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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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;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)

Quadrangular castle built 1379-98, designed by John Lewyn for Sir Richard Scrope. The castle was slighted by Parliamentary forces in 1647 and abandoned as a residence in 1675. The full footprint of the quadrangular core of the castle survives as a partially ruined standing building: the west and south ranges almost being complete, the north and east ranges being more ruinous. The extent of the castle's original outer-works is less well understood: the monument includes a surviving section of substantial moat ditch to the west.
Castle Bolton was built for Sir Richard Scrope, a successful soldier and retainer of John of Gaunt, who became a leading noble in his own right in later life. Sir Richard became the first Baron Scrope of Bolton in 1371 and was treasurer of England 1371-75. In 1378, the year he became chancellor of England, he engaged the leading military architect of the time, the master mason John Lewyn of Durham, to design and build a replacement for his manor house in Wensleydale. Both the initial contract (for the eastern side of the castle) and the 1379 licence to crenellate for the castle survive. The contract (see Hislop 1996) implies that construction had already begun, possibly originally conceived as an addition to a pre-existing manor house adjacent to the C13 church to the north of the castle. Although clearly built in phases, the castle was completed to a unified design in 18 years for a total cost of £12,000, utilising the local limestone quarried from the hillside to the north.
The castle represents state-of-the-art design for the late C14, both in terms of defensive design, but also for domestic convenience with all the numerous fireplaces provided with chimney flues, in addition to the generous provision of garderobes. The relative completeness of Bolton Castle has allowed its complex layout of rooms to be interpreted. Faulkner (1963) suggests that it could accommodate up to eight households, each provided with suites of chambers, some including their own hall; all this being in addition to a dozen individual lodgings to provide accommodation for those of lesser rank. Brears (2010) re-interpreted the plan of the castle based on surviving C16 documentation of the very similar Wressle Castle which is also attributed to Lewyn.
In 1399, Scrope established a chantry of six priests at the castle. Little is known of the history of the castle in the C15. In 1537 the castle was burnt by Henry VIII's commissioners as a punishment for Sir John, the 8th Baron Scrope who had reluctantly granted sanctuary to the Abbot of Jervaulx after the Pilgrimage of Grace. The abbot was executed, but Sir John was pardoned and allowed to repair the castle, the various enlarged windows thought to date to this period of refurbishment. The 9th Baron, Sir Henry, was Captain of Carlisle when Mary Queen of Scots fled across the Solway after her defeat at the Battle of Langside in 1568. After a brief time at Carlisle Castle, Mary was held at Bolton Castle for six months before her transfer to Tutbury, Staffordshire in January 1569.
Bolton Castle was held for the King during the Civil War and was besieged in 1645, surrendering after six months through starvation. In 1647 it was partially slighted by Parliamentary forces to make it indefensible, although leaving it partially habitable. The castle ceased to be the family seat in 1675 with the completion of Bolton Hall. During a storm in 1761, the north-east tower collapsed, probably as a result of the damage inflicted the previous century. In the C18-19, the castle was quarried for building stone, but also formed eight dwellings rented by villagers.
In the 1990s the castle underwent a programme of consolidation work informed by archaeological investigations. Bolton Castle remains in private hands, but is open to the public as a visitor attraction.
The scheduling includes the upstanding remains of the castle and an area of earthworks to the west which includes a substantial section of moat ditch.
The standing structure of the castle consists of four corner towers which are rectangular, each typically measuring about 10m by 14m, originally being of five storeys topped by corner turrets. These are linked by curtain walls (generally of three storeys) to enclose a central courtyard nearly 28m by 17m. A small turret projects from the centres of both the north and south curtains. The footprint of the whole building is some 55m by 40m, with its long axis orientated approximately east -west.
Entrance to the castle was via a passage through the east curtain into the inner courtyard and thence via five defended doorways distributed around the yard, the principal entrance being diagonally across the yard in the north west corner. The Great Hall occupied the upper floors of the north curtain to overlook the church which lies just outside the monument to the north. The castle's chapel occupies the top of the south curtain. The main kitchen occupied the north-east tower, with a secondary kitchen in the south curtain adjacent to the south-east tower, being the garrison tower overlooking the castle entrance. The highest status apartments occupied the upper portions of the western towers, accessed via an inner hall (known as the Great Chamber) on the top floor of the west curtain. This high-status inner hall could only be accessed via a lobby linked to the upper end of the Great Hall, the lobby also providing access to a third hall (on the first floor of the west curtain, known as the Guest Hall) surviving a further apartment with two chambers. The administrative heart of the castle and the estate is believed to have centred on a hall on the third floor of the south-east tower, this hall serving six chambers, one (known as the Auditor's Chamber) provided with two strong rooms. The vaulted chambers of the castle's ground floor also included some accommodation, but were mainly given over to service functions and stores, the south range including a mill, brewery and bakery.
The south-west tower and the west curtain survive effectively complete, being both roofed and glazed, although the turrets to the tower are ruinous. Most of the south curtain stands to full height, although the upper floor (including the chapel) is roofless. The north-west and south-east towers also effectively stand to full height, but with the upper floors surviving as roofless shells. Only the base of the north-eastern tower and the northern end of the east curtain survive following the collapse of the tower in 1761. However, the southern end of the east curtain, including the gateway, is largely intact. The northern curtain (including the Great Hall), largely stands to full height as an open shell.
The outer works of the castle are poorly understood, but the monument includes an area to the west of the standing building which includes a substantial moat ditch surviving as an earthwork. The scheduling also includes land to the north of the standing building through which a single track road with its verges now runs. This area is considered to retain buried evidence of the manor house that the castle replaced. The extent of other outer works of the castle are not well understood and therefore not included in the scheduling. Earthworks of the quarries that supplied the stone, as well as the remains of the late medieval designed landscape which was laid out for the castle are also not included in the scheduling. (Scheduling 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.).

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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:49

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