About Scarborough Castle History

Scarborough Castle towers high overlooking the well-known resort town of Scarborough. Although much of Scarborough Castle stands in ruins, it is still one of the most impressive castles in the UK.

The impressive castle which dates back more than 3000 years has become an important tourist attraction for Scarborough.

Scarborough Castle started its journey as an Iron Age settlement, Roman fortress, then a royal stronghold, a political pawn in Civil Warfare, and finally target practice in World War I.

The Yorkshire Castle has withstood the trials of ages and endured every challenge. The locals are proud of their castle, and today, Scarborough Castle has become one of the most photographed in the UK.

If you love history, or if you want to see some stunning views of the bay and Scarborough, then you must visit Scarborough Castle.

This guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the fairytale ruined castle, including its history, and some hidden gems to explore.



The 3000-year history of Scarborough Castle

About Scarborough castle

This promontory rock was used as an early Iron Age settlement, long before the castle was erected on it.

In the 4th century AD Roman Empire constructed a large tower as a line of defence. This tower also served a watchtower.

In the 5th century, when the place was no longer being used, it was claimed by early Christians who took it over and adapted the fort where they built a small chapel and graveyard on the headland.

In 1138, King Stephen appointed William le Gros, the Count of Aumale, as the Earl of York, thus beginning its tenure as a royal castle in the mid-12th century.

With William le Gros newly acquired power it prompted him to construct a stronghold in order to assert his political hold in the region.

When King Henry II ascended the throne, he demanded the return of all royal castles to be returned to the crown.

The building of Scarborough Castle was overseen by the crown, and King Henry, was delighted with his new toy. He saw the huge potential it had as a defence tower to defend against the uprisings in the North and made renovations to Scarborough castle..

At the base of the cliffs a newer, larger town was constructed. The King spent a whopping £650 which in those times was a large amount of money.

Scarborough Castle was King Henry II pride and joy. But In the 13th century, King John made additional upgrades to the castle, splurging a whopping £2,000 – more than any other castle in the UK at the time.


Middle ages and the Tudors

scarborough castle history

During the Middle Ages, the Tudors were the ruling family in England. They were in power from 1485 to 1603. During their reign, they made significant changes in politics, religion and culture that still has an effect today.

When King Henry III was the monarch, Scarborough Castle was one of the most impressive royal strongholds in the country. Even King Edward I used it as a royal residence, hosting his court in the castle.

Permission for Lord Percy and his spouse to reside in the castle was granted in 1308, and during the next forty years, the couple constructed a bakehouse, brewhouse, and kitchens.

The last monarch to live in Scarborough castle was Richard III in 1484. He was recruiting troops to fight against Henry Tudor, who later became Henry VII.

Given the heavy Plantagenet links Scarborough castle had, the Tudors took little steps to protect or preserve it, and it began to deteriorate in the Middle Ages.

However, it the castle embroiled in the Pilgrimage of Grace, a plot to overthrow Henry VIII. Ralph Eure, was besieged for showing loyalty to the king.

Thomas Stafford attempted to mount a rebellion against Queen Mary Tudor by seizing Scarborough castle, however it turned out to be a failed endeavour. All those involved in the revolt were punished with death.


The Civil War and Incarceration

Where is Scarborough castle

Scarborough Castle was used as a political chess piece during the English Civil War, for both parliament and royalists. The English Civil War saw the Scarborough castle become a strategic point of contention between the royalists and parliament. For two years it was a royal base run by Sir Hugh Cholmely and then it was taken back by parliament.

When the castle was under siege, it endured a great amount of damage. Initially, the plan was to raze the castle after Charles I was imprisoned. Nonetheless, the people of the town refused to permit such a thing and demanded it be kept safe.

Scarborough Castle was later turned into a garrison and prison. George Fox, the founder of The Society of Friends or The Quakers, was among the prominent people held within its walls.

In the period of the Jacobite Rebellions, a new cell was erected in Kin John’s chamber block. It continued to be used as a prison until the middle of the 19th century.


The Shelling Of Scarborough Castle

The shelling of Scarborough, during WWI is still remembered today. Even though years have elapsed, the bombardment of this town is still in the hearts and minds of many. Nowadays, Scarborough is a thriving seaside holiday destination, offering a range of activities, attractions, and entertainment. It has come a long way since the destruction it suffered during the war.

In the months following the announcement of war with Germany in 1914, a tragic incident called The Shelling of Scarborough occurred.

Three German warships were headed towards the bay and began to bombard the town.

In a span of only 20 minutes, a barrage of more than 500 shells impacted the castle, nearby homes, and the people living there. Tragically, 17 people lost their lives and over 80 were severely injured.

The inhumane incident of targeting people who were merely going about their everyday lives was met with fury from all over the world. Sadly, women, Postmen, and even Boy Scouts were among the casualties. The ‘Remember Scarborough!’ movement was initiated as a result.

Due to the anger of what happened to Scarborough during World War One, a large number of men joined the military in order to stand against the Germans. The castle was significantly damaged with the Coastguards Lookout Tower being completely annihilated.


Scarborough Castle After World War One

In the 1920s, the property was taken over by the Ministry of Works who proceeded to excavate the ruins. Since 1984, English Heritage has been the custodian of the Scarborough Castle, providing it with loving protection.


How Did Scarborough castle Get Destroyed?

History of scarborough castle

The castle as you see it today is the result of multiple factors. Neglect during the Tudor period, the Civil War and the Great Siege of Scarborough, and finally the Shelling of Scarborough in 1914, all had a devastating impact.

The Great Siege of Scarborough in 1645 was surprisingly one of the most significant battles of that period. It was a five-month-long confrontation between the forces of Parliament and the Royalists who had taken up residence in the fort.

The castle was constantly subjected to barrages of cannon and gun fire by the Parliamentarians, and men were sent to fight in brutal battles, with many losing their lives.

A 29 kg cannon ball was fired hundreds of times into the castle’s defences by the largest canon at the time which was ironically called the “Canon Royal”.

Leaving most of Scarborough castle in ruins, Sir Hugh Cholmley was forced to surrender.

The majority of the walls of the grand tower were completely demolished, and a lot of the defensive walls close by were also destroyed.


Is Scarborough Castle haunted?

Over the years there have been many stories that Scarborough Castle is haunted. Many people have claimed that they have seen ghosts and strange movements while visiting the Yorkshire Castle.

There are stories of a few resident ghosts at Scarborough Castle, but the most renowned ghost is the Ghost of Piers Gaveston.

Edward II assigned Piers Gaveston the title of Earl of Cornwall, and the two were incredibly close. The friendship and the assignment of the title awas greatly opposed by other members of the royal court, who felt that Piers was undeserving of such a high status.

When Edward sailed to France in 1308 to marry Isabella of France, he appointed Piers Gaveston to be his regent. At his coronation, he was given the honorary role of holding the crown!

The nobles expressed their frustration and demanded that he should be exiled from the country.

Edward stood his ground and supported his close friend and refused to the requests. Piers kept on upsetting his enemies such as Thomas of Lancaster and the Earl of Warwick.

In 1312, Edward was compelled to escape York and assemble an army in light of the fact that the nobles had risen up against him. At the same time, his companion Piers found shelter in Scarborough Castle.

The nobles sieged Scarborough castle and took Piers as a prisoner. They then proceeded to the stronghold of the Earl of Warwick’s castle. At Blacklow Hill, Piers was condemned to death and executed!

The nobles sieged the castle and took Piers as a prisoner. They then made a course for the Earl of Warwick’s castle. It was here, at Blacklow Hill, that Piers was sentenced to death and beheaded!

Although Piers Gaveston was executed two hundred miles away, many believe he now resides at the place he loved and his presence at Scarborough Castle can be felt.

The stories are, that Piers Gaveston tries to convince people to jump over the battlements to their death! So, if you are going to visit Scarborough Castle, and you believe in ghosts, and are worried about Piers Gaveston, then be on your lookout.


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