After the Norman Conquest, in 1069, the land around
Middleham was given to Alan Rufus or ‘Alan The Red’, a nephew of William the
Conqueror. Rufus built a wooden motte-and-bailey castle, 500 yards to the
south-west of where the present castle stands, on a site known as William's
was built to guard Coverdale and to protect the road from Richmond to
Skipton. Alan Rufus was also the builder
Richmond Castle. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Middleham had been
granted to Alan Rufus’s brother Ribald.
This early castle was abandoned in the 12th
century when a new castle was built
around a massive stone keep . The construction of the present castle began
around 1170 by Robert Fitzrandolph (grandson of Ribald) during the reign of
Henry II when he built the keep and original bailey. The keep, one of the
largest in England, had twelve foot thick walls and three floors; for its
time, this would have provided palatial accommodation. It contained a great
chamber, large kitchen, chapel, dovecot, cellars
and the living rooms of the lord of Middleham.
At each end of the keep's
vaulted basement there were two wells (which can still be seen today). The
thirteenth century curtain walls formed an enclosure around 250 feet on each
side. In the fourteenth and fifteenth century the garrison quarters, stables
and stores were housed within these walls.
entry was via a gatehouse on the East side of the castle across a wooden
bridge (possibly having a drawbridge over a now dry moat). The huge wooden
gates and probable portcullis must have presented an awesome first
impression! The present day entrance to the castle is through the Northern
gatehouse, known as the ‘Neville Gate’.
Middleham Castle became home to some of the
most powerful lords of the 15th century, including Salisbury, Warwick and Richard,
Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III, he was particularly fond of
Middleham, preferring it to any of his other castles.
The round tower at the south-west
corner of the curtain wall, traditionally known as the Prince's Tower, is
said to be where Richard's son Prince Edward was born and died.
After Richard was killed at
the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 Henry VII became king, and Middleham Castle
became his. Under the Tudors the castle was left to fall into disrepair.
In 1604 James
I granted the castle to Sir Henry Linley, who made some repairs and lived
there until his death in 1610 when his daughter Jane Linley then inherited
the castle. In 1613 Jane married Edward, 2nd Viscount Loftus, who occupied
it until 1644.
During the Civil War it was to be used as a prison.
Parliament ordered the east range wall be destroyed along with most of the
wall-walks, thus leaving the castle the shell it is today.
In 1662 it
was sold to Edward Wood, his family owning the castle until 1889. It was
then sold to Samuel Cunliffe-Lister, 1st Lord Masham, and was inherited by
the second Lord Masham in 1906. In 1925 the Office of Works, later to become
English Heritage, acquired the castle and it is now in their keeping and open to the public.
The castle ruins tower above
Despite its ruined
state, the central Keep is still an imposing
measuring some 110 feet by 80 feet.
The original stone
staircase was destroyed long ago,
but on climbing the modern
in the south east
corner of the Keep there are fantastic views to be
had of the surrounding countryside.
Middleham Castle occasionally has special events
by 'English Heritage'
Usually entitled 'Living History' with re-enactors staying
and living in the castle grounds showing how medieval life was.
There are displays of knights fighting in full armour, ladies dancing and
musicians playing on medieval instruments.
For details of events etc visit their website
For Opening Times and Entrance
please visit the English
Heritage Website (see above)
For all further information Telephone 01969 623899
FACILITIES AVAILABLE AT THE CASTLE
Toilets are situated in the town, approx 200m from Castle entrance.
Shop: Level access with Souvenirs, Ices & Snacks available.
Plenty of room for picnics in grounds.
Access to castle and grounds is level, including the
ground floor Keep, smooth grass area in castle grounds. Steep spiral staircase
to the top of the Keep. Four seats provided. There is no car park, but there is
a setting down point on the road outside the entrance.