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Historic England Research Records

Conisbrough Castle

Hob Uid: 318744
Location :
Doncaster
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : SK5149098810
Summary : Conisbrough Castle is a castle whose main component is a 28 metre high cylindrical tower with six solid wedge-shaped buttresses. The tower consists of several floors, access is currently gained via a modern outer staircase leading to the entrance floor circa 5 metres off the ground. A well shaft drops from the entrance floor down into the basement floor below. An interior staircase leads to the upper floors, the positions of which are marked by garderobes and, on the second floor, a thirteenth or fourteenth century fireplace. Surrounding the tower to the north, west and south is a curtain wall enclosing a grassed-over bailey containing the wall footings of ancillary buildings. A modern ramp on the west side overlies the original walled approach to the bailey which leads from a ruined gate-tower. Surrounding the whole is a ditch circa 10 metres deep and circa 20 metres wide and a steeply scarped rampart. The castle is situated on a natural slope and is one of several that, in the Middle Ages, commanded the Don Valley. The site was part of the honour of Conisbrough given to Earl Warenne by his father-in-law William the Conqueror. The castle was built during the twelfth century and remained in the hands of the de Warennes until the reign of Edward III when it passed to Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, and to his descendants. Elizabeth I granted the castle and its demesne to her cousin, Lord Hunsden, since when it has passed through several owners. It has been in State care since 1950.
More information : [SK 5147 9890] Conisbrough Castle [G.T.] Moat [G.T.] (Track of). (1)

The earthworks belonging to Conisbrough Castle are of the motte and bailey type and are in good preservation. Motte is very large being 3/4 acre in area and 50 ft. high; whether it is artificial or formed of scarping a natural hill cannot be ascertained without excavation. The motte is large enough for a small ward as well as a keep. It is surrounded by a wide ditch, the bank on the counterscarp being very fine. The bailey has not preserved its earthworks so well and its area cannot be easily determined, but it seems to have had no defences of masonry.
There is no early Norman masonry on the motte; the keep was built byEarl Hamelin Plantagenent at the end of the 12th cent. There can be little doubt that the earthwork belonged to one of the castles of the Conquest. (Plan). (2)

The earliest owner of whom we have an authentic record was Harold, son of Earl Godwin. At the time of the Domesday Survey, Conisbrough belonged to William de Warren, son-in-law of William the Conqueror. The castle was kept as a private fief of the Crown until c.1486 from which time we may begin to date the gradual decay of the castle. The site of the castle is overlooked by a hill on the west and across the ravine thus formed a drawbridge appears to have been thrown and this led to the castle's only entrance. (3)

Conisbrough Castle: The modern name Conisbrough is probably only an altered form of the Anglo-Saxon Cyningesburh (the King's `burh'). To which king this refers is uncertain. Conisbrough was not a royal estate in 1002, but at the time of the Conquest the manor was held by King Harold. It is possible that the earth and timber defences of the pre-Conquest 'burh' were incorporated in those of the first Norman castle.

At the time of Domesday Book, Conisbrough was held by Earl William de Warenne, who probably laid out and shaped the earthworks of the castle as they are today. At first they would have been crowned by palisades, towers and buildings, of timber construction. Earl Hamelin Plantagenet, who held Conisbrough from 1163 to 1202, probably transformed it into the great stone-built castle. It is likely that the keep was built. c. 1180-90, followed by the curtain wall shortly afterwards. The first two written references to the castle are of about this date. After 1446, the castle seems to have gone slowly out of use; b y Tudor times it was ruinous. A survey of January, 1538, records that the gates, bridge, and 180 feet of curtain wall, had fallen. Conisbrough
was incapable of defence in the Civil War, and escaped slighting by the Parliamentarians. [See AO/59/315/6 for plan]. (4)

A 25" A.M. survey has been made of the castle and its components. See GPs 53/19/6 & 7. (5)

Survey of 5-2-60, unchanged.

Conisbrough Castle (Remains of) (late 12th cent.)

COMPONENTS OF 1:2500 SURVEY ATTACHED:

COMPONENT No.
Motte and late 12th.c. Keep (rems). 37
Castle Wall (remains) 38
Bailey (Prob. remains) 39
Inner Ward. Md. Buildings (remains) 40
Moat 41
Tower (remains) 42
Tower (remains) 43
Tower (remains) 44
Tower (remains) 45
Barbican (remains) 46 (6)

Conisbrough Castle. Built probably c.1170 for Henry II's half-brother Hamelin to resemble his castle at Mortemer, Normandy. Ashlar keep, inner ward walls of coursed rubble. First circular tower keep in England, 4 storeys and 90 feet high, with 6 rectangular butresses. Inner ward walls have small circular towers, - earliest post-Roman defensive examples. King John received here by Hamelin in 1201. Keep now lacks battlements and roof, ward walls ruined and for about a quarter of their length destroyed.
Ancient Monument in the charge of the Ministry of Works. N.B.R., VCH. II pp. 28-30. (7)

Excavation from 1967-69 uncovered the remains of a single aisled hall located along the north side of the bailey and revealed the various building phases of the castle. (8-9)

Report on the excavations carried out from 1973-77. (10)

Conisbrough Castle. Keep of c.1180, curtain walls built soon after; later medieval additions and alterations. Grade I. (11)

Additional references. (12-16)

SK 5146 9889. Conisbrough Castle. It is a tower keep castle whose main component is a 28m high cylindrical tower with six solid wedge-shaped buttresses. The tower consists of several floors, access presently being gained via a modern outer staircase leading to the entrance floor c. 5m off the ground. This staircase has replaced an original timber structure whose stone footings can be seen below. A well shaft drops from the entrance floor down into the basement floor
below. An interior staircase leads to the upper floors, the positions of which are marked by garderobes and, on the second floor, a thirteenth or fourteenth century fireplace flanked by triple shafts with carved capitals. Surrounding the tower to the north, west and south is a curtain wall enclosing a grassed-over bailey containing well-shafts, a blocked sally-port and the wall-footings of ancillary buildings. A modern ramp on the west side overlies the original walled approach to the bailey which leads from a ruined gatetower. Surrounding the whole is a ditch c. 10m deep and c. 20m wide and a steeply scarped rampart. (17)

Listed by Cathcart King. (18)

Listed as a royal castle from the reign of Richard III. (19)

Conservation statement. (20)

A medieval castle, motte, moat and related earthworks are visible as a structure and earthworks on air photographs at SK 5145 9888.

The castle is visible as a structure sited on a motte which is surrounded by the moat. Other related earthworks were also mapped.
(21-22)

Conisbrough castle is one of South Yorkshire's best examples of military architecture. The castle is thought to have have partly inspired Sir Walter Scott's novel "Ivanhoe". (23)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1928-48
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : The Victoria history of the county of York, volume two
Source details :
Page(s) : 28-30
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Doncaster, 26-NOV-1987
Page(s) : Dec-13
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Medieval military architecture in England. Volume 1
Source details :
Page(s) : 431-35
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Yorkshire's ruined castles : an account of their history, asssociations and architecture with a chapter on the fortified houses of the county
Source details :
Page(s) : 36-44
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : Norman Castles in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 155-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 15
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : M W Thompson
Page(s) : 327-8
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 125, 1968
Source Number : 16
Source : Conisbrough Castle, South Yorkshire
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 17
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 03-Sep-92
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 18
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Volume II : Norfolk-Yorkshire and the islands
Source details :
Page(s) : 515-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 2
Source Number : 19
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 616
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 20
Source : English Heritage Yorkshire Region Conservation Statements
Source details : Conisbrough Castle, Oct-2002
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Waddington F, 1909: The Abbeys and Castles of Yorkshire; pp28-30
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 21
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/89258 0015 11-Jun-1989
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 22
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR SK5198/27-29 (17294/44-46) 08-Jul-1999
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 23
Source : English Heritage Visitor Handbook 2009/10
Source details :
Page(s) : 203
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Thompson MW, 1959: 'Conisbrough Castle'; Ministry of Works Guidebook.
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ECW 05-FEB-60
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 RWE 04-JAN-65
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Provisional List Conisbrough UD, OCT-1960
Page(s) : 1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details : M W Thompson
Page(s) : 153
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 12, 1968
Source Number : 9
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details : M W Thompson
Page(s) : 215-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 13, 1969
Source Number : 10
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : S Johnson
Page(s) : 59-88
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 52, 1980

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C12
Monument End Date : 1199
Monument Start Date : 1100
Monument Type : Keep And Bailey Castle, Curtain Wall, Moat, Motte
Evidence : Ruined Building, Structure, Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13245
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : SY 16
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : YK 16
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NY 16
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 334795
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 367
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (South Yorkshire)
External Cross Reference Number : 00123/01
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SK 59 NW 5
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 318874
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318886
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318907
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318860
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318881
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318867
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318900
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318914
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318893
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318921
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 318874
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318907
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318860
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318881
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318867
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318900
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318893
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 318921
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SK 59 NW 5
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1960-02-05
End Date : 1960-02-05
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SK 59 NW 5
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1965-01-04
End Date : 1965-01-04
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1967-01-01
End Date : 1969-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1975-01-01
End Date : 1975-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1997-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, EH: THE MAGNESIAN LIMESTONE IN SOUTH AND WEST YORKSHIRE NMP
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CASTLE HILL, CONISBROUGH
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2005-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CONISBROUGH CASTLE AND COWICK MANOR
Activity type : THEMATIC SURVEY
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2010-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE LODGE, CONISBROUGH CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31