Fotheringhay Castle | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Fotheringhay Castle

East Northamptonshire, England, United Kingdom

Lucy Davidson

08 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Fotheringhay Castle

Birthplace of Richard III and site of the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, this Norman motte and bailey castle is now a ruin.

Fotheringhay Castle is easily accessible during daylight hours, and should delight those interested in medieval history, the Wars of the Roses, and Elizabethan politics.

History of Fotheringhay Castle

Fotheringhay Castle (also known as Fotheringay Castle) was a High Middle Age Normal Motte-and-Bailey castle around three miles north of the market town of Oundle, Northamptonshire, England.

It was likely founded in around 1100 by Simon de Senlis (St Liz), Earl of Northampton. It changed hands successively until it finally fell into the hands of Richard, 3rd Duke of York (also known as Richard Plantagenet), who held Fotheringhay Castle as a favoured residence. Indeed, Richard III was born at the castle in 1452.

Fotheringhay Castle would have been a typical Norman motte and bailey, with a conical mound encircled by a protective bank and ditches, and topped by a timber keep. The castle would have been approached through a wide enclosure (the bailey) where secondary buildings such as stables and workshops stood.

The castle is most famous for being the final site of Mary Queen of Scott’s imprisonment, trial, and subsequent execution in 1588. The castle was, at this time, used as a state prison due to being set in a marshy landscape, meaning the condemned Scottish queen was more securely imprisoned.

In spite of the castle’s size and importance, it was allowed to fall into disrepair during the latter part of the Elizabethan Period, and by 1635 – less than 50 years after Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution, it was in a ruinous state, and was completely demolished soon afterwards.

Fotheringhay Castle Today

Today, the castle is a Scheduled Monument and ‘nationally important’ historic site which has been given protection against unauthorised change.

Only the earthworks and conical motte remain of Fotheringhay Castle, which stands above the peaceful River Nene.

Close to the river is a small section of masonry wall protected by an iron railing. There are three commemorative plaques on the railing which describes the masonry, the second which commemorates the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the third which commemorates the birth of Richard III at the castle.

The castle site is open access, and a footpath runs directly past the northern edge of the mound. You can also get good views from the bridge across the River Nene.

Getting to Fotheringhay Castle

The castle is a 22 minute drive from nearby Peterborough, primarily along the A605. From Birmingham, the castle is reachable in an hour and 25 minutes via the M6 and A14.

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