North York Moors CAM


Sunday 6th May 2001

Weather: Cool and mainly cloudy

Pickering Castle


Pickering is a fine example of a motte-and-bailey castle, first built of earth and timber
by William the Conqueror in the years following the Norman Conquest in the early 12th century

It was rebuilt in stone and extended by subsequent kings, notably Henry III and Edward II,
in response to the threat posed at different times by rebellious barons and marauding Scots


 From the King's Tower ( the keep ) there's a magnificent view west across this picturesque part of North Yorkshire

Towards the top right-hand corner of the photograph can be seen the grassy mound of Beacon Hill,
probably the site of a siegework - this would have provided a strategic position for a body of armed men
watching the castle garrison, aiming to catch it during an unguarded or weakened moment



These two full-height splayed arrow slits are all that remains of a series of probably ten windows around the King's Tower



In the south-western corner of the outer ward of the castle is the Mill Tower

This two-storey tower was used as a prison on the ground floor with a gaoler's room above



These are the ruins of parts of the inner ward buildings - the domestic heart of the castle

Here would have stood the main hall, private rooms, kitchens, food stores and brew house


The Chapel is the only surviving roofed building ( started 1226-27 )
- much restored in the early 19th century and re-roofed again 20 years ago



Although the chapel interior now serves mainly as an exhibition centre on the castle,
there are still the original four western lancet windows and the doorway with a pointed head and dripstone


Rosamund's Tower - a three-storey tower ( built 1323-26 ) with a postern gate
- the northernmost of the new towers standing astride the inner ditch

The postern passage was closed by a small drawbridge towards the outer ditch
- a single chain or rope lowered the bridge passing through a hole which is still visible over the centre of the arch
( a 'postern' is a 'back door', often in a concealed position )



Diate Hill Tower - a three-storey tower with separate ground and upper floors

It stands at an abrupt change of direction in the curtain wall
and probably housed a captain of the guard or a person of similar rank


The 'castle well' - it was dug through the limestone early in the castle's history

During Edward II's reign a cord was purchased for the well bucket
- it measured 20 'ells' ( 75 ft or 23 m long ), indicating the depth of the well


At the western base of the motte are the ruins of Coleman Tower

The ground-floor was probably used as a prison as it was mentioned in a document of 1323
- traditional to medieval prisons, there were no openings for windows or doors
It probably housed offenders against forest laws and petty criminals
- thieves and brigands from the Pickering district would have been locked up here

The upper floor would have housed the soldiers defending the staircase and guarding the entrance


This is how the first wooden castle may have appeared in the early 12th century . . .


. . . then the beginnings of some stonework in the early 13th century . . .


. . . followed by the impressive, completed stone castle of the 14th century

( paintings by Ivan Lapper )


This aerial view shows how Pickering Castle looks today

There are still extensive and impressive remains to be seen
- in the safe care of
English Heritage I recommend they are well worth a visit


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