The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Whorlton Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Potto; Hwernelton; Wernelton; Wherlton; Cerveltune; Ferneltun

In the civil parish of Whorlton.
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: NZ48100245
Latitude 54.41541° Longitude -1.26006°

Whorlton Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also 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*.


Remains of motte and bailey and later stone castle. These earthworks are of the early mount and bailey type, modified for the addition of a later stone keep. A ditch 60ft wide, and 11ft deep encompasses the motte, and a roughly rectangular bailey is attached to the north east and south east sides. Further earthworks may possibly indicate a settlement and fishponds. The gatehouse is C14 rectangular structure of dressed stone, with a projecting vice at the north west angle. About 24yds to the west are the remains of the castle comprising some vaulted cellars, the largest of which measures 29ft by 13ft 9 inches. The castle was described as ruinous in 1343 but the date of dismantling is not known. A two-storied dwelling house was built against the north west end of the gate house at the end of C16 or beginning of C17. (PastScape)

monument includes two groups of features; those relating to the medieval castle with its landscaped vista and those associated with the medieval village of Whorlton. The Norman motte and bailey, altered by the addition of a stone-built tower house, is situated at the top of Castle bank, while a series of garden earthworks, ponds and park pale occupy the slopes to the east of the castle; much of the land surrounding the castle had been cultivated during the medieval period and large areas of ridge and furrow are still visible. The remains of the village lie to the south, on Howe Hill, and represent an expansion of the settlement westwards from Whorlton Lane, along an old road to Swainby. Also included in the monument are the ruined parts of the Holy Cross Church, which has Norman origins. The motte is a flat-topped mound, squarish in plan and measuring 60m by 50m across, which is partly surrounded by a ditch up to 20m wide by 5m deep with a 2.5m high outer bank. Some of the cellars may date to the Norman period but most of the masonry, including the gatehouse tower, belongs to the 14th century tower house built on the site. To the south and east of the motte a relatively level platform, bounded by a steep 2m-3m high scarp with a 1m deep ditch at its foot, forms the outer court or bailey. A modern farm building in the northern half of the bailey is excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath it is included. A dried-up pond in the south east corner of the bailey is a later addition and is probably associated with the later garden landscaping; it drained into a second pond at a lower level outside the bailey which drained in turn, to a now boggy area beside the stream which flows west from Whorlton village. Immediately to the east of the bailey, the modern road is flanked by two roughly symmetrical rectangular enclosures, each 40m by 20m across bounded by 1m high banks; these were laid out as ornamental gardens, at the end of the medieval period. A sharply defined rectangular pond, 190m long by 20m wide and up to 3m deep, lies along the eastern side of the garden enclosures and is divided into two unequal parts by the modern road. This pond is one of the latest features to have been constructed when the castle grounds were landscaped. To the south of and east of the castle, a number of earthworks are visible which relate to the imparkment of the estate which was begun in the 13th century. A boundary feature or park pale runs from the northern end of the rectangular pond north eastwards for 340m where it meets a stream in a deep gully; it comprises a double bank with a ditch between and, although altered by agriculture, earthworks are still up to 0.5m high in places. Between the park pale and the modern road are a series of low parallel ridges and furrows which show that this area was once under arable cultivation but, apart from an area of ridge and furrow to the north of the rectangular pond, there is no evidence of medieval earthworks beyond the park pale. The road once ran slightly north of its present route and its original edge is indicated by a slight bank. Boundary features and cultivation earthworks are also visible in the graveyard of Holy Cross Church and in the land between the church and the village. The Church of the Holy Cross dates to the 12th century and, although only the 14th century chancel is in use, the original arcades of the ruined nave are still standing. The graveyard, now largely disused, will have been in use from the medieval period. The remains of the medieval village lie beside a hollow way which runs along the brow of Howe Hill, south west towards Swainby. The line of hollow way is visible as a parallel series of narrow linear terraces and south of this are the rectangular platforms of house plots or yards. Ridge and furrow earthworks are also apparent to the south of the village. At Domesday, Whorlton was recorded as belonging to the Manor of Hutton Rudby then held by Robert, Earl of Mortain. Accounts from the 13th century name the stronghold variously as 'Potto' and 'Hwernelton' castle and from the 12th to the 16th century, Whorlton remained under the control of de Meynell family and it was they who created Whorlton Park. The layout of the park and the village of Whorlton was recorded in detail on a map of 1628. Finds of Roman artefacts have been made close to the church, suggesting that the settlement may have had much earlier origins. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse of motte-and-bailey castle of which no other building survives but some vaulted undercrofts (q.v.). Late C14, altered in C16. Sandstone ashlar on high chamfered plinth; roofless and floorless. Rectangular plan shows central through-passage,with springing of a high vault remaining, and one large room at either side on each floor, surrounded by small mural chambers. 3 storeys, 3 wide bays. Segment-arched entrance in 2 planes, the outer curved, the inner chamfered. Modern wood lattice filling with wicket door. 3 shields in cusped panels above. Flanking first-floor cross windows in chamfered reveals and similar top-floor windows. Scattered slits and small single lights. Second-floor drip bands. Plainer rear elevations with 2 blocked doorways and scattered slits. One cross window at top right and a 2-light window (lost mullion) at top left. Drawbar tunnel in doorway and later pintles. Round-arched door to projecting staircase tower on left, which holds newel stair broken at the top. Interior: Caernarvon arches to several mural chambers, some of them garderobes, represent the original building period, as do the wide splays and segmental rere-arches of the smaller windows. Later, larger doorways and windows have Tudor rere-arches. Wall-passages missing in places, but first-floor and ground-floor fireplaces and chimneys remain. Ribs of the central vault have a single hollow chamfer, probably also original. Signs of later buildings, now gone, both inside and out. (Listed Building Report)

One of several castle that are sited on the edge of the higher lands of the North York Moors, such as Pickering and Helmsley. The name 'Cerveltune' comes from Stubbs edition of mappa mundi and 'Ferneltun' from the Smith edition of Leland's version of the same. Presumable the manuscript is particular difficult to transcribe here but no other castle site fits these spellings. The context of Gervase of Canterbury's list of the late C12 early C13 date would suggest masonry buildings at Whorlton at that time.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*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

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact