Fortheringhay Castle

The castle is thought to have been built by Earl Simon Senlis of Huntingdon (d.1111) who had married Matilda, the daughter of Judith, the niece of King William (d.1087) and Earl Waltheof (d.1076).  Its early history is sadly blank.  When it passed to the Crown is unknown, but it was a royal fortress of King John (d.1216).  It was held for the king at the end of 1220 when it was suddenly seized by Earl William Forz of Aumale (d.1241) when he revolted against King Henry III.  Probably the castle offered no resistence.  It similarly changed hands soon after when royal forces moved against the fortress and the main rebel base, Castle Byham, early in 1221.

In the late fourteenth century the castle was rebuilt as a palace by Duke Edmund Langley of York (d.1402) who seems to have built the outer bailey and filled in the castle motte ditch to the east.
 In 1586 Mary Queen of Scots was moved here and eventually executed in the great hall in 1587.  The castle was abandoned by the Civil War and was demolished early in the eighteenth century.

The fortress lies close to the River Nene and consisted of a 25' high motte, with a 230' basal diameter and a 100' diameter summit.  This was surrounded by a moat which was some 65' across and 12' deep.  Close to the river is a chunk of fallen masonry that is said to have come from the motte top and been set up here in 1913.  It shows that the keep was rubble built and ashlar faced.

To the south-east was a typical sub rectangular bailey about 215' by 170', which included part of the probably filled in motte moat after the rebuilding by Edmund Langley (d.1402).  Beyond the castle was a large outer bailey with sluice control works at its north-east angle which regulated the amount of water in the moats.

In 1341 the castle was described as having a stone tower on the motte and within the inner bailey 2 chapels, a great hall, chambers and a kitchen, proteted by a gatehouse with a drawbridge over the moat.  Later a further gatehouse was built for access into the outer ward from the town.  In 1625 the castle was described as strongly built of stone and double moated.  The inner gatehouse lay to the north and had fair lodgings above it entered via stairs.  Above this was the wardrobe which led up to the D shaped keep (fetterlock) on the motte which contained somewhat decayed chambers, but was still leaded.  In the centre of the round yard was a well that was 'landed up'.  This clearly suggests that this 'fetterlock' was once a shell keep.  At the foot of the motte was a spacious hall and a goodly court.  To the left was a chapel, goodly lodgings, a great dining room and a large room well furnished with pictures.  Standing near the hall were a buttery and kitchen and beyond them a yard with large brewhouses and bakehouses as well as offices.  Beyond this is the outer ward encompassing half the castle from the inner gatehouse.  This was entered from the east via a gatehouse next to a ruinous house.  There was a great barn on the west side of this ward.

Recent radio carbon dating by the Round Mounds Project has confirmed a building date for the motte from the early Norman period. 


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry