Scarborough Castle

Scarborough Castle, Yorkshire

~ History ~

AD70 ~ A new Roman legionary fortress is built at York. Their ships are anchored at Scarborough.

200's ~ A farming settlement is established at Scarborough.

300's ~ A tower with a fortified wall and ditch are built on the headland at Scarborough by Magnus Maximus, who has decalred himself Emperor and ruler of Britain.  The tower is part of a chain of signal station towers to warn of seabourne raids.

400's ~ The tower and fortification at Scarborough, together with Roman forts and settlements across the country are abandoned, as the Roman Empire withdraws its forces back to Rome to face the barbarian and internal problems threatening the empires very existance.

1066 ~ King Harold Hardrada of Norway repeatedly attacks Scarborough with his fleet. After meeting stiff resistance the Vikings build a huge bomfire upon the headland from which they use their burning brands to raise the town to ground, slaying anyone who stands in their way.

1138 ~ King Stephen rewards his loyal subject William le Gros the title of Earl of York. To secure his extensive lands he sets about building a number of castles, including one at Scarborough.

1154 ~ Upon acceeding to the Crown King Henry II demands all castles built upon royal land to be returned to the Crown, which includes Scarborough.

1159 ~ King Henry II begings to rebuild the castle at Scarborough with the development of a new town beneath its walls. The building program is set to take ten years to complete at a hge cost of £650.

1202 ~ King John orders extensive alterations to be made to the castle over the next ten years. He visits the castle on several occasions to check on the buiding program. Throughout his reign more is spent on Scarborough Castle than any other in the Kingdom, some £2,291.

1240's ~ With the castle so exposed to the worst of the weather the North Sea can throw at it, maintenance of the castle repairing lost roofs to storms and walls colapsing into the sea, King Henry III finds the cost of maintaining Scarborough Castle a costly one. However, the funds are continually found leaving the castle one of the mightest in the entire Kingdom.

1275 ~ King Edward I continues to use the royal lodgings in the castle during his northern campaigns into Scotland, using it as a prison for captured Scots.

1312 ~ King Edward II, under pressure from his rebellious barons who are intent on ridding the Kingdom of the King's hated favourite, Piers Gaveston, is forced to flee north to escape his enemies. The Kings and his household are surprised at Newcastle Castle, with the King and his favourite only just escaping capture. Gaveston flees to Scarborough Castle where he is besieged. A shortage of supplies eventually forces him to surrender. He gives himself up after being promised safe conduct, but whilst he is being escorted back south, the Earl of Warwick seizes and beheads him.

1484 ~ King Richard III stays at the castle whilst assembling a fleet to resist theexpected invasion of Henry Tudor.

1536 ~ A wide-spread rebellion rises against King Henry VIII for his split with the Church of Rome. The constable of the castle Sir Ralph Eure declares for his King, and as a result is besieged in the castle.

King Henry is forced to personally intervene and negotiate a truce, which lasts only a short time before a ship heading to Scarborough with urgent supplies is captured, triggering a further siege of the castle. Extensive damage is done to the castle. However the castle holds out.

1557 ~ Thomas Stafford, believing his can incite a revolt against Queen Mary, seizes the castle and proclaims himself Protector of the Realm. Within six days the castle is easily captured. Stafford is captured, taken to London, tried for high treason, hung and quartered. His accomplices are executed at Scarborough Castle with their bodies being boiled, tanned and displayed for public exhibition.

1569 ~ During the Catholic Northern Rising to support Mary, Queen of Scots, who is being held prisoner by the Protestant Queen Elizabeth, Scarborough Castle is garrisoned. A Royal garrison is maintained at teh castle for the next 33 years, reflecting the continued northern threat.

1603 ~ With the accession of King James I to the unified thrones of England and Scotland, the importance of Scarborough Castle is significantly reduced, leading to the decision to lease this and other castles into private hands. The castle is rented out for grazing and the town quickly falls into decline.

1642 ~ During opening hostilities between King Charles I and Parliament, a local gentleman, Sir Hugh Cholmley, is sent a Parliamentary commission to secure and hold Scarborough Castle. Following a number of skirmishes in holding the town and castle, he switches sides and declares for the King. As the King is reliant upon money and arms from the continent, without a major fortified harbour to secure this, Scarborough is a significant addition tothe Royal cause. Sir Cholmley's army of 800 men are given the chance to continue their support for Parliamentand leave under safe conduct. Only 20 men take this opportunity.

Whilst Cholmley is at York visiting the King, 40 seaman acting for Parliament, under the command of Cholmey's cousin, Captain Bushell, surprises the guard at night and take the castle.

Upon hearing the news Cholmley rushes back to the castle and managed to persude his cousin to return the castle to him.

The castle continues to play a crucial strategic role for the Royalist cause for the remainder of the Civil War.

1644 ~ King Charles Royalist army is defeated at the Battle of Marston Moor, shattering the King's cause. Cholmley begins to prepare for the siege that is certain toi come his way. Unfortunately he lacks the men and provisions to do so, and so when General Fairfax approaches the town, he enters into negotiations for surrender.

However, this is a ruse to buy time and more importantly supplies and men. Cholmley is able to hold the town for three weeks before being forced to retreat to the relative safety of the castle walls.

Parliamentary guns pound the castle walls. The bombardment is so great that the great tower of the castle is split in two, with half of it collapsing. On seeing this Parliamentary troops storm the castle but are beaten back, with their commander Meldrum killed by a shot tothe stomach.

Parliament chance tact and blockade the castle, bombarding it from sea as well as land. Eventually Cholmey runs out of gunpowder, then money and finally food and provisions. After five months Cholmley is forced to surrender the castle with just 25 soldiers sufficiently fighting fit and free from injury, disease or scurvy.

Instead of slighting the castle, Parliament order repairs to be made and a garrision of a 160 men put in place under the command of a trusted Parliamentarian, Colonel Boynton.

1648 ~ Civil War again erupts. As Parliament has failed to pay their garrison at Scarborough Castle, Colonel Boynton and his men declare for the imprisoned King.

A Parliamentary force is sent to Scarborough to force its surrender. This time orders are given to slight the castle so it can no longer be held against them. However strong opposition from the town prevent this order from being carried out.

1653 ~ Following the end of the Civil War the castle and harbour are kept in a state of defence due to hostilities with the Dutch.

The Dutch Admiral de Witt sails a small fleet into Scarborough bay and fires at a convey of coal ships seeking protection of the castle guns and naval frigates.

1660's ~ The castle is used as a prison. George Fox, founder of the Quaker's, is imprisoned at the castle several times for his religious beliefs.

1688 ~ During the 'Glorious Revolution' which leads to King James II being replaced by William of Orange and Mary, the castles garrision are run down before being seized by the Earl of Danby on behalf of William of Orange.

1745 ~ The Jacobite rebellion to restore a Stuart King to the throne see's Scarborough once more garrisoned, including a barrack's built within the castle walls. The rebellion fails and once more the castle's garrison is run down and its walls allowed to crumble to ruin.


Castle Road, Scarborough


Off A165


YO11 1HY

Scarborough Castle stands on a massive rocky headland that rises high above the North Sea. This ancient site has been inhabited and fortified for nearly 3,000 years.

The name Scarborough is derived from Old Norse which translates as 'the stronghold of Skardi'.

The outer gatehouse reminds me of the one at Bamburgh Castle, albeit when you make your way up through the barbican past the shop towards the keep, you soon realise this is a castle of some size, occupying the entire headland.

There is limited parking immediately outside the castle for visitor permit holders, but below there is a grassed parking area on what was once a graveyard. Here you will also find the gravestone of the famous novelist Anne Bronte.