Middleham Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Middleham Castle

Richmondshire, England, United Kingdom

Middleham Castle was the childhood home of King Richard III.

Lily Johnson

11 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle was a medieval castle built in the 12th century and expanded by the influential Neville family, becoming an imposing fortress by the middle of the 15th century.

Middleham Castle history

The first castle as Middleham was likely built in around 1086 by Alan Rufus, second cousin to William the Conqueror, or one of his tenants. The present stone castle was constructed in the 12th century however, with the keep dating to around 1170.

In 1260 the castle passed to the famous Neville family, and in the 15th century was inherited by Richard “the Kingmaker” Neville, who was the Earl of Warwick and played an important role in the Wars of the Roses.

In fact, Warwick’s continual ability to re-invent himself during this conflict saw him both tutor Richard, Duke of Gloucester – the future Richard III – there between 1465 and 1468 and then imprison Richard’s brother, King Edward IV, in Middleham the very next year.

It was also at Middleham that Richard would likely have met his future wife Anne Neville, Warwick’s younger daughter, whom he married in 1472 after her father’s defeat and death at the Battle of Barnet.

After Warwick’s death Middleham Castle became the residence of Richard and his second brother George, Duke of Clarence. After ascending the throne in 1483, Richard continued to spend time at Middleham, including in 1484 when his only son Edward died there.

During the English Civil War the Parliamentarians ordered the castle to be slighted, or put beyond Royalist military use. There is no evidence of this order being carried out however, and the castle was later garrisoned by the Parliamentarians themselves but saw no actual conflict.

By the 18th century the castle was in considerable decay, and after exchanging hands a number of times it was eventually gifted to the State in 1930.

Middleham Castle today

Today, the ruins of Middleham Castle, which fell into disuse in the 17th century, show only a glimpse of its former lavish grandeur by way of the remaining stone walls.

Managed by English Heritage, Middleham Castle is open to the public and houses exhibits telling the story of this once imposing structure and of its former residents. A replica of the stunning Middleham Jewel is on display, a 15th-century pendant with a large sapphire found near the site, indicating the level of decadence once enjoyed there.

The remains of the oven and horse mill can be viewed inside its walls, while the views of Wensleydale from the viewing platform are superb!

Getting to Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle is located in Middleham in North Yorkshire, 2 miles south of Leyburn on the A6108. The nearest train station is Leyburn (Wensleydale Railway), 2 miles away, while the 825 and 159 bus services stop in the village, a short walk away.

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