Advent Calendar of Castles: December 5th: Pickering Castle


Pickering Castle was established by William the Conqueror in c. 1070. It was built in response to the northern revolts against his rule. William’s stamping of authority on the north is known was the Harrying of the North. Such an innocuous name sounds like it was a minor irritation, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. William the Conqueror led a brutal pillaging of the north, killing people and destroying crops and food. Tens of thousands of people starved to death in the aftermath.

The original castle would have been earth and timber and the motte on which it was built still stands today. The rebuilding of the castle in stone began around 1180 and continued into the 13th century under successive kings. Within the walls there is also a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas which dates to roughly 1227. Until the mid 16th century the castle would have had a resident chaplain.

By the early 14th century the castle has passed into the hands of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, the grandson of Henry III. He married heiress Alice de Lacey and using her money introduced more stone buildings, including building a new hall for the family to live in, within the walls of the castle. In the mid 14th century Edward II ordered the outer walls to be built in stone, including stone towers as part of the walls. He used the castle for raising horses. He established a stud at the castle and often used it as a hunting lodge.

By the time of the civil war the castle had fallen too much into disrepair to be used for defence and in the 17th century parts of the castle were used as a court house. The castle came into the hands of English Heritage in 1926.


Site visit 2012.

The Harrying of the North:


The photos are all mine.