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Bishop Middleham Castle

In the civil parish of Bishop Middleham.
In the historic county of Durham.
Modern Authority of Durham.
1974 county of County Durham.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ32743104
Latitude 54.67315° Longitude -1.49434°

Bishop Middleham Castle has been described as a certain Palace, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


"The site of the castle of Middleham is on a bold promontory, approximately in the shape of an isosceles triangle, projecting southwards from the high ridge on which the church is built. The apex of the triangle is to the north, and the sides of the promontory slope steeply to the level ground on the east, south and west, and show little traces of scarping except perhaps on the south, where, at the foot of the slope, a ditch runs east and west. The lines of the walls of a large building show in the turf at the south end of the site, and here and there the masonry is exposed. The position is a very strong one, the only easy approach being from the north, at the apex of the triangle". A 'Class G' earthwork (VCH, 1905).
The Castle of Middleham, a strong, well guarded manor house, was a principal residence of the Bishops of Durham from the Conquest till the end of the 14th century. At the time of Hatfield's Survey (1349-50) the demesne was on lease. No description of the castle is given in Hatfield's or any other survey. The last remaining part, a low oblong arched room, was removed several years before 1823. Except for this, it is not known when was the period of final destruction or regular dismantling. An old barn, across the road to the north may have formed part of the castle offices (Surtees). The manor house at Bishop Middleham was probably used as the bishop's residence from the 12th-14th century. Bishop Pudsey may have had a house thereabout 1183 (Boldon Book (Surtees Soc) 12 51).
Bishop Philip De Poitou (1197-1208) certainly stayed at Middleham (Feod Prior Dunelm 250 301). Bishop Louis Beaumont built a kitchen and began a new hall and chapel (Hist Dunelm Script Tres (Surtees Soc) (119)).
The Manor house or site of the manor was sold in 1649 (Close 1649 Pt 12 No 15). The house was probably then in ruins. There was a fishpond, mentioned in 1313 (Reg Palat Dunelm (Rolls Ser) i 480) which was probably on the marshy ground immediately below the house to the south. (VCH, 1928).
The remains of Middleham Castle consist of a series of banks and ditches forming small enclosures while here and there small fragments of masonry protrude through the turf. The maximum height of banks is 0.8 m. The remains have been mutilated by the construction of two silage pits. One of these pits utilises an original wall which has a maximum height of 1.2 m. The remaining retaining walls of the pits have been built of loose masonry, probably from the site. The whole areas is under pasture. The earthworks have been incorrectly shown or omitted on OS 25". None of the farm buildings to the N of the site show any trace of antiquity. To the S of the high ground on which the castle stood are faint traces of a ditch, but whether its purpose was defensive could not be ascertained (F1 EG/29-JUL-1954/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigator). (PastScape)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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