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Ayton Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of West Ayton.
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: SE98818511
Latitude 54.25200° Longitude -0.48554°

Ayton Castle has been described as a probable Tower House, and also as a probable Pele Tower.

There are major building remains.

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


Remains of a medieval manorial centre and later fortified house complex at Ayton Castle. The site comprises the standing ruins of a fortified house and the earthwork remains of buildings which all lie within a courtyard, a series of wide terraces on the slope above the tower and, in a field to the south, the earthwork remains of a set of fishponds. The main phase of development was a late 12th/13th century manorial complex surrounded by a stone curtain wall with a gatehouse. A tower was added in the late 14th century. By the late 17th century the remains were in use as a byre. The ruined tower represents the only standing remains of the complex. (PastScape)

Remains of the medieval manorial centre and later fortified house complex at Ayton Castle and is situated on south facing, rising ground to the north of the River Derwent. Included in the scheduling are the standing ruins of a fortified house and the earthwork remains of buildings which all lie within a courtyard, a series of wide terraces on the slope above the tower and, in a field to the south, the earthwork remains of a set of fishponds. Further slight earthworks and buried archaeological remains extend into the field to the west of the ruins. The ruins of the fortified house are the only standing remains of the complex and are Listed Grade I. It is a rectangular three storey, stone built tower only standing to its full height at the south east corner. The vaulted basement is intact but no other floors or ceilings survive. Many architectural details such as windows, doorways, stairs and roof and floor supports survive, which provide evidence of the original internal arrangements. It was built in the style of a tower house, a type of defensible house characteristic of the borderlands of Scotland and England. The tower and remains of associated and earlier buildings stand in an almost square enclosure or courtyard, measuring 120m east to west by 110m north to south which is defined by the earthwork remains of a curtain wall. Surrounding the tower are the earthwork remains of the medieval manorial complex. These include at least six rectangular buildings, four of which were attached to the inside of the enclosure wall. These structures have been identified as a hall, service annexe, kitchen range, dovecote and two possible gatehouses. Further earthworks associated with the manor and the fortified house also lie within the enclosure; their precise function is not yet fully understood. On the hillside above the enclosure there are three terraces cut into the natural slope. These represent garden or agricultural terraces. At the north east of the terraces a trackway is cut into the steep wooded hillside to the north. The earthworks of the fishpond complex form a set of linear ponds aligned parallel to the river. The main pond measures 70m long and is between 5m and 15m wide. A subsidiary pond lies to the west of the main pond. The whole complex is fed by water channelled through a leat which extends for over 100m to the north. At the north edge of the field containing the fishponds a stone revetted bank 1.5m high, extends from the river to the hillside. This bank formed a dam to prevent water flooding the fishponds. There are further earthwork remains of channels, banks and building platforms associated with the fishponds in the west part of the field. Excavations in the 1960s and recent survey work has shown that the remains at Ayton Castle demonstrate several phases of development. The main phase was a 13th century manorial complex including a hall, ranges of service buildings and a dovecote surrounded by a stone curtain wall with a gatehouse. Some of these buildings were demolished by the late 14th century when the stone tower was constructed; it was built in part over a demolished earlier building. Some of the other earlier structures may have continued in use into the 15th century as ancillary buildings for the tower house. The tower was built by Sir Ralph Eure, based on the tower house style of his native Northumberland. It has been suggested that it was built as a defence against the Scottish incursions of the late 14th century, although there is no evidence that it was ever attacked. Indeed, the architectural arrangements indicate that defence was not the primary concern. The last recorded occupier of the tower died there in 1679 and it is likely that piecemeal demolition has taken place since then. (Scheduling Report)

Pele tower, ruinated. Late C14. Sandstone ashlar. Rectangular, 2-cell plan 21 metres by 13.5 metres. Originally 3 storeys, on a chamfered plinth, each storey off-set with a chamfered string course. Pointed doorway flanked by square-headed window openings with chamfered quoined surrounds. Upper machicolation survives to east corner only. Interior: both ground floor rooms have depressed pointed tunnel vaults supported on chamfered transverse ribs. The surviving windows are deeply splayed. Staircases rise within the walls, to the left of the entrance, and from the inner room. Very rare building type in this part of Northern England. (Listed Building Report)

Although attached to other buildings it might arguably be considered as a small tower house rather than a solar block type pele tower. Ralph Eure was gentry but top end, acting as sheriff of Yorkshire and Northumberland and as a MP and the Eure family were to become barons.
Not to be confused with Ayton Castle, Berwickshire.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:49

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