• Handpicked Harrogate

Days Out: Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle was once a grand and important house, scene of lavish banquets and powerful seat of power over of the surrounding feudal lands, and has stood in some form since at least the time of the Norman Conquest.

Still recognisable for what it was the castle and surrounding park are free to visit and make a fascinating place to explore and discover, firing the imagination of young minds and providing pause for thought for history enthusiasts.

The structure and layout is still clear for visitors to see, as is the undercroft carved into the stone, and the dainty turret - which would suit Rapunzel perfectly.


William de Percy built a hall on the site soon after the Saxon defeat in 1066. Nothing remains of that structure, but it is one of the places where the Magna Carta may have been drafted.

In 1224 a market licence was granted and Spofforth was becoming an important commercial and administrative centre for the area between Knaresborough and Wetherby. That far back Harrogate as we know it now did not exist.

In 1308 a licence to crenellate the castle was granted - further signifying Spofforth's importance and wealth.

The building was originally much more extensive than the ruins suggest. What remains is the undercroft, great hall, solar and chapel of the west wing of the manor house as well as the prestigious public and private spaces belonging to the influential Percys.

In the now lost north, east and south wings there would have been kitchens, stables, workshops and all the other necessary features of a great and powerful manor.

The Story

In 1407 Henry Percy made the mistake of rebelling against Henry IV. Percy's army was defeated at the Battle of Bramham and he was killed. The castle was handed as a gift in thanks to Thomas de Rokeby, the High Sheriff of Yorkshire and the man who had stopped the rebellion.

By the time of the War of the Roses the house was a luxurious and important building and once again belonged to the Percys. The West and East walls of the great hall had been rebuilt to include the large windows which are still visible: any pretence at defence had long been forgotten.

Unfortunately the Percys backed the wrong side in the War of the Roses and after the Battle of Towton victorious Yorkists burnt the castle and plundered the surrounding lands.

The castle remained a ruin until 1559, when it was restored by Henry, another Percy, but by this time the Percys' seat was firmly established at Alnwick Castle and Spofforth was a place of lessen importance. The Percys' Steward lived there for a time, but the last recorded occupant died in 1604.

During the Civil War of the 1640s the house was ruined again and this time it was not rebuilt, instead gradually being reduced to the bare walls you can see today.


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