This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional history-and-picture series of posts relating to interesting places to visit within the UK. As a historian, and as someone who loves religious history, most of my posts will be about ruined abbeys or ancient churches, and as I’m based in Yorkshire, I’m going to be pretty partisan! However I’m aiming for a broad range of sites that might be of interest.
First up: Spofforth Castle.
Spofforth Castle was once the seat of the de Percy family. Originally a fortified manor house, one of 87 such holdings belonging to the Percys, Spofforth was built following the Conquest and granted to William de Percy in the late 11th century. In 1308, Henry Percy, the 8th Baron, obtained a license to crenallate and the manor house became a castle. The following year, Henry bought Alnwick Castle from the Prince Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, and moved most of his interests into Northumberland to guard against the Scots. His wife Eleanor remained at Leconfield, East Yorkshire, with their sons.
Henry Hotspur is believed to have been born at Spofforth Castle.
Following the Wars of the Roses, in which the Percys sided with the Lancastrians, the castle was given to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (‘The Kingmaker’). The Nevilles, bitter rivals of the Percys throughout the medieval period, destroyed much of the castle.
In 1470, the Percys regained Spofforth but were not granted a license to crenallate until 1599. By 1600 the family had abandoned the castle to their steward, and the site fell into disrepair. During the Civil War, Parliamentarian troops occupied the castle and reduced it to its current state of ruin.
The oldest part of the castle is the rock-cut undercroft dating from the 13th century. Henry de Percy built a quadrangle castle in 1308, of which only the two-storey west range survives, flanked by a polygonal stair turret to the north-west. The first floor hall was rebuilt post-1470 and leads onto the castle garth.
The west range.
Entrance to the hall. To the right, the remains of a latrine.
Viaduct of the Harrogate-York railway line, closed down in the 1960s.
The cellar with the 13th century undercroft cut into the sandstone outcrop. 15th century hall above.
Looking north along the cellar/hall.
Entrance to the turret. The door is post-Civil War.
Doorway leading to the northern end of the castle.
Looking south along the back of the castle’s west range.
The first floor hall was flanked by a solar and a chapel – note the Gothic window of the chapel.
14th century bridge spanning a stream behind the castle.
The turret, with a jackdaw perched on the walls!
Location: Off the A661, 3.5 miles SE of Harrogate. On Googlemaps: here.
Opening hours: Any reasonable time (10am-dusk).
Parking: On the road in marked bays.