Web Text-ures Logo

Web and Book design,
Copyright, Kellscraft Studio
1999-2006

(Return to Web Text-ures)

Click Here to return to
Castles of England and Wales
Content Page

 Return to the Previous Chapter

Kellscraft Studio Logo
 (HOME)   




RICHMOND CASTLE.


RICHMOND AND BARNARD

THERE are curious analogies to be found between Richmond and Barnard, which resemble each other in situation, in origin, and in their historical connection. The two castles are little more than sixteen miles apart, and it is possible to imagine an all-embracing local patriotism impartially proud of both. But there is a world of difference between Swaledale and Teesdale, between Yorkshire and Durham. Yorkshiremen point out that Barnard possesses the beauty but lacks the strength of Richmond, and only a few miles away public opinion declares that Richmond is indeed beautiful but lacking the dominance of Barnard. Swinburne compared Richmond with Toledo, and one writer, indulging in what is surely a mixed metaphor, referred to the Yorkshire Heidelberg. Sir Walter Scott, on the other hand, devoted his praise in Rokeby to “proud Barnard’s bannered walls,” and “Brackenbury’s dungeon tower.”

At least the two castles are alike, and who is to measure the perfection of their attributes? A first impression of Richmond is of a swift river, a graceful bridge, and behind these the rising hill topped by walls and towers and the great dominating keep. It is built upon a spur projecting from the side of the valley towards the Swale, and in conformity with its site the castle is roughly triangular in plan, the longest side of the enclosure resting upon the summit of the cliffs above the river on the south, and the apex, defended by the keep, overlooking the town of Richmond on the north. The platform upon which the castle stands is 150 feet above the Swale, and from the battlements of the keep (which is 100 feet in height) may be seen the three towers of York Minster, forty miles away.

No attack could ever be made with any hope of success from the direction of the river. The bush-clad slopes of the hill become sharply graduated ledges out of which spring the buttresses and walls of the curtain, which is still tolerably perfect. On the northern side, towards the town, a narrower front was protected by a dry ditch, which has since been covered over and built upon. The keep was at the salient point of the defences. It projected from the curtain wall, covered by a barbican (now in ruins), and it commanded the entrance to the triangular main ward. The walls of Richmond were built in stone immediately after the Conquest, probably in 1071, and the keep was not added until the time of Henry II. By a happy inspiration the builders placed it, not in the corner of the enclosure farthest from the entrance, but at a point where it had to serve as a first line of defence. This doubled the strength of the castle, for the large main ward was obviously built to accommodate not only the garrison but also the people of the surrounding country, who might come there for a refuge with their flocks; and although the strength of a place formed by a keep and with an adjacent en­ closure as a rule lay chiefly in the keep, at Richmond the disposition of parts and the nature of the site produced a balanced system of mutual defence. The risk of starvation was also reduced: the enclosure became a capacious and well-protected granary.

At the eastern side of the enceinte, where the ground sloped only gradually, was a smaller flanking ward, called the Cockpit. In addition to these natural and artificial protections were the walls of the town, ordered to be built by Edward II against the irruptions of the Scots. Leland wrote: “Richemonte towne is waulled and the Castel on the river side of Swale is as the knot of the cumpace of the waul.” But in his day the castle was “a mere ruine,” and of the town walls only “vestigia” remained.

From the inner side it is easily seen that the keep was built actually upon the wall of the enceinte. The stone courses of the wall form the south side of the basement and a Norman arch gives access to it. This must once have been defended by a forebuilding, and before the keep was added it was probably the main entrance to the enclosure. But Richmond keep is none the less strong for that improvisation. It may be coupled with Porchester as having been built for purely military purposes, with thick walls leaving little inside space, narrow loops for windows, and no real provision for domestic life.

No doubt an unusually complete series of domestic buildings was in existence at Richmond before the keep was begun. It is usually accepted (though not entirely without bickerings among the learned) that Scolland’s Hall and the group of buildings in the south-east corner of the enclosure date back to the third quarter of the eleventh century. Scolland’s Hall, which is well preserved, stands against the south curtain. It is in two floors, and the basement was probably intended as a storeroom and looped for defence. The hall proper was entered by an exterior stair through a round-headed archway flanked by Norman pillars. Light was given by ranges of coupled round-headed windows at the sides and by a triplet of narrow windows at the west end. The Scollands were the lords of Bedale, powerful feudatories of the Honour of Richmond. There are those who ascribe the building to John of Gaunt, and the name to the fact that it was built on the site of what had been known as Scolland’s Tower from an earlier period. In fact, there does seem to be a reason why the Scollands should give their name to a tower and no other obvious reason why they should give it to the hall of the castle, but if the hall can be said to be Norman it is one of the best and earliest examples in the country. One day the awkward problem will be solved, but at present it is merely an indication of how difficult it is to date a building by stonework alone without documentary evidence. But in Robin Hood’s Tower the arcaded Norman chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas was the first chapel of the castle, and there is documentary evidence to show that it was granted as a cell to the Abbey of St. Mary, in York, during the lifetime of the Conqueror. This little oratory measures 10 feet by 12 feet, yet it has aisles or mural arcades of five arches each.

Richmond Castle is of immense strength, and its warlike aspect has so impressed itself upon the minds of men that it seems to be part of the web and woof of English history. It is difficult to imagine the story of Richmond set down without a catalogue of valiant knights, crossbowmen, divers great bombards, and the “pulvis ad faciendum le krak,” as a chronicler called gunpowder. At least one would imagine it as a base in the Scottish wars, besieged in the Wars of the Roses, or held by Royalist against Roundhead. But, in point of fact, Richmond has never been taken by storm or even assaulted. The march and counter march of wars left it on one side. It served as a prison for William the Lion, David Bruce, and Charles I, in their various captivities. It gave the title of Earl to “Harry of Richmond,” later Henry VII, and he bestowed the name upon another mound by the Thames (now a suburb of wide-flung London), where stood the royal palace of Sheen. A Duke of Richmond was Henry Fitzroy, the natural son of Henry VIII; and Charles II granted the title of Duke of Richmond to Charles Lennox, son of Louise de Kerouaille. But the first lords of Richmond made a deeper impression upon the place than any of their successors.

Before the Conquest the hill of Richmond, probably un- fortified, was in the district of Gillingshire, held by Edwin, last Earl of Mercia. But with the Conqueror came Alan the Red, nephew of the Duke of Brittany, with a host of brothers deter­ mined to make their fortunes. Ribald, the youngest, became Lord of Middleham, Brian became Earl of Cornwall, Alan the Red became Earl of Richmond, and dying without issue was succeeded in the title by two more brothers, Alan the Black and Stephen. Alan received Edwin’s Gillingshire and other lordships  — a total of 440 manors, indicative of the assistance rendered to William by the well-trained Bretons. His power was such that he was often called the “Prince of the East Angles,” and he brought many of his own race to Yorkshire. There is an old Yorkshire rhyme about the Breton who

Came out of Brittany
With his wife Tiffany
And his maid Manfras
And his dog Hardigras.

Many of the local names at Richmond are equally foreign to Yorkshire. There is a particular interest, then, in the legend that underneath Richmond keep King Arthur and his knights are slumbering, awaiting the hour of England’s greatest need. Before them, on a stone table, lie Excalibur and a battle trumpet, until a brave man comes who will draw the one or blow the other. It is a legend that relates to many places in Celtic lands, but not in England. The Bretons themselves speak of the Island of Agalon, off Brittany, as Arthur’s sleeping place.

The Breton earls, in the ambiguous position of great land­ owners and feudatories on both sides of the Channel, between the millstones of England and France though they were, survived in some fashion at Richmond until John of Gaunt was created Earl by Edward III. Conan, who built or began the building of the keep, was the most glorious of them all. He combined the Duchy of Brittany with the Earldom of Richmond, and married the sister of William the Lion. Their daughter was Shakespeare’s Constance, wife of Geoffrey Plantagenet, son of Henry II, and mother of that Prince Arthur of Brittany who suffered as one of the victims of King John. After that we find the Yorkshire castle in precarious tenure, for on an occasion of war with France, the English king seized the Earldom of Richmond on the plea that it was a foreign fief, and the French king seized the Dukedom of Brittany for the same reason, leaving the unfortunate possessor of both titles in no little uncertainty as to his future and allegiance.

Barnard Castle, now in a more ruinous condition than Richmond, was named after its founder, Bernard Balliol, the son of Guy of Bailleul, another companion of the Conqueror. No doubt the castle took final form at the end of the twelfth century, but it shows the marks of subsequent alteration and embellish­ments. It was used as a dwelling-place longer than Richmond, and shows far more the characteristics of a palace, such as it would acquire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The keep, called Balliol’s Tower, is in reality a circular tower of the fourteenth century, and it is noticeable that the old curtain walls near it have been pierced with decorated windows and strengthened with buttresses, in the combined interests of peace and war. Bernard’s castle was no doubt only the inner ward, surrounded by a ditch 70 feet wide, but to this was soon added the outer, middle, and town wards, all of which could be defended separately.

The connection of Richmond with Brittany has its parallel in the connection of Barnard with Scotland, for the Balliols were, of course, claimant to the Scottish throne, but after John Balliol’s defeat at Dunbar, in 1296, it came into the hands of the Bishop of Durham. Later, Barnard was held by Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III. The latter’s cognizance, the bristly boar, may be seen sculptured upon the projecting oriel window west of Balliol’s Tower.


BARNARD CASTLE.

Despite its strength, Richmond was already neglected and decayed at the beginning of the fifteenth century, but Barnard, which is now the more dilapidated of the two, stood siege in the Rising of the North, when Sir George Bowes held it for the Queen until his garrison deserted him. That was Barnard’s last experience of warfare, but it survived in tolerable repair up to 1630, when the castle was sold, dismantled, and many of its fittings carried away for the embellishment of Raby, which is to-day an inhabited castle, one of the most perfect in the north of England.


BARNARD CASTLE.


Book Chapter Logo Click the book image to turn to the next Chapter.