Gisborough Castle and Priors House

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Questionable Fortified Manor House

There are no visible remains

NameGisborough Castle and Priors House
Alternative NamesGiseburghe; Guisborough; Wars Field; Fair Field
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityRedcar & Cleveland
1974 AuthorityCleveland
Civil ParishGuisborough

King writes Guisborough is persistantly credited with a castle on no evidence at all. L'Anson gave some tenurial evidence for an early C11 castle here but with no trace of remains. This is identified by Mackenzie (referencing Ord) as standing "in a field near the lane leading from Church Street to Redcar, called War's Field, and can still he traced by the moat in this and in the adjoining field, having well elevated ridges and uneven surfaces, the whole occupying several acres of ground."

Priors house granted licence to crenellate in 1344. Jackson writes house - may have stood in a field known as "Wars Field" situated "close to the lane going from Church Street to Redcar". Together with an adjoining field, Wars Field contained "Part of a moat - with elevated ridges and uneven surfaces, occupying several acres.

Gatehouse Comments

What were the earthworks in War's Field? An early castle, a fortified manor house or a fortified manor house on the site of an earlier castle. The prior had lodgings in the Priory itself but that does not exclude a more private house, and a guest house complex for high status visitors, for this powerful landowner and magnate. The wording of the licence to the prior and convent to crenellate their 'mansum' might suggest something other than the priory and its conventual buildings, although other LC to abbey's do use the term (ie Selby) in a manner which suggests guest house. It should also be noted that the Priory was sold, after the Reformation, to Sir Thomas Chaloner. The Chaloner's original house was south-west of the priory, not the War Fields location. Generally speaking such post-Reformation houses tend to use the priors domestic quarters. If there was an early castle at Guisborough, and the tenurial history given in the VCH does not give much support to such a suggestion, then it and its castellry were given up when the priory was founded c. 1119. However land at Guisborough was given to the priory of Durham just before the Conquest but they held no land in 1086 which might suggest their land was seized by some Norman lord who may have built a small castle to secure that land before eventually it was returned to the church. The actual location of War Fields is a little unclear but the given description and the early OS maps suggest the site now occupied by Prior Pursglove College.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ616163
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  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 40
  • Jackson, M.J., 1996, Castles of Durham and Cleveland (Carlisle) p. 32-33
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 319
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 533 (reject)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1923, VCH Yorkshire: North Riding Vol. 2 p. 352-3 online transcription
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 222 online copy
  • Whellan, T., 1857, History and topography of the city of York and the North Riding of Yorkshire (T Whellan and Co) Vol. 191-3 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 414 online copy
  • Grainge, W., 1855, Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire p. 306-12 online copy
  • Ord, J.W., 1846, The history and antiquities of Cleveland p. 338n1 online copy
  • Dallaway, J., 1833, A series of Discourse upon Architecture in England p. 272 online copy


  • Coulson, C., 1982, 'Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation: An Essay in the Sociology and Metaphysics of Medieval Fortification' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 94 download copy
  • I'Anson, W.M., 1913, 'The castles of the North Riding' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 22 p. 351-2

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1902, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1343-45) Vol. 6 p. 316 (licence to crenellate) online copy