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Historic England Research Records

Spofforth Castle

Hob Uid: 53376
Location :
North Yorkshire
Harrogate
Spofforth with Stockeld
Grid Ref : SE3603051100
Summary : The remains of a 13th-15th century fortified manor house and the buried remains of other buildings including an 11th century Norman stronghold, built soon after 1067 by William de Percy. Spofforth remained the principal seat of the Percys until 1309, when Henry Percy bought the manor of Alnwick and the residence at Spofforth gradually lost favour. The extant west range is of two storeys, the oldest part being the undercroft which is 13th century. Above this is the great hall and the private rooms, built and modified in the 14th and 15th centuries to create a fortified manor house after licence to crenellate was granted to Henry Percy in 1309. The plan of the west range is a parallelogram with an extension at the north-east corner and a polygonal stair turret and spire at the north-west. The back of the undercroft is set against a quarried rock face, so that the eastern entrance into the hall above is at ground level. Fragments of other buildings indicate that the standing remains formed one side of a quadrangle stretching to the east. Earthworks in Manor Garth further to the east and cropmarks showing up on aerial photographs, show the location of other foundations, possibly representing a demolished curtain wall with mural towers. During the Wars of the Roses the Percy family supported the house of Lancaster and in 1461, the castle was burned by Yorkist troops. The site remained ruinous until 1559, when it was restored by Henry Percy. A hunting park and fishpond/millpond/mere (records 53076 and 1526694 respectively) to the west of the residence were maintained into the 17th century. The last record of the building being occupied dates to 1604, although maps of about 1600 and 1608 show it being intact, with three internal ranges and a curtain wall with nine mural towers. This curtain wall and other buildings appear to have been slighted, or badly damaged and then heavily robbed, during the Civil War. The site is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information : SE 3603 5110. Spofforth Castle [G.T.] (Remains of). (1)

Spofforth Castle was an extensive fortified house rather than a
castle, licence to crenellate being granted in 1308 to Henry Percy.
(2)

The building was slighted during the Wars of the Roses, re-
crenellated in 1559, and partly demolished during the Civil War.
(3-4)

Scheduled ancient monument. (5)

The remains are well preserved, and in the care of the Ministry of
Works. See G.Ps. AO/62/238/4, 62/238/5 and 62/238/6 for the S, SW, and SE aspects respectively. (6)

Spofforth Castle is a 15/16th century fortified house incorporating earlier work. Grade 2*. (7)

SE 360 511. Additional area around Spofforth Castle scheduled to include building platforms north of Manor Garth and the possible site of outer ditch and defences on the slope to the south. (8)

3/70 Spofforth Castle, ruins, Grade II*
Ruins of fortified house. C13 with major rebuilding in C14 and C15. Coursed sandstone and ashlar. 2 storeys on north side, single storey on south - built against rock outcrop. 6 bays. First-floor hall with solar above undercroft and kitchens. Stair turret at north-west corner. Entrance to undercroft at north end of west side; rock-cut steps down to undercroft from centre of east side. Windows include trefoil-pointed arched windows and some with plate tracery. Chamfered plinth, continuous dripmould at first-floor level. Buttresses with offsets, pointed stone roof with finial to stair turret. Interior of undercroft has bases of octagonal piers and rock-cut doorway. A scheduled Ancient Monument. For fuller description see R J A Bennett et al `Spofforth Castle', HMSO, 1965.
(9)

SE 3607 5112. Spofforth Castle magnates' residence. Scheduled RSM No 13273. Ruins of the west range of the 13th century manor house and the buried remains of other buildings, including those of an earlier 11th century residence. (10)

Included in a gazetteer by Cathcart King. (11)

Conservation statement. (12)

For an accessible overview of the history of the site and a description of the remains, see the "Heritage Unlocked" series volume for Yorkshire and the North-East of England. (13)

In October 2010, English Heritage's Archaeological Survey and Investigation team carried out a rapid examination of Spofforth Castle and its environs to inform revision of the presentation of the property, which is maintained by English Heritage as a 'free site' (14). The only direct product of this investigation was the revision of the relevant AMIE records.

Many of the amorphous spreads of material around the top of the low hillock (a gritstone outcrop) in Manor Garth are reminiscent of either demolition rubble or Ministry of Works clearance spoil, or both, although the MoW would usually have cleared material to somewhere less cospicuous, so the demolition rubble is more convincing on balance. Some 50m to the north-east of the standing remains, the outlines of at least 3 rectangular buildings can be discerned, possibly mural towers, since they are linked by a fairly strong and regular scarp following the line of the eastern crest of the summit, which seems to underlie the dumping and could represent the line of a curtain wall (perhaps demolished in the Civil War). If so, however, the perimeter would be much more polygonal than suggested by the neat square on a map of c1600 (14a), conforming more to the natural topography of the hillock. The field evidence would imply that the centre of the castle was originally located more centrally on the hilltop - perhaps predictably - and that the range that now survives stood on or close to the perimeter. In this scenario, the quarried stone face that forms one side of the undercroft may originally have been surmounted by the curtain wall, lending it extra height. It is possible that the quarry was a pre-existing feature, rather than the source of the stone for the castle buildings, although this would beg the question as to where the real source of the building stone was located. The wall-lines are reportedly visible as parchmarks on APs, which were not consulted for the rapid investigation, and the parching that was evident on the ground in October 2010 even under damp conditions suggests that geophysical survey would greatly clarify the picture.

To the west of the castle, a large millpond (SE 35 SE 61), which existed by about 1600 and was shown on maps of that era, may have originated in the medieval period as a mere/fishpond/mill pond, while the extensive hunting park beyond it (SE 34 NW 7) also suggests that, at least in its eventual form, the residence looked westwards. (14)

The castle and a series of low earthwork mounds and hollows are visible on an number of air photo including (15).

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 6" map, 1956
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 1
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : ULM BPF42 17-AUG-1973
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 16-Nov-93
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
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) : 532
Figs. :
Plates :
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Source Number : 12
Source : English Heritage Yorkshire Region Conservation Statements
Source details : Spofforth Castle, Oct-2002
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Heritage unlocked: Guide to free sites in Yorkshire and the north east
Source details :
Page(s) : 26-27
Figs. :
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Source Number : 14
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : English Heritage: Level 1 field observation on Spofforth Castle and its environs 26-OCT-2010
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Yorkshire : the West Riding
Source details :
Page(s) : 487
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details :
Page(s) : 389
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 91, 1935
Source Number : 4
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) : 143-4
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Ancient monuments in England and Wales : list prepared by the Ministry of Works, corrected to 31st December 1952
Source details :
Page(s) : 116
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Field Investigator, RL, 22-OCT-1962
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Source Number : 7
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Wetherby Rural District, 1962
Page(s) : 17
Figs. :
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Source Number : 8
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Department of the Environment (Inventory of Ancient Monuments), Record Form, 31-AUG-1979
Page(s) :
Figs. :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Harrogate, 22-FEB-1985
Page(s) : 43
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 334

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Norman (after 1067)
Monument End Date : 1154
Monument Start Date : 1067
Monument Type : Manor House
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C13
Monument End Date : 1300
Monument Start Date : 1201
Monument Type : Manor House, Undercroft
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C14 (from 1309)
Monument End Date : 1400
Monument Start Date : 1309
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House, Courtyard House, Great Hall
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Licence to crenellate in 1309
Monument End Date : 1309
Monument Start Date : 1309
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : C15
Monument End Date : 1500
Monument Start Date : 1401
Monument Type : Fortified Manor House, Courtyard House, Great Hall
Evidence : Ruined Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : NY 308
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13273
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 330538
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 387
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (North Yorkshire)
External Cross Reference Number : MNY18703
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SE 35 SE 6
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1526694
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 53076
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SE 35 SE 6
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1962-10-22
End Date : 1962-10-22
Associated Activities : Primary, SPOFFORTH CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1973-01-01
End Date : 1973-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 31 CASTLE STREET, SPOFFORTH
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SPOFFORTH CASTLE PANELS
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2011-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31