Bishop Middleham Castle

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Bishop), and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameBishop Middleham Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDurham
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishBishop Middleham

"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 d 1333 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). 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)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ327310
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  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles and Tower Houses of County Durham (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 18
  • Thompson, M.W., 1998, Medieval bishops' houses in England and Wales (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing) p. 116, 174
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 51-4
  • Jackson, M.J., 1996, Castles of Durham and Cleveland (Carlisle) p. 16-7
  • Corfe, Tom (ed), 1992, 'The Visible Middle Ages' in An Historical Atlas of County Durham p. 28-9
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 134
  • Kirby, D.A. (ed), 1966, Parliamentary Surveys of the Bishopric of Durham. Vol. II (Surtees Society 185) p. 189
  • Curtis, M., 1928, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Durham Vol. 3 (London) p. 204 online transcription
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Niemeyer, N., 1911, 'Introductory Chapter' in Rait, R.S. (ed), English Episcopal Palaces (Province of York) (London; Constable & Co) p. 9-10 online copy
  • Gould, Chalkley, 1905, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Durham Vol. 1 (London) p. 357 online copy
  • Whellan, F., 1894 (2edn), History, Topography and Directory of the County of Durham p. 243-4
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 165-8 online copy
  • Surtees, R., 1816 (1972 Reprint), The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham (London) Vol. 3 p. 1-4 online transcription
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1785-94, The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Vol. 3 p. 94 (slight) online copy


  • 1901-2, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 10 p. 89-91 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Boldon Book (Surtees Soc) 12 51 (? Ref.) (see translation in VCH Durham_ l. 1 p. 330)
  • Greenwell, W. (ed), 1871, Feodarium prioratus Dunelmensis. A Survey of the Estates of the Priory and Convent of Durham, compiled in the fifteenth century (Surtees Society 58) p. 250, 301 online copy
  • Raine, J. (ed), 1839, Historiae Dunelmensis Scriptores Tres (Surtees Society 9) p. 119 online copy
  • Close 1649 Pt 12 No 15
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1873-8, Registrum Palatinum Dunelmense the Register of Richard de Kellawe, Lord Palatine and Bishop of Durham, 1311-1316 (London Rolls Series 62) Vol. 1 p. 480


  • Payne, Naomi, 2003, The medieval residences of the bishops of Bath and Wells, and Salisbury (PhD Thesis University of Bristol) Appendix B: List of Medieval Bishop's Palaces in England and Wales (available via EThOS)
  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online