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Bolton Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bolton in Wensleydale

In the civil parish of Castle Bolton With East And West Bolton.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire North Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE03379183
Latitude 54.32204° Longitude -1.94968°

Bolton Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Castle. Late C14. By John Lewyn, master-mason, for Richard le Scrope. Rubble with ashlar dressings. Four 3-storey ranges about a rectangular courtyard, with 4-storey corner towers, that to north-east demolished. Turrets in the centres of north and south ranges. Entrance was by a gatehouse in the east range, with a chamfered pointed arch set in a taller arch, the passage barrel-vaulted. Plinths, quoins. The original windows are lancets with cinque-cusped heads and labels, with some in the south-west tower altered to form 3-light mullion and transom windows. Interior: main chambers on the first floor of the north range, chapel on the second floor of the south range with, in addition, eight apartments and twelve lodgings for retainers. The building was already partly constructed in 1378. A contract, dated 1378, survives for construction of the east range, and a licence for the crenellation of the castle was granted in 1379. The chapel was dedicated in 1399. Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned here 1568-9. (Listed Building Report)

Faulkner stated that the castle was "built on a fresh site", inferring an earlier castle in the vicinity, although VCH gives no mention of this. The interior of the 14th century castle can be broken down into eight major household units and some twelve lesser lodgings all integrated into one unified conception. (PastScape ref. Faulkner, 1963)

A licence to crenellate Bolton Castle was granted to Sir Richard Scrope in 1379 while he was Chancellor of England, and marked King Richard II's approval for a building project on a grand scale. In 1378, Sir Richard had already agreed a contract with master mason John Lewyn for a considerable amount of the work. John Leland visited in the 1530s and records that it took 18 years to build and cost 1000 marks a year. The building gives a great impression of strength but this is partly an illusion. Although the castle superficially appears to provide a formidable defence, it is somewhat basic by comparison with some contemporary and earlier castles. Among the defensive features that the castle lacks, is a moat or a ditch of any kind to prevent the use of siege towers. Thus there is also no drawbridge and consequently, the portcullises are situated externally, whereas internal ones are stronger. Lack of such features shows that the castle was less seriously intended as a military citadel, but it was still quite strong enough to deter the greatest contemporary threat – Scottish raiders. Bolton Castle is in fact what is known as a 'castle-residence' of the last quarter of the fourteenth century. It holds a position of academic importance for two reasons. Firstly is the link to probably the most important northern master mason of the Medieval period 1360-1400, John Lewyn. Second is the extent of survival of much of the original fabric, hence Bolton Castle's position as architectural type-site for later Medieval northern England. Architecturally it represents how the conflict between the needs of defence and the need for more space for accommodation came to be resolved in the quadrangular form (previously castles were built in the round). In a square castle, more people could be accommodated on the same ground area. At Bolton Castle the integration of the different living units was more complex than before, reflecting a more elaborate way of life; there was a greater differential in the scale of the accommodation and there was a decrease in the relative size of the Hall, reflecting its more formal use. The ground floor provided stables and stores, while the principal rooms were on the first floor, approached from the central courtyard. The Great Hall was in the northern range, with the private apartments to the west and domestic offices to the east. There were twelve independent lodgings of one or two rooms for retainers. (Outofoblivion the online North Yorks Moors National Park HER)

'Bolton Castle was... intended as a piece of social theatre, an exercise in keeping up with the Nevilles, rather than as purely military defensive engineering.' (King, 2007, p. 392)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1379 July 4 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 05/12/2016 09:37:54

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