Bolton Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameBolton Castle
Alternative NamesBolton in Wensleydale
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishCastle Bolton With East And West Bolton

Castle. Late C14. By John Lewyn, master-mason, for Richard le Scrope. Rubble with ashlar dressings. Four 3-storey ranges about a rectangular courtyard, with 4-storey corner towers, that to north-east demolished. Turrets in the centres of north and south ranges. Entrance was by a gatehouse in the east range, with a chamfered pointed arch set in a taller arch, the passage barrel-vaulted. Plinths, quoins. The original windows are lancets with cinque-cusped heads and labels, with some in the south-west tower altered to form 3-light mullion and transom windows. Interior: main chambers on the first floor of the north range, chapel on the second floor of the south range with, in addition, eight apartments and twelve lodgings for retainers. The building was already partly constructed in 1378. A contract, dated 1378, survives for construction of the east range, and a licence for the crenellation of the castle was granted in 1379. The chapel was dedicated in 1399. Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned here 1568-9. (Listed Building Report)

Faulkner stated that the castle was "built on a fresh site", inferring an earlier castle in the vicinity, although VCH gives no mention of this. The interior of the 14th century castle can be broken down into eight major household units and some twelve lesser lodgings all integrated into one unified conception. (PastScape ref. Faulkner, 1963)

A licence to crenellate Bolton Castle was granted to Sir Richard Scrope in 1379 while he was Chancellor of England, and marked King Richard II’s approval for a building project on a grand scale. In 1378, Sir Richard had already agreed a contract with master mason John Lewyn for a considerable amount of the work. John Leland visited in the 1530s and records that it took 18 years to build and cost 1000 marks a year. The building gives a great impression of strength but this is partly an illusion

Although the castle superficially appears to provide a formidable defence, it is somewhat basic by comparison with some contemporary and earlier castles. Among the defensive features that the castle lacks, is a moat or a ditch of any kind to prevent the use of siege towers. Thus there is also no drawbridge and consequently, the portcullises are situated externally, whereas internal ones are stronger. Lack of such features shows that the castle was less seriously intended as a military citadel, but it was still quite strong enough to deter the greatest contemporary threat – Scottish raiders. Bolton Castle is in fact what is known as a ‘castle-residence’ of the last quarter of the fourteenth century. It holds a position of academic importance for two reasons. Firstly is the link to probably the most important northern master mason of the Medieval period 1360-1400, John Lewyn. Second is the extent of survival of much of the original fabric, hence Bolton Castle’s position as architectural type-site for later Medieval northern England. Architecturally it represents how the conflict between the needs of defence and the need for more space for accommodation came to be resolved in the quadrangular form (previously castles were built in the round). In a square castle, more people could be accommodated on the same ground area. At Bolton Castle the integration of the different living units was more complex than before, reflecting a more elaborate way of life; there was a greater differential in the scale of the accommodation and there was a decrease in the relative size of the Hall, reflecting its more formal use. The ground floor provided stables and stores, while the principal rooms were on the first floor, approached from the central courtyard. The Great Hall was in the northern range, with the private apartments to the west and domestic offices to the east. There were twelve independent lodgings of one or two rooms for retainers. (Outofoblivion the online North Yorks Moors National Park HER)

'Bolton Castle was... intended as a piece of social theatre, an exercise in keeping up with the Nevilles, rather than as purely military defensive engineering.' (King, 2007, p. 392)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceSE033918
Latitude54.3220405578613
Longitude-1.94967997074127
Eastings403370
Northings491830
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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
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
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
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Books

  • Anthony Emery, 2016, Seats of power in Europe during the Hundred Years War: an architectural study from 1330 to 1480 (Oxbow Books) p. 55-62
  • Brears, Peter, 2011, 'The Administrative Role of Gatehouses in Fourteenth-Century North-Country Castles' in Airs, M. and Barnwell, P.S. (eds), The Medieval Great House (Donington: Shaun Tyas) p. 200-213
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. xx, 36, 327-30, 346
  • Hislop, M., 2007, John Lewyn of Durham: a medieval mason in practice (Oxford: John and Erica Hedges: British Archaeological Reports British Series 438)
  • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 44-6
  • Jackson, M.J., 2001, Castles of North Yorkshire (Carlisle) p. 2-5
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 22-4
  • Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 84-5
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 303, 421
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 287-8 (plan)
  • Trueman, M.R.G. and Neil, N.R.J., 1992, Bolton Castle, North Yorkshire - the North and East Ranges (Lancaster: Lancaster University Archaeological Unit)
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 55-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 513-4
  • Ryder, P.F., 1982 (paperback edn 1992), The Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire (Ash Grove Book) p. 87-107
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 192
  • Garlick, Tom, 1972, Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 14
  • Simpson, W. Douglas, 1969, Castles of England and Wales p. 98-101
  • Pevsner, N., 1966, Buildings of England: Yorkshire: North Riding (London, Penguin) p. 104-6
  • Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 211-3
  • Salzman, L.F., 1952, Building in England down to 1540: a documentary history (Clarendon Press) p. 454
  • Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield) p. 136-7
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1914, VCH Yorkshire: North Riding Vol. 1 p. 271-3 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. 208-10 online copy
  • Speight, H., 1897, Romantic Richmondshire p. 403-7 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 179-80 online copy
  • Whellan T, 1859, History and topography of the city of York and the North Riding of Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 441-7 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 418 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1853, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 227-31 online copy
  • Grainge, W., 1855, Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire p. 341-7 online copy
  • Britton, John, 1835, The Architectural Antiquities of Great Britain (London) Vol. 4 p. 124-6
  • Allen, T., 1831, A new and complete history of the county of York Vol. 3 p. 505
  • Whitaker, T.D., 1823, A History of Richmondshire in the North Riding of the County of York (London) Vol. 1 p. 378-80 online copy
  • Bigland, J., 1812, Beauties of England and Wales Vol. 16 p. 909-10
  • Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 67-71 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 554, 564, 569-70
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 79 online copy; Vol. 4 p. 27 [online copy > http://archive.org/stream/itineraryofjohnl04lelauoft#page/27/mode/1up]; Vol. 5 p. 139-40 [online copy > http://archive.org/stream/itineraryofjohnl05lelauoft#page/139/mode/1up]

Journals

  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Guy, Neil, 2011-12, 'The Rise of the Anti-clockwise Newel Stair' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 113-174 online copy
  • King, Andy, 2007, 'Fortress and fashion statements: gentry castles in fourteenth-century Northumberland' Journal of Medieval History Vol. 33 p. 392
  • Hislop, Malcom and Hislop, Anne, 1996, 'Bolton Castle and the Practices of Architecture in the Middle Ages' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 149 p. 10-22
  • 1995, Rescue News Vol. 66 p. 8
  • Wood, Jason, 1992-93, 'Six Northern Castles - A review of recent work undertaken by the Lancaster University Archaeological Unit' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 6 p. 18-21 online scan
  • 1992 May 21, Country Life Vol. 185 p. 70-3
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 318
  • < >Faulkner, P.A., 1963, 'Castle Planning in the 14th Century' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 120 p. 215-35 (on domestic arrangements) online copy < >

Guide Books

  • Orde-Powlett, Tom, nd, Bolton Castle The Historic Heart of Wensleydale
  • Jackson, G., 1980 10edn, The Story of Bolton Castle: an Introduction to the Wensleydale Fortress of the Scropes (Dalesman) (original edn 1956)
  • Jackson, George, 1946, Bolton Castle (Dalesman)

Primary Sources

  • Salzman, L.F., 1952, Building in England down to 1540: a documentary history (Clarendon Press) p. 454-6 (Contract between Richard Scrope and John Lewyn dated 1378)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1377-81) Vol. 1 p. 369 (licence to crenellate) online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 477