Tadcaster Castle

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

There are earthwork remains

NameTadcaster Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishTadcaster

The motte and bailey castle at Tadcaster survives reasonably well despite building encroachment over part of the bailey and the part infilling of the surrounding moat. Archaeological remains will survive within the infilled moat and across the remainder of the site. These will retain information on the history of the site and the range of buildings and other features originally located within it. The castle is one of the early Norman fortifications in the north of England and incorporated earlier existing defences. The remains at Tadcaster are important for the study of the development of both castles and towns and the effect of Norman control in the early Norman period in North Yorkshire. The monument includes a motte and bailey castle situated on the west bank of the River Wharfe, to the north of Tadcaster town centre. The northern side of the motte and bailey slopes steeply down to an outer moat, now infilled, whilst the outworks to the east of the motte have been reduced by embanking of the river and are no longer visible as earthworks. The south part of the bailey has been built over, although its extent can be extrapolated from street patterns. As the full extent, nature and survival of archaeological remains at the southern area of the bailey cannot as yet be confirmed, the area is not included in the scheduling. The motte stands at the east end of the monument overlooking the river and is an earth and stone mound 7m high and 25m in diameter. The east side of the motte has been cut into by the construction of 19th century cottages which have since been demolished, although the brick rear wall still stands against the edge of the motte. There is a small inner bailey 20m across on the west side of the motte, divided from the outer bailey further to the west by a ditch 20m wide and 2m deep. The ditch is infilled at the southern end but significant archaeological deposits will still be preserved within it

The outer bailey includes a level platform 60m long and 30m wide, standing 10m above the ground to the north and west. A low bank 1m high extends along the northern perimeter of the bailey, with a small mound standing 4m high at the north west corner. This mound is believed to be the remains of a gun emplacement, dating to the re-fortification of the castle during the Civil War. A further small mound stands at the west end of the bailey. To the north of the castle lies an outer moat, now mostly infilled but still visible as a slight hollow at the west end. Excavations conducted in the 1980s at the west end of the bailey revealed the moat to be a substantial ditch up to 11m wide and 5m deep, curving around the north and south of the bailey. The castle is early Norman in date and its founding is attributed to William de Percy in the late 11th century. It is thought that the castle is built upon, and partly incorporates, the pre-Norman defences which occupied the north east corner of Tadcaster. The castle became neglected from the 12th century when the Percy family ceased to have a dwelling in Tadcaster. At the beginning of the Civil War in 1642, the Parliamentarian, Thomas Fairfax refortified the castle site with bastions and cannon placements. The new defences withstood several Royalist assaults before Tadcaster was taken in 1643. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Stone from the castle was reputedly used to build the bridge over the Whrfe in 1200. However this seems fanciful and there is nothing to suggest the castle had masonry, although the ditches may have been deep enough to be quarries for bed rock.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceSE485435
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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

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  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 103
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  • Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 39
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
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  • Butler, Lawrence, 1994, 'The Origins of the Honour of Richmond and its Castles' Château Gaillard Vol. 16 p. 69-80 (Reprinted in Liddiard, Robert, (ed), 2003, Anglo-Norman Castles p. 91-103 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press))
  • 1968, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 42 p. 116
  • Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 216 online copy
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Primary Sources

  • Martin, M.T. (ed), 1911 for 1909, The Percy Chartulary (Surtees Society 117) passim online copy
  • 1903, 'Humberstone's Survey' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 17 p. 129-154 esp. 141 (Survey of 1570 where stated no mansion house) online copy


  • 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
  • Roberts, I., 1997, Tadcaster Castle Motte, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire: archaeological recording (WYAS Report No 544 )