Middleham Castle

The land of Middleham was originally held by Gillepatric before 1066 when it was worth 20s.  He also held the vills of Bolton, Redmire, Solberge [near Gatenby], West Scrafton and Spennithorne.  By 1086 these lands had passed to Count Alan Rufus of Penthievre (d.1094), probably during the Harrying of the North (1069-70).  He was also lord of Richmond.  By 1086 Middleham and several other vills were held under Count Alan by his brother, Ribald Middleham (d.1121/29).  In Yorkshire these lands were Allerthorpe Hall (near Gatenby), Bolton, East Hauxwell, Low Swainby, Middleham, Redmire, Spennithorne, Thornton Watlass and West Scrafton.  In Norfolk Ribald held in chief, Ashwicken, Bawsey, Beechamwell, East Walton, Field Dalling, Foulden, Great Cressingham, Hethersett, Holkham, Matlaske, Middleton, South Pickenham, Saxthorpe, Scottow, Stoke Ferry, Tochestorp, Warham and Wells next the Sea.  From this it can be seen that Ribald's lands made 3 distinct groups.  Firstly there were his Yorkshire lands that stretched in an east to west line from near Thirsk to Castle Bolton held from his brother, Count Alan (d.1094) and then 2 clusters of Norfolk lands, one south and west of Castle Acre and the other running just south of the coast from Wells next the Sea to just north of Norwich.  The Castle Acre group was possibly based around the motte raised on the site of an Anglo-Saxon site at Middleton, but the vill was shared with Hugh Montfort (d.1088+) and William Devereux (d.1096+) who may also have been responsible for the castle.

On Ribald's death in the period 1121 to 1129, his son, Ralph Fitz Ribald, who may also have used his mother's maiden name of Taillebois, succeeded to his lands.  Ralph's mother was the daughter of Ivo Taillebois (d.bef.1097), who was once the lord of Appleby and Kendal in right of his wife, Lucy Bolingbroke (d.c.1138).  This Beatrix Taillebois was probably illegitimate as she received no part of Ivo and Lucy's northern estates.  She had married Ribald before 1093 and died after 1112.  Ribald himself ended his life as a widower and monk, while his son, Ralph Fitz Ribald Taillebois (d.1168/77), was confirmed in his father's lands by Count Stephen of Penthievre (d.1136) the younger brother and heir of Count Alan Rufus (d.1094). 

Ralph Fitz Ribald was first mentioned as a witness before 1116 and had obviously succeeded his father by 1130.  Before 1150 he had married Agatha Bruce, the daughter of Robert Bruce (d.1142) of Lochmaben and Skelton.  Ralph was last certainly mentioned in 1168 when he owed and paid ½m (6s 8d) aid in Norfolk.  Presumably he died soon after that, although in 1177 there is a reference to a Ralph Taillebois being pardoned 3m (£2) for default in Norfolk.  It is possible that Ralph actually died this year, for again under Norfolk it was recorded that Robert Fitz Ralph Fitz Ribald owed and was pardoned 5m (£3 6s 8d) for a Norfolk default.  Robert Fitz Ralph (d.1185), obviously the eldest son, is not to be confused with Robert Alfreton (d.1172) who was sheriff of Nottingham from 1165 to 1168, or Robert Fitz Ralph Fitz Bernard of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire who was living in 1180.  According to an account written in the 1270s it was this Robert Fitz Ralph who founded the house Middleham.  If this is correct and refers to the castle, it would probably date the keep to the 1170s.  Certainly the castle appears in Gervase's Mappa Mundi of about 1200.

Robert Fitz Ralph of Middleham appeared only once in the pipe rolls in 1177 before he died young, apparently on 14 September 1185.  He left a widow, Helewise Glanville (d.1195).  They had married before 1168 and she, the youngest daughter of Ranulf Glanville (d.1190) according to a corrupt later account, brought the vills of Bawdsey and Great Finborough in Suffolk to the marriage.  Their eldest son, Waleran Fitz Robert, was born in 1170 and was recorded as lord of Theakston, Coverham, Swainby, Kettlewell in Yorkshire and Hethersett and South Pickenham in Suffolk before 1189.  However, he was dead by 1194 when his brother, Ralph Fitz Robert (d.1252), was suing for his inheritance in Bawdsey in Suffolk.  Presumably Ralph was of age at this time, although he stated in 1206 that he had been in the custody of Archbishop Hubert Walter (1193-1205) when his land of Saxthorp had been alienated.  He possibly came of age in 1198 when he paid off the scutages which had been charged against his Norfolk lands since 1195.  A confusion obviously existed between this man and his father in various early pipe rolls and this resulted in him being named Ralph Fitz Robert Fitz Ralph Fitz Ribald in 1211 to make the point of exactly who it was who held half a fee in Norfolk of the Crown.

At some point, probably in the twelfth century, the church and chapel of Middleham with their adjacent lands had been granted to Durham priory as King John confirmed on 2 February 1204.  That a chapel was mentioned could imply the one set within the keep of Middleham castle, or just possibly the chapel later attached to the keep.  Ralph Fitz Robert (d.1252) played a part in the Barons' War of King John's reign.  At first the king was favourable to Ralph, ordering on 23 June 1215, that the sheriff of Norfolk should give him full seisin of the manor of Saxthorp [which had been alienated in Ralph's minority] which the sheriff had in his bail.  Ralph was also to have the lands of Eustace Ledenham in Long Leadenham which had been taken by the sheriff of Lincolnshire. 

Despite these signs of favour from the king, by the end of the year Ralph had risen in rebellion.  Hence, on 6 January 1216, Ralph Fitz Robert was granted letters of conduct for 15 days.  These were apparently unused for on 17 February 1216, the king issued further letters of safe conduct for Ralph Fitz Robert, Adam Stavel' and Brian Fitz Alan (d.1242) to come unarmed to King John to make peace for the next 3 weeks.  Simultaneously the king, writing from Knarlesborough on the same day, ordered the constable of Richmond to give the custody of Middleham (Midehal) castle to Nicholas Stapleton.  This would imply that Ralph had abandoned his fortress, or it had been taken by royalist forces by this time.  The king still hoped to detach the Northern barons from their treasons, with the result that on 7 May 1216, he again asked Robert Roos (d.1226, Helmsley and Wark), William Mowbray (d.1224, Brinklow), Eustache Vescy (d.1216, Alnwick), Peter Bruce (d.1222, Skelton), John Fitz Robert (d.1241, Warkworth and Clavering), Richard Percy (d.1244, Topcliffe), Richard Umfraville (d.1227, Prudhoe), Roger Morlay, Roger Bertram (d.1242, Mitford), Ralph Fitz Robert (d.1252) and Bartholomew Fitz... to send their nuncios to Dover to treat.  Obviously nothing came of this for it was not until 30 October 1217 that it was announced that Ralph Fitz Robert had come to the faith and service of the new King Henry III (1216-72).  Consequently the sheriff of York was ordered to restore his lands to him.  The same day he was allowed to collect scutage from his own knights in Yorkshire and Norfolk.  The rebellion of Ralph Fitz Robert was over and presumably this marked his castle of Middleham being returned to him.  Three years later Ralph was ordered on 3 February 1221, to join with many of his old rebel comrades, viz. Robert Roos (d.1226), Peter Bruce (d.1222), John Fitz Robert (d.1241), Nicholas Stuteville (d.1233, Liddel) and William Mowbray (d.1224), to besiege (assidendo) and to destroy (diruendo) Skipsea castle which was held by the rebel earl of Aumale.

Ralph Fitz Robert was obviously regarded as a man of importance for he married before 1218, Mary (d.bef.1252), the daughter of Earl Roger Bigod (d.1221) of Framlingham and Ida Tosny of Painscastle (d.1200).  His lands in Yorkshire, were obviously regarded as extensive as in 1242 he was fined 50m (£33 6s 8d) for not going with his knights to Gascony.  He died, aged some 72 years, a little before 6 December 1252, leaving his son Ralph Fitz Ralph, born in 1218, as his heir in Norfolk and Yorkshire.  This Ralph married Anastasia Percy (d.1272), the daughter of William Percy (d.1245) of Topcliffe and proved the last of the male line, dying on 13 March 1270.

At Ralph's death his lands were divided amongst his sons in law, Robert Neville (d.1271) and Robert Tattershall (d.1298).  To Neville went the manor of Middleham except for Anastasia's dower, Carlton with Coverdale forest and the vaccaries of Braidley, Woodale, Hundeletheyt and Arkelside.  There then followed a list of his lands, namely Thoralby, Aysgarth and Thornton Rust, with the mills, rent of 2s 8d in York, the manors of Dovescar (Douvesker in Aysgarth parish) and Walden with meadows and pastures, 20s rent in Richmond, West Layton, Walden and 1s 8d from the lodge of Wytey.  Within this partition were the other 2 parts of £4 10s for the lordship of the house of Middleham, the chase of the forest of Coverdale and the lordship of the forest.  These fees included Snape, Theakstone, West Bolton, Coverham, West Scrafton, Caldebergh, Melmorby, Redmire, Mortham and the advowson of Coverham (Coverdale) abbey. Tattershall had Well with half Snape wood, Newbiggin, West Burton, Fleensop in Coverdale, Theakstone and Allarthorpe, Clifton upon Ure, Thornton Watlass, Yarnwick, Thirn, Gatenby, Agglethorpe and West Bolton.  Part of the land also passed to the king who had the youngest, unmarried daughter in custody.  This included Snape with part of the wood of Well and Crakehall, Swineside in Coverdale, Ripon, Cowling, Newton le Willows, Thorp Perrow, Barton, Little Bolton, Leyburn, East Hauxwell, Walburn, Burton upon Ure, Great Crakehale and finally Aysgarth and the advowson of the church.  Ralph's lands in Norfolk were then enumerated.  These included South Pickenham, Middleton with the chapel of Cantelof, Stockton, Hethersett including Belaugh, Saxthorpe and a mill.  These were also divided 3 ways.  It is clear from later events that the oddly named ‘lordship of the house of Middleham' eventually passed to the Nevilles, who may also have granted the rectory of Seaham in County Durham to Coverham abbey.

Robert Neville (d.1271), the son of another Robert Neville (d.1282) who was lord of Sheriff Hutton, Brancepeth and Raby castles, seems to have married Mary Fitz Ralph (d.1320) before 1262 by which date their son, Ralph Neville (d.1331) had been born.  However, the marriage seems not to have proved a happy one and Robert was caught committing adultery with the wife of a knight from nearby Craven.  The knight's servants, not knowing who he was, beat and emasculated him, from which wound he died on 6 June 1271.  He was then buried at Coverham abbey. 

It was during the period between Robert's death in June 1271 and his father's death in August 1282 that a document was drawn up at Coverham abbey recording the fate of Middleham barony.  This clearly came from a lost chartulary.  Translated it reads:

Coat of Arms of the Lords of Middleham, Founders of Coverham priory.
It must be known that we have nothing, except these 2 carucates, in any place, from the ancestors of the lady of Tattershall, who is the lady of Well and of Snape, and the wife of Robert Tattershall (d.1298); whose sister Mary (d.1320), the eldest, was the lady of Middleham, once the wife of Robert Fitz Ralph [this section is much confused and obviously has kaleidoscoped one or more lines into one.  Mary was actually the wife of Robert Fitz Robert Neville (d.1271); Mary's father was Ralph Fitz Ralph (d.1270)], the father of Ralph [Ralph Fitz Robert (d.1252), Mary's grandfather] was this Robert Fitz Ralph (d.1185), whose last charter is the preceding one.  This Robert founded the house of Middleham.  The father of this Robert was called Ralph Fitz Ribald (d.1168/77), whose charter is the penultimate preceding.  It is not known who Ribald's father was.  It is said that he was born overseas.  And so briefly it is clear that the ancestors of Ralph Fitz Ralph (d.1270), whose inheritance was divided between his two daughters, Mary (d.1320), the first-born, lady of Middleham, who has three sons by her aforesaid husband, namely Ralph Neville (d.1331), the first-born, to whom, in addition to his mother's inheritance, he had the inheritance of Robert Neville (d.1282) who still survives.  The younger sister of Mary, wife of Robert Tattershall (d.1298), is called Joan (d.1316+).

Quite clearly from this, the monks of Coverham were recording the family house of their benefactors and founders.  The only information in it of note is that Robert Fitz Ralph (d.1185) founded ‘the house of Middleham'.  Presumably this is the current castle.  Oddly missing from the list is Helewise Glanville (d.1195), the wife of Robert and founder of Swainby abbey in 1185/89.  As Coverham lies less than 2 miles from Middleham, perhaps this is what the phrase ‘founder of the house of Middleham' actually meant - the monks not wishing to accept a woman as their founder.  Although in this case it would be thought that they would have claimed Helewise and Robert's son, Ralph Fitz Robert (d.1252) as the founder, as he had moved Helewise's body and the abbey to Coverham in 1212.  Once again this fails to prove that Robert Fitz Ralph (d.1185) founded Middleham castle.

After Robert Neville's 1271 death, Mary Fitz Ralph remained lady of Middleham for the next 49 years until her own death on 30 March 1320.  During this period, the 'Lady of Middleham', settled the castle and manor of Middleham upon herself, with remainder to her son Ralph for life, with reversion to his son Robert and his heirs.  In 1286/7 Middleham was recorded as a land of 3 carucates owing a quarter of a knight's fee and held by Mary Neville of the earl of Richmond, who in turn held of the king.  Mary alone was still recorded as holding Middleham in 1316.  She died on 30 March 1320 and on 20 July, the king ordered that the various lands of Middleham, Thoralby, Well, Snape, Carlton, Fagherwald [near Well], Nosterfield, Burton, Crakehall and Ayksgarth should be parcelled out to those parties, viz. Robert and Ralph Neville, as had been agreed in the king's court.  Her Yorkshire lands as listed above were held of Earl John Brittany of Richmond (d.1334) for the service of 6½ fees, except for Burton and Ayksgarth which were held for half a fee from Thomas Burgh (d.1322).  When her son Ralph Neville died a little before 22 April 1331, his Yorkshire lands were recorded as held directly of the Crown and consisted of Middleham, Crakehall, Carlton and Thoralby with tenements in Richmond and West Layton.  Neither of these inquisitions mentioned a castle at Middleham.  The parks surrounding Middleham, East and West Parks, could well have been established by Ralph Neville (d.1367), who obtained licence to impark his wood of Middleham in 1335.

Many years later, the inquest on the death of Ralph Neville on 28 August 1367 was much more detailed and found that Middleham consisted of a castle and manor with Carlton and Coverdale, Ayksgarth, Thornton Rust, Crakehall, Well, Newton by Patrickbrompton and Herneby, all held of the earl of Richmond by knight service.  Middleham castle was recorded as worth nothing within its walls, although there were 2 parks with deer and a close called le Westfield.  From this point on the castle passed down the Neville line, with John (d.1388), the son of Ralph inheriting next.  He is also credited with having worked upon Raby and Sheriff Hutton castles, while his mutilated effigy still exists on a fine table tomb in Durham cathedral.  His son, Earl Ralph of Westmorland (d.1425), left the castle to his second wife, Joan Beaufort, who in turn made sure the castle passed to her son, Earl Richard of Salisbury (d.1460).  The effigies of Earl Ralph and his 2 wives can still be seen in Staindrop church.

It seems likely that Earl Ralph was responsible for further building works at Middleham, possibly before 1410 when King Henry IV (1399-1412) came to visit.  This work seems to have included raising the curtain wall to create first floor ranges on 3 sides, heightening the towers and converting the north-west tower into a gatehouse.  This had turrets to the front which bear more than passing resemblance to those of other northern castles like Bolton and Lumley as well as Neville strongholds like Penrith, Raby and Sheriff Hutton.  It also had stone figures standing on the battlements like those alleged at Alnwick and found at Caernarfon.

Earl Richard Neville of Salisbury (d.1460) left the castle to his son, Warwick the Kingmaker (d.1471) and the next year, 1461, King Edward IV (1461-83) visited.  In 1464 Warwick had various Lancastrian prisoners from the fighting around Alnwick and Bamburgh castles taken to Middleham and decapitated on 18 May, namely Philip Wentworth, William Penyngton, Ward Topcliff, Oliver Wentworth, William Spilar, and Thomas Hunt, footmen of Henry VI (d.1471).  He later, in August 1469, had Edward IV (1461-83) held a prisoner in Middleham castle.  On Warwick's death at the battle of Barnet, King Edward IV (1461-83) seized the castle and gave it to his brother, later King Richard III (d.1485).  Edward, the only child of Richard III and Anne Neville, was born in Middleham castle and was therefore known as Edward of Middleham.  He died in 1484 and his effigy traditionally lies at Sheriff Hutton.  After Richard III, Middleham remained a Crown property until 1604. 

The castle was obviously maintained under the Crown with the princely sum of 2s being spent in 1531 on a new lock and key for the castle gate.  Around the same time the auditor's room on the first floor of the gatehouse was repaired and the windows glazed.  Soon afterwards in April 1537, immediately after the Pilgrimage of Grace had seen nearby Bolton castle burned, orders were given to repair Barnard Castle, Knaresborough, Middleham, Pontefract, Sandal and Sheriff Hutton castles 'to receive the king'.  One result of this was an inquisition on the state of Middleham castle taken by John Scrope of Bolton (d.1549) and Christopher Conyers.  They reported on 25 March 1538.

Statement of repairs necessary for the portcullis, the tower over the gatehouse, the mantle wall, the chapel and vestry, the round tower (which is grown over with ivy), the lady chamber, the chamber of presence, the nursery in the south-west tower, the sware house in the north-west tower, the donjon, the great hall, the great chamber, a little tower over the wardrobe, the bellhouse tower, a fair well, houses of office without the fortress, &c.  It is suggested that a horse mill may be made in the brewhouse.  There are no guns nor artillery.

Around this time Leland found:

Middleham is a pretty market town and stands on a rocky hill, on the top whereof is the castle meetly well ditched.  All the outer part of the castle was of the very new setting of the Lord Neville called of Raby (Darabi).  The inner part of Middleham castle was of an ancient building of the Fitz Randolphs.

Who Lord Neville of Raby might have been is open to question, but it seems most likely that this meant the earl of Westmorland (d.1425) before he became earl in 1397.  If this is so, it is odd that Leland should describe this work as very new.

During the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) the castle was inhabited by keepers who neglected and despoiled the fortress.  In the time of James I (1603-25) it was stated in 1609 that the place had not been lived in for 140 years.  If this were true then the castle would have been derelict since 1469, which, of course, would make nonsense of Richard III (d.1485) and his family living there.  Indeed that very year, 1609, the castle's occupant, Henry Linley, was laid to rest in the church on 8 November.  Later an inventory of his goods within the castle was taken, which still existed in 1781.  Obviously the castle had a longer history than the surveyors of 1609 were willing to admit.

The castle saw little action in the Civil War (1642-51) although the York committee ordered it rendered uninhabitable in 1647.  Despite this, its owner, Edward Loftus, asked the council to consider his disbursements in fortifying Middleham castle.  He claimed £1,500 for this in 1652 and later another £500.   On 24 May 1655, it was reported that the rebels intended to seize Middleham castle so Captain Conyers [as was later reported this was a mistake for Captain Foster] was appointed to raise 30 men to secure it.  This he did about 10 March 1655 and has kept it since with some prisoners of war in it, but without any pay or allowances.  On 20 July it was agreed to pay the 30 men under Captain Thomas Foster, who had been raised by the order of Colonel Lilburne, 2 months' pay.  Another 2 months were ordered sent on 17 August 1655.  Despite this, on 30 November, Captain Foster wrote again begging for his arrears to be paid as he and his soldiers had not been paid since he formed his 30 men to fortify and garrison Middleham castle against plotters.  The reply was that the men would be paid and then disbanded.  On 18 January 1656, this was accounted for as £361.  After this the fortress was abandoned and later divided up into various tenements, some of which were still utilised well into the eighteenth century.  Despite this, the keep and the east side of the castle were totally ruinous by 1711 when they were painted by Francis Place (1647-1728).

There are 2 castles at Middleham.  The main castle in the town and William's Hill which commands the castle from high ground to the south.  The latter is most likely an early conquest castle from the 1070s, rather than a siege castle from the Anarchy, like Aston in Herefordshire or those surrounding Corfe, Wigmore or Bamburgh.  As such William's Hill is liable to be one of the first castles in the district, like Richmond some 9 miles to the north-east and Skipton 25 miles to the south-west.

William's Hill Castle
It would seem likely that Count Alan Rufus of Richmond (d.1094) was responsible for building the first castle at Middleham, possibly during or soon after the 1069-70 Harrying of the North.  Such a fortress would have commanded the route from the entrance to Coverdale down to Skipton or across the North Yorkshire Dales to Kendal - a place which was then in Scottish and distinctly hostile hands. 

William's Hill castle consisted of a powerful ringwork some 150' in diameter and over 20' high from the bottom of its wet ditch.  The summit of the ringwork was defended by a rampart some 10' above the ringwork interior.  The level interior on the ringwork was thus only some 75' in diameter.  The moat to the north had a counterscarp on the downhill side.  To the east was a definite entrance to the ringwork which led, over a causeway, to the moated bailey.  This was a small, kidney shaped ward, some 200' north to south, by 120' east to west.  This too had a rampart, which had a break to the south-west, which is possibly modern and a causewayed entrance to the east.  This led into a long, rhomboid shaped outer enclosure which may once have been a town enclosure.

If the 1270s account of the barons of Middleham is correct, this fortress was probably abandoned in the 1170s when the current castle keep was commenced.

Middleham Castle Earthworks
The current castle consists of a rectangular ditched enclosure about 230' north to south and 170' east to west, lying within 1,000' north of William's Hill castle.  Entrance originally may have been centrally to the east where there are the foundations of a stone gatetower.  Surrounding the whole was a great ditch, 30' wide and 15' deep.  This has been filled in to the south and west.  To the east lay an outer ward under the current farmyard.  Centrally, within the enceinte which may mark the original lines of the inner earthwork, lay the great tower or keep.  A long fishpond 130' south of the inner enceinte has been suggested as the original castle ditch.  If correct this would make the first earthwork castle much longer at some 330' by 170' wide.

Great Tower
The large rectangular keep stands 2 storeys high, 80' wide and 105' long with walls varying from 9' to 12' thick, although the east wall with the forebuilding is a massive 18' thick.  Internally the whole was divided into 2 unequal halves with the eastern basement being slightly larger.  Both chambers were vaulted, the larger eastern chamber having a colonnade to help hold up the twin vault above.  The southern part of the east chamber would appear to have been the kitchen with a well.  The northern section also contained a well.

Large pilaster buttresses clasped the 4 corners of the keep and off centre, rectangular latrine turrets were set in the south and west walls.  That to the west in particular bears comparison with the latrine tower at Castell Carreg Cennen.  The Middleham keep stood upon a strong stepped plinth of chamfered courses, in places to the south and west surviving up to 8 courses deep.  The basements were lit by 5 loops to the west and 1 in each chamber to north and south.  These had fine rectangular windows with probably Romanesque embrasures within.  There was another loop lighting the vice in the south-east corner.

Entrance was via a long, much ruined forebuilding along the east side of the tower which contained at least 2 doorways blocked with drawbars.  At the northern end of the forebuilding there may once have been a turret considering the latrine chute exits here.  This means that the forebuilding would have been entered from the east, with a dog-leg at top and bottom of the steps.  These destroyed steps led upwards, by a guard chamber built into the keep wall, to a large Romanesque doorway in the keep which gave access to a foyer with a pantry to the south and the great hall to the north.  In the south-east corner was the stair turret leading up to the battlements and down to the basement.  The hall was lit by 4 lights to the east and one to the north.
A small chapel was crammed in the north-east turret.  A doorway through the partition wall led to the great chamber and solar.  The occupants of this had access to a latrine in the west garderobe turret.  The southern garderobe in this turret serviced an inner chamber to the south.  The large window loops were mostly Romanesque as were their embrasures.  In the fourteenth century a further floor was added as a clerestory with 3 wide segmental headed windows on either side.  Two bridges also linked the keep with the south and west ranges.  The lower portions of the latrine turrets to south and west were heavily rebuilt in modern times, as was the base of the keep plinth.

The Chapel and Early Gatehouse
Built against the southern end of the east wall of the keep is a rectangular chapel tower.  At ground floor level this formed a nearly square room with 2 lights to north and south and a passageway running between it and an early curtain wall which connected to a small rectangular latrine turret to the south and a strongly projecting rectangular gatetower to the north.  Other than the chapel tower, all these features are reduced to their foundations except for the ruins of a possibly fourteenth century doorway at the north exit of the passageway along the curtain.  In the south-west corner of the chapel tower was a circular vice in a small turret.

The ground floor loops consisted of large Romanesque lights with labels and quarter rounded embrasures within.  There were also 2 off centre pilaster buttresses on either side.  The first floor was similar, but with much larger windows.  The best preserved window to the north contains an ogee window within the Romanesque arch.  Above this level was the large chamber of the chapel on the same level as the keep entrance, but this has been mostly destroyed.

The general consensus is that this building is much later than Romanesque and the fittings have been made to blend in with the older keep.  This is certainly one valid explanation for this odd set of buildings.  Despite this, rectangular gatetowers tend to be twelfth century or earlier, although this with the odd section of walling with the south latrine turret hardly makes for an early enceinte for the castle.  Presumably palisading was set around the rest of the ditch, unless this was only dug with the building of the curtain and ranges.  The rectangular gatetower would suggest that there was some form of enceinte surrounding the keep to allow access to the forebuilding at the keep's north-east corner.  The style of the chapel building, however, does draw some comparison with King John's gloriette at Corfe castle.  It is also noticeable that the gatetower is not in alignment with either the new or the older curtain wall.  It may therefore have been an early stand alone structure and was certainly altered, the gate being made into a smaller postern, presumably when the new north-east gateway was added to the enceinte.

The Enceinte
At some point, probably after the Nevilles took over the site in 1270, an enceinte was constructed within the rectangular ditch.  This consisted of 3 irregular and different shaped towers at 3 of the corners and a small D shaped tower to the south-west.  This was entered via the old rectangular gatehouse which was retained during this phase.  This enceinte was equipped with multiple pilaster buttresses, but only the north-east tower had these too and they appear later.  The odd design of the 3 rectangular corner towers bears comparison to Bolton castle with its odd assortment of differently orientated towers.  At Middleham the first curtain wall was about 15' high, but this was subsequently heightened by about first 6' and then another 10', to make the current enceinte.  Ranges no doubt lay against the interior of the walls from the first as is evidenced by the low windows in the curtains to south and west.  In all likelihood this enceinte certainly existed by 1367 when the interior of the castle walls was mentioned and just possibly as early as the late twelfth century.

In the fifteenth century the enceinte was much altered and the inner ranges expanded and rebuilt.  This also involved the addition of large buttresses to the south and west curtains to support the extra weight of the new buildings.  The real oddity of the early walls is the remains of the small Prince's Tower, only 20' in diameter and totally at odds with the other surviving rectangular corner towers.  This tower is surprisingly small when compared to the rectangular corner towers, which are much larger at some 36' by 28'.  Such small D shaped towers are much more likely late twelfth or thirteenth century fortresses, viz Berkhamsted, Helmsley, Manorbier, Richards Castle or Skenfrith.  The small tower, with many putlog holes, was later corbelled out and heightened, its interior also being heavily rebuilt.  The original structure had simple, crude rectangular lights.  In the top storey of the heightened tower are the remains of an unusual septfoil window.

To make the castle more symmetrical a probably fifteenth century latrine tower was added half way down the west wall roughly opposite the old original rectangular gatetower to the east.  In design this rather resembles the fourteenth century garderobe tower projecting north from the enceinte at Ludlow castle.  However, the Middleham version is a triple seater, rather than the double at Ludlow.  Unfortunately the tower was heavily rebuilt with ‘Byzantine' doorways in 1907.  Like the Prince's Tower, the north-west tower was also originally a low structure, with walls about 25' high originally.  This was raised in height twice, probably in the fifteenth century as well as being expanded eastwards.

At some point, probably in the early fifteenth century, the north-east tower was rebuilt as a gatetower with an interesting ashlar gateway.  This new, more impressive entrance would have given a direct northern access to the town and, judging by the 3 chutes under the entrance, was pushed through an old latrine turret.  Within the gate passageway the vaulted roof rests on 4 springers, carved to resemble faces watching those entering or leaving the castle by this route.

This later gatetower once sported fine garrets, with hand gun loops, which were added when a third and final floor was added to the tower.  A ‘little tower' as it was described in 1538, lay outside the ditch at this point.  All this work seems contemporaneous with the final building of the current ranges.  What is notable about the remains is that across the whole ‘castle' there are no crossbow loops.  Middleham is indeed a great house, but a barely fortified one at that.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry