Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle has already featured in the annals of KeepYourPowderDry in Rupert's March Part 3, here is a more in depth visit taster.

The stunning inner courtyard

Growing up in the 1970s on a diet of Welsh castles, Skipton Castle is a breath of fresh air. Part of the castle is still lived in, the 'public' part of the castle was restored after the Civil War, so it's nice to visit a castle that has rooves.

Good, cheap parking is available on site, and is handily placed if you want to explore the town after your visit to the castle. And who wouldn't want to explore a town that boasts a 'celebrated pork pie emporium'?

The castle was originally built as a  motte and bailey in the eleventh century.

The castle was an important stronghold and military garrison during the Civil War; after Marston Moor it was the only Royalist stronghold remaining in Yorkshire.  Skipton was besieged for three years, finally surrendering in December 1645. During the siege, local legend has it that sheep fleeces were hung from the walls to deaden the impact of cannon balls striking the walls.

After the siege Parliament ordered General Lambert to slight the castle, and reduce it's defensive capabilities: flat rooves (which could be used as gun platforms) were removed, and the walls were reduced in height.

Lady Anne Clifford was eventually allowed to restore the castle, with the proviso that flat rooves would not be strong enough to take the weight of cannons and restored walls would be much weaker.

So what's there for the visitor to see?

Lady Anne's coat of arms adorns many details in the castle

You are given a pictorial guide sheet to self guide yourself around. Volunteers are on hand should you require any assistance.

On ascending Lady Anne's steps you see the original gate entrance to the inner castle.

On passing through the gateway you enter the stunning inner courtyard, which is dominated by a yew tree planted by Lady Anne to mark the rebuilding of the castle.

The watch tower illustrates how much damage was done to the castle by Lambert's men when they slighted it.

The original thickness of the walls is clearly visible here, the thinner wall on top being from the rebuilding.

Just like all visitor attractions it has a tearoom: the flapjack is excellent.

The obligatory shop allows the younglings to pester you into buying yet another wooden sword; the ECW aficionado can purchase the Skipton Castle in The Great Civil War book which gives a detailed account of life in the castle (and surrounding area) during the siege, and the articles of the surrender of the castle.

Those with a stout constitution will want to see the Parliamentarian gun battery atop of Park Hill, to the north of the castle. Accessible by foot from the town. Cross over the river/canal by Mill Brow and turn right up
Chapel Hill. A sign posted footpath on the left will take you to the summit of Park Hill and the remains of the gun battery's earthworks. O.S. grid reference SD 988 523 (Explorer map OL2 Yorkshire Dales South & West).

Just outside the Castle is the Black Horse, a pub that claims a Civil war ghost in the cellars, and also an interesting tale concerning Oliver Cromwell. The tale recounts how Cromwell and his men drank in the pub and were served poisoned ale. 

Oh dear. Another Cromwell story, for a place he didn't visit. But let's ignore the Cromwell part, and look at the poisoned ale bit. Firstly the current pub building has a date plaque for its construction dated 1676, no matter as a pub was first established on the site in 1659 by Thomas Fenwick. By 1659 the Wars are over, Oliver Cromwell has died, and his son Richard is now Lord Protector. The claim is looking very dubious to say the least.

Fast forward to 1862, forty members of the Burley Volunteer Rifle Corps were taken violently ill after dining and drinking at the pub. The culprit of their malaise? A 'fine large Cheshire (cheese), rather decayed in appearance' Settle Chronicle 1862. 

Fast forward another thirty years and the story of Cromwell's poisoned men first appears: Mr R.B Cragg, local antiquary, mentions the anecdote in the Craven Herald in 1893. Bloody Victorians. Nevermind, you can marvel at all 64 metres of the pub as you stand at the bar whilst your drinks are served by a member of staff who will be informing you that the pub is 64 metres in depth.

Selected Bibliography
Skipton Castle in the Great Civil War 1642-1645 R. Spence, Skipton Castle & Jarold Publishing
The Civil War in Yorkshire, Fairfax versus Newcastle D.Cooke, Pen and Sword

Postcodes for SatNavs
Skipton Castle BD23 1AW
Black Horse, High Street BD23 1JZ

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