and depicted on a map of Crayke dating to 1688. Excavations in 1983 also indicated the presence of a medieval pottery kiln at the east side of the inner bailey. Further ancillary buildings will survive below ground in the undisturbed areas of this inner bailey. The curtain wall enclosing the outer bailey survives as a shallow bank and terrace curving round northwards from the western side of the motte to approximately 5m short of the hedge line. It then turns to extend eastward to the north east corner of the field where it then extends northward, following Love Lane. Within the outer precinct, along the slope are the remains of cultivation terraces some of which pre-date the castle. In the north eastern area of the outer precinct a number of building platforms are set amid the terrraces. Partial excavation of these in 1994 indicated that they may have supported small timber buildings. The area of the outer precinct was probably enclosed in the 13th century and continued in use for agrarian purposes linked to the castle. In the area between the outer precinct wall and the hedge line to the north and west are further remains of the cultivation terraces pre-dating the castle which are also thought to have continued in use after the outer precinct was enclosed. Excavations to the north east of the church in 1957 and 1988 revealed that the castle bailey was built over the north western corner of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. It is thought that further remains of the cemetery and possibly of the monastery itself will also survive below ground. The cemetery was of a monastery founded by St Cuthbert after he became the Bishop of Lindisfarne in 685. The Saxon bishops of Durham also held a manor house in the vicinity and Crayke was recorded as a possession of the see in the Domesday Book survey. The earliest documentary reference to the castle is for 1195, when Bishop Hugh Pudsey supped there en route from Durham shortly before his death. There were several royal visitors to Crayke; King John stayed in 1209, 1210-11 and again in 1211; Henry III stayed in 1227, Edward I in 1292, Edward II in 1316 and Edward III in 1333. Both the occupied and ruined sections of Crayke Castle are Listed Grade I. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are the main range of the castle, the 19th century stable block beside Crayke Lane, the surface of the driveway and tennis court, all modern paved areas and garden fences and gates and the disused reservoir, although the ground beneath all these features 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.

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Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of North Riding of Yorkshire, (1923)
Adams, K A, Monastery, Church and Village: Fieldwork and Excavation at Crayke, (1986)
Illingworth, J L, Yorkshire's Ruined Castles, (1938)
Raine, Reverend Cannon, Some Notices of Crayke Castle, (1870)
Hildyard, E J W, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in Romano-British Discoveries at Crayke, Nth York ii) Trial Excav, (1959)
pag 99-111, Asstd Architect Soc's Reports and Papers,DoE, List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Int, (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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