Ravensworth Castle, Yorkshire

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameRavensworth Castle, Yorkshire
Alternative NamesRavenswathe; Kirkby Ravensworth; Ravenswath
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishRavensworth

Ruined castle and park wall. Late C14. For Henry, Lord Fitzhugh. Walls of sandstone rubble, mainly faced with square-cut ashlar. 3-storey tower attached to main gateway in north-east corner; foundations of curtain wall with fragments of 2 towers to south-west and south-east; part of belfry tower, formerly attached to chapel; central rectangular range of less architectural pretension, probably stables. Gateway: depressed continuously-moulded 2-centred-arched opening, of 2 orders, the outer one chamfered, the inner one convex, with hoodmould with small head stops, and on the inside a portcullis slot. Attached to the north-east, a 3-storey ashlar tower, with offset plinths, and double buttress to northern corner; on the north-western side, on each floor a cruciform loophole; on the north- eastern side a single-light window on each floor and an incomplete garderobe tower to the eastern corner; on the south-eastern side, shouldered doorways with convex chamfer on ground floor to left and first floor to right, the latter formerly with an external staircase; to its left a trefoiled single- light window to straight-flight mural staircase leading to second floor, which has a window of 2 trefoiled lights under monolithic lintel; turret to right above staircase up to roof walk. Belfry: ashlar; parts of 2 walls standing almost to full height of a very tall and narrow tower, with a Latin inscription below the second-floor string course, and with a very tall chamfered segmental-pointed arched doorway to north. The stable block has a complete 2-storey gable to north west, with a central doorway. The Park Wall, constructed around the medieval hunting park by licence in 1391, survives almost intact, partly rebuilt but in many stretches clearly surviving in medieval form, of tapering section, constructed of large roughly-squared stones, standing approximately 2 metres high

Interior of gate tower: on ground floor, across the northern corner, the remains of a fireplace; on first floor, a chamfered shouldered fireplace in the north- western side; on second floor, across the northern corner a fireplace, the lintel on corbels framing a coat of arms; the beam slots for the first and second floors run in opposite directions; first-floor doorway into room from outside staircase has rebate for door to open into. The Castle and outlying earthworks are scheduled as an Ancient Monument. (Listed Building Report)

A motte and bailey castle situated on the end of a low spur surrounded by marshy ground, in eastern Teesdale. The extensive castle remains stand on a low platform separated from the adjacent high ground to the north by a ditch, with earthworks enclosing marshy land around the castle and further earthworks on the slope to the south. The surrounding marsh appears to have been relied upon as the main defensive measure with various moats and channels serving to control the drainage here. Together these water management earthworks helped create a substantial shallow lake west of the castle in the medieval period. Further earthworks are considered to be associated with medieval emparking. Aerial photographs have revealed a further range of buildings on the higher ground to the north of the castle; these are interpreted as part of the shrunken village of Ravensworth. The castle retains substantial sections of upstanding masonry and earthworks defining the foundations of buried buildings. The castle platform is roughly rectangular in plan, its longer axis north east to south west, the greatest length being 137m and the width up to 67m. A ditch cut across the platform from north west to south east separates the motte which lies in the northern third of the platform from the bailey which lies in the remainder. The platform is steeply scarped on all sides dropping to the flat land which surrounds the site, with a ditch 20m wide at the north angle of the platform separating it from the adjacent higher land. A moat immediately surrounds the castle and has a counterscarp bank extending along its south east side. The castle was approached from the north west where the ditch was spanned by a bridge of which the outer abutment remains as a stony mound. The perimeter of the platform was enclosed by a curtain wall, linking a series of rectangular towers of which the south west, the south east and the gateway remain as ruins. Some of the remaining towers and sections of the curtain wall are identifiable as earthworks. The stub ends of the wall attached to the standing towers indicate the wall to have been 1.07m thick and 5.8m to the top of the parapet. On the motte at the north of the site stands the remains of the gateway tower. It is the most complete part of the castle, the walls standing to virtually full height, with the arch of the adjacent gateway also remaining intact. The tower has three storeys and is 5.2m square internally with walls 1.5m thick. Internal features such as fireplaces and window surrounds and much original architectural detail remains. In the bailey to the south are further sections of standing masonry, the most prominent of which is the belfry tower which still stands partially to three storeys. It is identified as the tower for a chapel, the remainder of which can be identified as earthworks. Architectural details including a Latin inscription around the uppermost storey of the belfry tower are preserved. The other sections of standing masonry are the north west gable and lower parts of the walls of a long rectangular building 32m by 9.3m, which has been identified as a barn or stable block. The earthwork remains of further ranges of buildings are clearly identifiable throughout the extent of the platform. The marsh surrounding the castle platform is enclosed by a large bank and ditch extending 250m eastwards along the bottom of the valley, 110m to the south east of the castle, with a lesser bank extending 80m northwards at the west end, 120m to the west of the castle. A further earthwork projects northwards from the southern bank and extends 30m towards the castle. These ditches and embankments created a waterlogged outer enclosure to the west and south of the castle, and would have served to control drainage in the enclosed area. On the slope to the south west of the castle a broad earthwork extends 170m along the hillside and across a wide gully, where the interior face of the earthwork appears to have been revetted in stone. This earthwork is interpreted as a dam, above it the gulley broadens into a level area, its west slope having been scarped to provide material for the dam. A dry valley extends northwards down the slope from the dam to a spring which feeds into the earthworks enclosing the marsh. This dam formed a pond which would have contained a considerable body of water and helped to control the water flow to the castle defences. Further earthworks to the east and west of this gully, extending northwards down the slope to the bank surrounding the marsh, form a discrete enclosed area which is thought to be associated with a hunting park attached to the castle prior to the 14th century. There are further earthworks visible on aerial photographs to the north of the castle which may be part of the medieval village of Ravensworth. There is no date for the foundation of the castle but it is thought to be the work of the Fitzhugh family in the 11th century. In 1391 Henry, Lord Fitzhugh received licence to enclose 200 acres around the castle as a park, or as an extension to an existing park. The architecture of some of the surviving buildings suggest that the castle itself was rebuilt during this time. A chantry dedicated to St Giles was founded within the castle chapel in 1467. In 1512 the estate was divided and appears to have gone into decline and by 1608, despite being in the hands of the Crown, the castle was being quarried extensively by local people. The medieval park wall can be traced for most of its length but for the most part the existing wall is a later rebuild on the original line. The condition of the castle is described in documents in the mid 16th century and by illustrations in the 18th century. (Scheduling Report)

Significant parts of the standing remains, including the gate tower are now at risk. Condition: Poor (Heritage at Risk 2008)

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 ReferenceNZ141075
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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

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  • Richardson, S. and Dennison, E., 2014, 'A wall with a view? The gardens at Ravensworth Castle, North Yorkshire' Landscape History Vol. 35:2 p. 21-38
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Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1902, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1389-92) Vol. 4 p. 395 (Henry Fitz Hugh, kn recorded as owner in 1391 in licence to impark) 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. 490


  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk Yorkshire Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 46 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 Yorkshire (London: English Heritage) p. 53 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 Yorkshire (London: English Heritage) p. 55 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 Yorkshire and the Humber (London: English Heritage) p. 76 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 Yorkshire and the Humber (London: English Heritage) p. 71 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 Yorkshire and the Humber (London: English Heritage) p. 75 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 Yorkshire and the Humber (London: English Heritage) p. 85 online copy