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Clitheroe Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cliderow; Cliderhow; Cliderhou; Clitherow

In the civil parish of Clitheroe.
In the historic county of Lancashire.
Modern Authority of Lancashire.
1974 county of Lancashire.
Medieval County of Lancashire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD74224165
Latitude 53.87047° Longitude -2.39318°

Clitheroe Castle has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Clitheroe Castle, an enclosure castle constructed during the late C11 to early C12. The surviving medieval parts of the castle include the stone keep and the adjacent curtain wall which surrounds the keep on all sides except the south. A bailey lies to the south of the keep and was originally surrounded by a curtain wall. The keep is at present (1997) roofless and floorless and was originally a three storied building. Entrance to the bailey was originaly through a gatehouse. This gatehouse has now been demolished but its remains survive as a buried feature. (PastScape)

The castle, formerly a possession of the Lascy family of Pontefract, passed to the House of Lancaster in 1311, and thence to the Crown in 1399. (HKW)

The castle is on top of an isolated crag, rising in the middle of the vale down which the River Ribble runs. The Castle consists of a circular walled keep on the northern and highest part of the crag. Within which stands a tall, square tower. To the south of this and at a lower point of elevation of the slope, lies an oblong bailey. The mound is apparently a natural, semi-circular rock, possibly scraped artificially in places. It is most precipitous on the north and west. The top is truncated and nearly circular, with a diameter of c.80ft and is at least 22ft higher at the north end of the bailey. The mound has a wall on every side except the south where the bailey abuts it. The encircling wall is 12ft from the inside and 6ft thick, built of limestone rubble. On the southern half of the summit area a square tower is built inside the wall. Possibly there was an outer court at a still lower level than the bailey. No fosses are now visible, but they did exist. Castle ditches and moats are mentioned in a document of 1304. The ancient entrance to the castle was on the eastern side and the approach on the west seems to be of more recent origin. The keep is of limestone rubble with yellow ashlar dressings with wide pilaster buttresses enclosing the angles. Later extensions have been made to those to the east and south. The basement is lit by loops in round headed recesses, one in each wall, except the north east which lay beneath the entrance stair. The entrance is a plain round headed arch near the north end of the north east wall. A smaller door opposite near the west end of the west wall gave access to a bridge to the rubble curtain wall. The first floor rested on an offset, with square headed loops in round headed recesses in the north west and south east walls. The former is flanked by a round headed doorway leading to a barrel vaulted mural chamber in the west angle and a square headed doorway to the spiral staircase in the north angle which rises to the plain upper floor, again set back. The layout consists of an outer bailey, an inner bailey and the keep with its curtain wall and gatehouse (nothing now remains). This was a square structure of two storeys. A chapel was situated at the south end of the inner bailey, 52ft long and 20ft wide. (Lancashire County Council)

Despite the absence of upstanding remains of the medieval buildings which were located within the bailey, the medieval castle keep and parts of its curtain wall survive reasonably well and contain considerable upstanding medieval fabric and architectural details. Additionally buried remains of the castle's gateway and buried remains of the buildings which stood within the bailey, including the 12th century chapel of St Michael de Castro, will survive within the area occupied by the bailey and beneath the present structures therein.
The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Clitheroe Castle, an enclosure castle constructed during the late 11th to early 12th centuries. It is strategically located in the middle of the vale through which the River Ribble runs and is situated on a steep limestone rock outcrop which rises some 39m above the valley floor; thus the castle effectively bars the pass and commands extensive views over the surrounding area. The surviving medieval parts of the castle include the stone keep, situated at the highest northern end of the rock outcrop, and the adjacent curtain wall which surrounds the keep on all sides except the south. A bailey lies to the south of the keep at a lower level and was originally surrounded by a curtain wall, parts of which still survive in modified form. The bailey now contains 19th century buildings which incorporate fragments of medieval stonework. Additional defences consisting of a ditch, now infilled, existed on the west side of the castle. The keep, the second smallest stone keep in England, is presently roofless and floorless and was originally a three storey building topped by a parapet which does not now survive. The main entrance is on the north east side and this led directly to the second floor which was the central focus for the keep. Apart from the main room, the second floor also contained a smaller barrel-vaulted mural chamber, the doorway of which still survives, together with the doorway to the spiral staircase in the northern angle which gave access to the third floor as well as to the parapet. The second floor also contains another door on the south west side which gave access to the curtain wall. The second floor was lighted by two loopholes, one in the south east and one in the north west walls, both of which are preserved but have been widened from their original state. Three original loopholes which lit the stairway still survive. The ground floor was a storeroom with access through a trap door in the second floor. It was originally lit by loopholes in the south west and south east walls, both of which were later widened into doorways. The third floor would have acted as the bedroom for some of the castle's inhabitants. The bailey would have contained a number of domestic buildings such as kitchens, workshops, storerooms and the chapel of St Michael de Castro. Entrance to the bailey was through a gatehouse, now demolished, situated at the north east angle of the curtain wall. Documentary sources dated to 1102 confirm the presence of a military structure, presumably a castle, at Clitheroe by this date. Another charter, dated 1122, indicates the presence of the castle's chapel. This chapel had reinforced walls and formed part of the inner bailey walls. During the mid- 12th century some new construction was undertaken by Robert de Lacy II and throughout the 13th century the castle was garrisoned by a small number of men. It acted as the seat of the Honour of Clitheroe owned by lords of the Manor, the de Lacy's, and functioned as a court and small prison. During the early 14th century repairs were carried out to buildings within the castle and a new gate was built. Further building repairs were undertaken the following century and a new chamber was built in 1425. By the early 17th century the castle, although continuing as the centre for the hundred court, was declining both militarily and structurally and was described as being 'very ruinous' with some parts having collapsed. During the Civil War the castle was garrisoned for a short time by Royalists who repaired the main gateway, and in 1649, following the Royalist defeat, the castle was reoccupied by members of the Lancashire militia who refused to disband. These rebels were quickly dispersed and Parliament decided that Clitheroe Castle should be rendered unusable to prevent a similar occurance. By 1660 the chapel was in ruins and an engraving by Buck of 1727 shows the ruinous state of the keep. This engraving also shows the curtain wall of the castle and some roofed buildings within the bailey. A ground plan of 1723 gives the location of the chapel along with other buildings within the bailey including a dwelling house, the court house and a stable. Although the castle was in ruins it still functioned as the administrative centre for the Blackburn Hundred until 1822. In 1848 three of the four walls of the keep were buttressed to prevent collapse and major rebuilding and restoration work was undertaken on the buildings within the bailey. Clitheroe Castle is Listed Grade I, all buildings within the bailey including the Castle Museum, the outbuilding and stable block to Clitheroe Castle are Listed Grade II. (Scheduling Report)

A castle noted in Domesday Book. Consists principally of a small C12 square tower keep with flat corner turrets, 1 of which contains a staircase. Entrance, originally into the 2nd storey, is now by breaches into the ground storey. All floors appear to have been of wood. The keep is advantageously placed on a steep crag. The inner bailey must have been to the South and fragments of ancient walls and masonry are to be seen in the park and incorporated into buildings, stables and offices. (Listed Building Report)

The Great Tower consists of one chamber over a cellar. There was not a third storey although the walls continue to give the tower the impression of height. The was one intra-mural chamber, possibly a muniments room. The room in the great tower was clearly a court room, both in the sense of a legal court and as a ceremonial space for homage giving. The marked angular batter on the corners of the great tower are much later alterations. Much of the curtain wall of the bailey survives and some of the buildings in the bailey, although much altered, may well have medieval cores.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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