Raby Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameRaby Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryDurham
Modern AuthorityDurham
1974 AuthorityCounty Durham
Civil ParishRaby With Keverstone

Castle towers with curtain wall and adjacent buildings. Early/mid C14, probably incorporating earlier buildings; licence to crenellate 1379. Partial demolition and rebuilding c.1620; extensive C18 alterations and additions by D. Garrett, J. Paine, J. Carr; c.1814 by Joseph Browne; 1844-8 by William Burn; 1864 and later by Austin and Johnson. Property of Neville family until forfeited to Crown after 6th Earl of Westmorland took part in 1569 Rising of the North; 1626 acquired by Sir Henry Vane, whose descendants became successively Baron Barnard (Thomas Vane, in 1698), Earl of Darlington (Henry Vane, in 1754) and Duke of Cleveland (William Harry Vane, in 1833).

Coursed blocks of millstone grit (Bulmer's Tower) and limestone with plinth, some quoins, and ashlar dressings; roofs Lakeland slate. Irregular plan: 9 perimeter towers, from north clockwise: Clifford's, Kitchen, Mount Raskelf, Chapel, Bulmer's, Octagon, Joan's, Neville Gateway and Watch: linking buildings and wall; Keep in yard, attached to south-west corner of Kitchen tower; smaller yard beside Kitchen. Apart from Octagon and pentagonal Bulmer's, towers are rectangular. Great Hall runs along east side of main yard, linking Kitchen and Octagon towers. Principal entrance is Neville Gateway in west front, which has 4-storey splayed projections flanking 4-centred-arched gateway, with trefoil-pendant decoration, under machicolations and renewed 2-light window; Garter ribbons round badges of Neville (John de Neville, Knight of Garter 136-9, died 1388) his second wife Elizabeth Latymer, and St. George's cross, in band below top machicolations. Flanking turrets have Garrett quatrefoils on ground and loops on top floors, with C19 lights on other floors. This front of Neville gate is an addition corresponding to front extension of John's Tower at right, to which it is linked by 2-storey medieval wall with L-plan C18 one-storey additions

Joan's Tower originally 3 storeys, raised to 4 by Carr; 3 windows on west front, the left in a projecting bay with single trefoil-headed light on each floor; 2 right bays have 2-light windows, those on first-floor with cusped ogee-headed lights and on second floor with trefoil heads. To left of Neville gate a 3-storey, 4-bay section links Clifford's Tower, 5 storeys with irregular fenestration and C18 door, with high one-bay Watch Tower. 3-storey section has 'Old Servants' Hall' on ground floor, probably former guard room, with trefoil-headed lights; 3 similar first-floor and 4 paired second-floor windows.

North elevation on left return has heavily machicolated curtain wall linking Clifford's and Kitchen towers, with wide low-2-centred arch inserted. South elevation on right return has 2-storey 4-bay range with paired lights linking Joan's Tower with Octagon, Burn's 1845 construction replacing Carr's incomplete round tower, on site of medieval south tower destroyed by fire mid C18. Burn's high 5-light transomed window in dining room to right of Octagon, and ante- library extruded addition to left; and at east end the 5-stage tapered Bulmer's Tower with left stair-turret, which has shouldered head to ground-floor entrance, and varied fenestration.

East front shows 2 initial 'b's under head-stopped dripmoulds, John de Neville's reference to his ancestor Bertram Bulmer, on top floor of tower. C19 windows in 3-bay link to Chapel Tower, which has high C19 doorway replacing medieval barbican, of which fragments survive in Raby House Farm and The Folly (q.v.). 2 tall turrets flank recessed 2-light chapel window with reticulated tracery under machicolation. To right of chapel a 3-storey bay links to Mount Raskelf; in link a door and 2-light window have hollow-chamfered cusped surrounds. Mount Raskelf has 3 set-back storeys, each with one window of paired cusped lights. Set back at right is massive kitchen tower of 3 set- back storeys with 2 first-floor windows and central octagonal roof lantern, raised by Carr. Passage through Neville gate has ribbed vault on slender half-octagonal crenellated shafts, and guard-room doors with diagonally-stopped chamfers; inner earlier passage barrel-vaulted on chamfered ribs.

Interior: Medieval structures little altered are kitchen, keep, and 'Old Servants' Hall'. Kitchen probably by John Lewyn: basement vaulted with 8 ribs springing from central octagonal pillar. Main floor has 4 wide-arched ovens. Blocked flight of steps on south (with C17 balustrade) leading towards Great Hall and giving access to passage in wall linking kitchen windows and roof on 2 pairs of segmental-arched ribs, the crossing framing central louvre. Keep, formerly with no external access, has 8-foot thick walls, with garderobes and wall chambers, original window openings, and vaulted ceilings. 'Old Servants' Hall' in similar style but with 2-centred-arched vault. In Clifford's Tower a medieval stair on segmental arches runs in the south wall from first floor to roof levels. In Bulmer's Tower stair turret there are blocked medieval doors of several periods. Extensive C18 alterations include rooms on first floor of south range, with Palladian door to north corridor with key block inscribed HGV 1729, unattributed at time of survey. James Gibbs drawings exist for unexecuted work at Raby.

Garrett's work of c.1745 includes state rooms in Clifford's Tower, particularly the richly-decorated 3-apsed drawing room, with niches in the window apses, and the dining room, which have enriched mouldings on dados and 6-panel doors, and rococo stucco ceilings with modillion cornices. (Perritt was paid for in 1737 for plaster work; if Thomas Perritt it would be among his earliest work - he was made Freeman of York 1737/8. Other payments to 1753 were to Thomas Perritt and to Rose and Perritt). Garrett's Hunters' Gallery in Gothic style links Clifford's and Watch Towers at first-floor level; it has head corbels and egg-and-dart moulded ogee arches, and lantern with intersecting broad glazing bars. Paine, restoring interior in mid C18, executed interior work including Gothic bedroom in Neville gateway, and several classical-style rooms.

Carr's work beginning c,1767 included alterations and additions to domestic arrangements in kitchen yard, but most significantly the creation of a carriage- way through the castle from west to east, with necessary removal of ceilings and floors in great hall and in Chapel Tower. He inserted 2 rows of octagonal columns and false vaulting in the lower, now entrance hall, where visitors would alight; raised the vault of the east gate; and demolished the barbican to allow the exit of carriages.

Circa 1814 Joseph Browne enlarged the dining room in the south range, and encased the entrance hall pillars in red scagliola. Between 1843 and 1848 William Burn made extensive alterations, including a vigorous Jacobean-style drawing room in the Octagon Tower, and new roofs for the Great Hall and the Chapel.

Austin and Johnson's work included a grand Jacobean-style north stair to the Baron's Hall or Great Hall, and the renewal of many windows. In 1901 J.P. Pritchett restored the interior of the chapel and revealed medieval aumbry, sedilia and piscina, although below the present ground level; the west arcade of the chapel was filled with painted portraits. The chapel windows contain reset medieval glass from France and Flanders, C16 German and other heraldic glass. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

John, 3rd Baron Nevill, obtained a Palatinate licence to crenellate in 1378, although this probably meant making changes to an existing building. The castle evolved to become an extensive residence of towers and ranges of apartments built around a small courtyard. The largest tower is Clifford's Tower, 24.7m (81ft) tall, but the most interesting is the Kitchen Tower which still retains its original medieval form. The Nevill family were one of the most powerful and important in Northern England, but they lost all their lands after leading the failed 'Uprising of the North', in support of Mary Queen of Scots, in 1569. The building is now a much altered stately home. Castle said to date from circa 1130.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ129217
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Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

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  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
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  • Hewlings, R., 2012, ‘The result of unnecessary provocation: Raby Castle, Co Durham, part 2’ Country Life 206.31 p. 50-55
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  • 2012-13, 'Castle Studies Group Conference 2012 report' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 2-41
  • Hislop, M., 1992, 'The Castle of Ralph Fourth Baron Neville at Raby' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 20 p. 91-7
  • Rowan, A., 1972, 'Gothick restoration at Raby Castle' Architectural History Vol. 5 p. 23-50
  • Rowan, A., 1969 July 10 and 17, 1970 Jan 1, 8 and 22, 'Raby Castle, Co. Durham' Country Life
  • 1936, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 36 p. 223-5 online copy
  • Tipping, H.A., 1915, Country Life Vol. 38 p. 760-8, 804-10
  • 1908, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 65 p. 322-3 (plan but slight) online copy
  • 1905-6, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser3) Vol. 2 p. 363-79
  • Pritchett, J.P., 1903, 'On Recent Discoveries in the Chapel of Raby Castle' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 24 p. 65-8, 114 online copy
  • 1898, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 8 p. 157-61 online copy
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  • Hodgson, J.F., 1890-5, 'Raby' Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland Vol. 6 p. 49-122, 153-260 and plates
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  • Hodgson, J.F. 1886-6 Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 2 p. 286-96
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  • Austin, Thomas, 1865, 'The Minstrels' Gallery, Raby Castle' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 6 p. 214-5
  • 1799, The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 69 Part 1 p. 295-6 online copy

Guide Books

  • Neville Vane, H.J., 2008, Raby Castle The Home of Lord Barnard (Heritage House Group) (A dreadful family hagiography which has some useful pictures but text that owes more to Walter Scott than any historical study)
  • Anon, n.d. (c1970), A Short Guide to Raby Castle (Barnard Castle: Teesdale Mercury)
  • Scott, O.S., 1936, Guide Book (revised Harrison, 1953)
  • Scott, O.S., 1908, Raby, Its Castle and Its Lords (Barnard Castle)
  • Wilhelmina, Duchess of Cleveland, 1870, Handbook for Raby Castle

Primary Sources

  • 1871 The Thirty-second Annual Report of Deputy Keeper of the Public Record p. 292
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 189
  • E178/3752 (Survey of 6 James I) The National Archives reference
  • SP14/49/82 (Survey of 1609) The National Archives reference


  • 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