Following his successful invasion in 1066, William the Conqueror set about taking control of his new kingdom. Central to this policy was the establishment of a series of strongholds using the Norman design of motte and bailey. These could be quickly built from local materials; an earthen mound (the motte) was surrounded by an outer wooden palisade (the bailey).
The first castle at Pickering was erected around 1070 following the suppression of the North and remained in royal ownership throughout the Middle Ages. Successive building stages by William’s heirs, notably Henry II and III in the 12th and 13th centuries, replaced the wooden fort with stone walls.
The remaining stone buildings standing today keep to the outline of the original wooden fort. In Norman times, Pickering Castle was dominated by the stone keep raised high on its earthen mound, providing a clear view of the area.
The Coleman Tower, built by Henry II, acts as entrance and protection to the inner bailey, which contains the chapel and main hall used for feasting and as a court room for the trial of local offenders. The outer bailey was protected by a stone curtain wall with four towers, much of which remain standing to their full height. This was the last major defensive upgrading of the castle, made by Edward II from 1323 to 1326. Pickering Castle fell into disrepair under the Tudors and Stuarts with several inspections reporting the decline.
Don’t miss: the sallyport in Rosamund’s Tower, giving private access to the castle.
Pickering Castle, Pickering, North Yorkshire YO18 7AX
tel: 01751 474989