Around Scarborough, North Yorkshire, Yorkshire and the Humber, England

Scarborough Castle is a former medieval Royal fortress situated on a rocky promontory overlooking the North Sea and Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England.The site of the castle, encompassing the Iron Age settlement, Roman signal station, an Anglo-Scandinavian settlement and chapel, the 12th century enclosure castle and 18th century battery, is ascheduled monument of national importance.

Fortifications for a wooden castle were built in the 1130s, but the present stone castle dates from the 1150s. Over the centuries, several other structures were added, with medieval monarchs investing heavily in what was then an important fortress that guarded the Yorkshire coastline, Scarborough's port trade, and the north of England from Scottish or continental invasion. It was fortified and defended during various civil wars, sieges and conflicts, as kings fought with rival barons, faced rebellion and clashed with republican forces, though peace with Scotland and the conclusion of civil and continental wars in the 17th century led to its decline in importance.

Once occupied by garrisons and governors who often menaced the town, the castle has been a ruin since the sieges of the English Civil War, but attracts many visitors to climb the battlements, take in the views and enjoy the accompanying interactive exhibition and special events run by English Heritage.


The 12th-century keep

The castle's location takes advantage of a naturally defensive site on a headland with steep cliffs, 300 feet (91 m) high, on three seaward sides. The promontory is joined to the mainland by an isthmus, where a ditch or moat was cut, and a wall or palisade with a gatehouse built on the southwest landward side. The stone curtain wall dates from the late 12th and early 13th centuries when it was strengthened by the addition of twelve round towers at intervals on its 230 yards (210 m) length. The wall does not surround the inner buildings of the castle. The entrance consists of a barbican, or fortifications to protect the gateway, completed in the 14th century and flanked by two half-circular towers on high ground. Modifications to the barbican have removed evidence of a portcullis and its grooves. The barbican stands in the place of a 12th-century fortification built close to the remains of an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon chapel.

Beyond the main gateway, a stone bridge, built between 1337–1338, to replace two drawbridges, leads to the baileys or courtyards. It leads to the inner bailey, which was used for workshops, offices, a kitchen, and a storage area. Usually a castle's inner bailey is accessed through the outer bailey, however the opposite is the case at Scarborough.

The 86-foot-tall (26 m) 12th-century keep and the castle's 150-foot-deep (46 m) well lie within the inner bailey. The keep, with its entrance on the first floor, survives as a shell, with the west wall, interior floors and roof missing, as a result of bombardment in the 17th-century. With its sloping plinth to aid defence, flat roof and four turrets, this square four-storey building was over 100-foot-tall (30 m). The walls range from 11 to 15 feet (3.4 to 4.6 m) in thickness, the west wall being strongest, and there are several windows, some blocked up along its length. The corners have decorative rounded mouldings. There are the remains of a hearth in the west wall on the first floor, which comprised a single Great Hall, where the occupants ate and often slept. The second and third floors were each divided into two rooms for important visitors or the governor, and the basement was a storage area. Late 20th century resistivity surveys of the inner bailey have traced the outlines of more 12th century buildings.

The baileys are separated by a stone wall, ditch and bank, with two defended gateways. The larger outer bailey would have seen entertaining events staged, vegetables grown, and animals kept; there was a graveyard and St. Mary's Chapel, which has completely disappeared, though the remains of the old Anglo-Saxon chapel on the site of an old Roman signal station can still be seen. A 12th-century medieval building, 100 feet (30 m) in length, stood in the outer bailey to accommodate royal visitors. It consisted of a long hall and private chamber with a fireplace used by the monarch, and rooms for preparing and storing food. The building was demolished sometime before a survey of 1538, which makes no mention of it: only the foundations, excavated in 1888, remain.

In the outer bailey, a building named the "King's Chambers" or Mosdale Hall, after a 14th-century governor responsible for upgrading it, is an example of how the castle has been altered over the years. Originally built in the 13th century and upgraded by Mosdale after 1397, the two-storey building adjoining the curtain wall was converted to red-brick barracks in the 18th century . After being badly damaged by German shelling in 1914, the building was demolished. The red brickwork is clearly visible next to the much earlier outer stone wall, as viewed from Scarborough's South Bay. The 13th-century Queen's Tower, in the wall nearby, also had different uses: initially luxurious accommodation with private latrines, a porch and large windows with bay views were added in 1320. Two of these windows were later blocked up and one was changed to a cupboard with a rubbish chute. The Master Gunner's House, built in 1748, served as accommodation until the early 20th century.

Development as a tourist attraction

During the second half of the 19th century the castle became a tourist attraction. The foundations of a medieval hall were excavated in 1888, and an 1890 photograph shows visitors using the grounds to practice archery. By 1920, the site was taken into public ownership by the Ministry of Works. The demolition of the 18th-century barracks exposed the medieval foundations of Mosdale Hall, which can still be seen.

The castle site, a scheduled ancient monument managed by English Heritage since 1984, is host to various events, usually in summertime, such as pirate and Robin Hood-themed activities. The castle grounds are reputed to be haunted – by three ghosts, among them a Roman soldier. The 18th-century Master Gunner's House, now a museum has an exhibition whose centrepiece is a Bronze Age sword discovered in 1980. English Heritage invested £250,000 in making the site a tourist attraction. A visitor centre provides admission to all extant remains, and has an exhibition of artefacts from the site and viewing platforms.



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