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Historic England Research Records

Skipsea Castle

Hob Uid: 80781
Location :
East Riding of Yorkshire
Skipsea
Grid Ref : TA1621055070
Summary : A well-preserved motte and bailey castle, built between 1071 and 1086 by Drogo de Beauvriere, first of the Lords of Holderness. The castle served as the principle residence of the Lordship until about 1200, to be replaced by Burstwick, near their port at Hedon. A chapel existed by 1102 and a planted settlement known as Skipsea Brough is assumed to have been founded circa 1135, although first referred to between 1160 and 1175. In 1221Henry III ordered it to be slighted, although this may not have been carried out as the castle appears to have been occupied up to 1250. An enquiry of 1350 suggests that part of the bailey was used as pasture for livestock by that date. The site has never been excavated. Most of the monument survives in good condition as earthworks, with a short length of wall made of cobbles on the east side of the large motte; this possibly represents a fragment of a fore building. A ringwork surrounding the foot of the motte follows the edge of a low island, surrounded by low-lying boggy ground, which was drained before 1720. Field investigation suggests that a dam may have been built across a natural constriction circa 200m north of the motte to create a large mere that would have completed the defences on that side, though this may be an inland harbour. The bailey appears to have originally been horseshoe-shaped, but part has been levelled and overploughed. On the ridge to the sout-west, an enclosure formed by a massive bank and ditch but open on the side backing towards the motte and bailey, may be the site of Skipsea Brough. Though there is no clear evidence for settlement remains in the interior, a track passes through gateways at the south-east and north-west ends, suggesting that it controlled access as well as protecting the only side of the motte and bailey overlooked by higher ground. A cluster of houses outside the south-east entrance bears the name Skipsea Brough today. The site is now in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (TA 1621 5507) Castle Hill (NR) (TA 1618 5502) Well (NR) (TA 160 549) Bail Welts (NR) (TA 164 550) Causeway (NAT) (Site of) (1)

Motte and bailey castle, the motte with counterscarp bank, separated by 100 yds of marsh from a long narrow bailey. Fragments of a wing wall running down the motte on the E side, and of a causeway on 10 ins piles 9 ft apart, are recorded. The castle was founded by Drogo de Bevrine by 1086 and its chapel existed by 1102. (2)

The level space between the motte and the bailey was a mire as late as the 13th century; the motte, 46 ft high, was built on an island. The bailey, called the "Bail Welts", is 8 1/4 acres in area, and one entrance to the court is called the "Bail Gate" (TA 1616 5477 - OS 6" 1956). (3)

"Skipsea Brough" (or "Skipsea Castle" according to the MOW plaque) a motte and bailey, mainly as described. The motte, known as "Castle Hill", surrounded by a ditch and outer bank, is in good condition and part of a wall fragment running down its SE slope is still in situ at TA 1622 5505. It is 3m long, 1.8m thick and 1m high and made of rough cobble blocks bonded with a rough limestone mortar. There may have been outworks at this SE corner of the motte but quarrying and mutilation make precise interpretation difficult. There is no trace of the 'Causeway' to the E of the motte whose course is shown on the 25" and it is doubtful if an approach was ever made this way.

The bailey on the W side of the motte was never complete and it ended on a natural escarpment in the N where access would have been restricted by the lower ground being covered by water or marsh in the "Bail Bottom". Today, however, it is completely dry. From the SE the outer bailey rampart doubles back NW then swings round to the NE where it appears to have joined the SW side of the motte, though here it is much reduced and mutilated. Two breaks in this bailey rampart in the NW and SW ("Scotch Gap") may have been later mutilations and not original entrances. The main original approach has been through the "Bail Gate" cutting through the SE corner of the bailey and across a causeway (still reasonably well defined and used by the modern track) to approach the motte in the SW. On the E side of the bailey the natural slope appears to have been artificially steepened. There is no trace of a well. See Photograph from SW.
Published survey (25") revised. (4)

TA 169 558 The base of a 15th century jug with thumb-prints, made at West Cowick, of Humber Basin Ware, was found in the bailey area of Skipsea Castle. Now in Scarborough Museum. (5)

TA 1616 5497. Skipsea Castle: eleventh century motte & bailey castle & inland harbour. Scheduled RSM No 13334. (6)

In September 1992 a levels survey was carried out by RCHME Newcastle, at the request of English Heritage. The later work argued against the former presence of an inland harbour linking the site to the sea, as proposed by an earlier survey by North Humberside Unit (see Source 12). The archive is held in the NMRC. (7)

Additional references to work carried out before 1992 (8; 9; 10; 11).

In 1987-88, an analytical earthwork survey at 1:1000 was carried out by Caroline Atkins of North Humberside Unit. The survey was perceptive, detailed and metrically accurate but reached the conclusion, disputed by later fieldworkers, that an inland harbour had existed immediately to the west of the castle bailey. The identification of a bailey in the conventional sense and of the documented planted town of Skipsea Brough proved problematic. Copies of the survey and report are held in the NMR (12)

In late September 2001, the Archaeological Investigation section of English Heritage carried out a survey of the site at Level 1, to inform the preparation of a Conservation Statement for the monument, part of which is in Guardianship.

The well-preserved motte and bailey castle was built at some time between 1071 and 1086 by Drogo de Beauvriere, first of the Lords of Holderness.The castle served as the principle residence of the Lordship until replaced by the manor house at Burstwick, probably before 1200. A chapel existed by 1102 and a planted settlement known as Skipsea Brough is assumed to have been founded c1135, although firt referred to between 1160 and 1175. The castle may have been abandoned in 1221 after Henry III ordered it to be slighted, although there remains some doubt as to whether this was carried out. An enquiry of 1350 suggests that part of the bailey was used as pasture for livestock by that date.

As described by previous sources, most of the monument survives in good condition as earthworks, with a short length of wall made of cobbles on the east side of the motte; this possibly represents a fragment of a fore building. A low bank defines a slight 'ringwork' surrounding the foot of the motte. This follows the edge of a low island, surrounded by low-lying boggy ground, which was drained before 1720. A well-preserved bank diverges from the 'ringwork' on its SW and slighter traces of a similar earthwork can be identified on the NE, suggesting that there was originally a conventional horseshoe-shaped bailey adjoining the motte, but part of the central section of the bank has been almost totally levelled, latterly by intensive ploughing. Though the southern entrance is undoubtedly genuine, the causeway leading directly from there to the SW side of the motte is likely to be of post-medieval origin; there may have been a second route leading eastwards from the bailey towards Skipsea village, along a natural ridge. The field investigation suggests that a dam may have been built across a natural constriction c200m N of the motte to create a large mere that would have completed the defences on that side. This supports the conclusion reached by the earlier RCHME survey that the low-lying area to the west of the bailey cannot have functioned as an inland harbour. On the ridge to the SW, an enclosure (previously interpreted as a bailey of unusual form), formed by a massive bank and ditch but open on the side backing towards the motte and bailey, may be the site of Skipsea Brough. Though there is no clear evidence for settlement remains in the interior, a track passes through gateways at the SE and NW ends, suggesting that it contralled access as well as protecting the only side of the motte and bailey overlooked by higher ground. A cluster of houses outside the SE entrance bears the name Skipsea Brough today. The precise relationship with the nearby village of Skipsea is unclear.

A copy of the report and interpretative plan are available through the NMR (13)

Conservation statement. (14)

Research by English Heritage indicates that a large shallow lake called Skipsea Mere was created by building an earth dam, to serve as a defence but also as a fish pond; probably this was constructed at the same time as the castle. This feature was later drained and fields laid out over its site. The settlement or small defended town set on top of the ridge apparantly did not thrive; neither did the port at Hedon on the Humber eastablished by the Lords of Holderness (a site near Hedon replaced the castle as the principle seat of the lordship). (15)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1855
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Source Number : 2
Source : Norman Castles in Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 312
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Plates :
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Source Number : 11
Source : The Archaeological Journal
Source details : Butler, R 1984 'Skipsea Brough'
Page(s) : 45-6
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 141
Source Number : 12
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Atkins, C 1988 'Skipsea Castle, North Humberside. A Survey of the earthworks'
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Source Number : 13
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : English Heritage: Conservation statement for Skipsea Castle
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Source Number : 14
Source : English Heritage Yorkshire Region Conservation Statements
Source details : Skipsea Castle, Oct-2002
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 15
Source : Heritage unlocked: Guide to free sites in Yorkshire and the north east
Source details :
Page(s) : Dec-14
Figs. :
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Source Number : 3
Source : The Victoria history of the county of York, volume two
Source details : Plan
Page(s) : 37-9
Figs. :
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Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ISS 25-JUL-74
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Source Number : 5
Source : Council for British Archaeology Group 4 (Yorkshire) Annual Newsletter
Source details :
Page(s) : 15
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, 1973
Source Number : 6
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 18-Oct-93
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Keith Blood and Colin Lofthouse/15-SEP-1992/Skipsea Castle Survey
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Source Number : 8
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : Boynton, T 1910 'Skipsea earthworks'
Page(s) : 188-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 21
Source Number : 9
Source : The Yorkshire archaeological journal
Source details : l'Anson, WM 1917 'Skipsea Castle'
Page(s) : 258-62
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 24
Source Number : 10
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : English, B 1979 The Lords of Holderness. Hull, OUP
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Use 1071-1250
Monument End Date : 1250
Monument Start Date : 1071
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey, Gatehouse, Lake
Evidence : Earthwork, Ruined Building, Enhanced Natural Feature
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Documented 1102
Monument End Date : 1102
Monument Start Date : 1102
Monument Type : Domestic Chapel
Evidence : Documentary Evidence

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HU 147
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : HU 247
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 13334
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Humberside)
External Cross Reference Number : 3403
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 386
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TA 15 NE 10
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1032039
Relationship type : General association

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TA 15 NE 10
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1974-07-25
End Date : 1974-07-25
Associated Activities : Primary, SKIPSEA CASTLE [SKIPSEA BROUGH]
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1988-12-31