Richmond Castle

ichmond Castle was begun in around 1071 when William the Conqueror held Christmas in north Yorkshire where he granted large amounts of land to Alan (Alain) Rufus from Brittany who was one of William's trusted lieutenants. Alan selected a site above the River Swale for a castle, a site which may have not been used as a defensive site before. It appears that the castle he built was of stone which was unusual for the time when castles were built of earth banks and wooden stockades. The inner bailey is shaped roughly like a triangle with its apex pointing north and facing towards the town. The southern base of the triangle has a steep slope stretching down to the river. Two towers occupy the south-east and south-west corners of the castle. At the apex there was a gatehouse, but this was later replaced by a massive keep in the time of Henry II. Near the south-east corner is Scolland's Hall; a more old-fashioned type of keep. According to legend King Arthur and his Knights sleep in a crypt deep beneath the keep. It is said that a Peter Thompson located the crypt and found King Arthur's Sword and Horn lying on a table. Peter lifted the Sword but became afraid and ran after replacing it. As he left he heard voices saying that if he had lifted the Sword and blown the horn marvellous good fortune would have been his.


Richmond Castle Key Facts
CountyNorth Yorkshire (11 castles)
CategoriesStone / Norman Square Keep
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times
TimeRef Rating


YearMonthEvent
1071   Richmond Castle construction
 The construction of Richmond Castle began around this time by Alan Rufus, the cousin of the Duke of Brittany.

Episode: Norman Conquest  
1174   William of Scotland held prisoner
 King William of Scotland was held captive at Richmond Castle.[1] 

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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