Henderskelfe Castle [Now Castle Howard]

Henderskelfe Castle is situated in the estates of Castle Howard, a statly home which was built on the site of the earlier castle and church. Sited some fifteen miles to the north of York, it is roughly half way between Sheriff Hutton and Malton, making it an important strategic position in the medieval era. Little remains visible of the castle today. Its remains lay in the gardens of the Stately Home built on the same site: Castle Howard.

Henderskelfe… There is a fair quadrant of stone having 4 toures buildid castelle like, but it is no ample thing. The latter building of it semith to have bene made by the Graystok, whos landes the Lord Dacres now hath.

Leland, Itineraries. p64

Henderskelfe Castle

There are few remaining documents about the medieval history of Henderskelfe Castle. Located close to Sheriff Hutton, Henderskelfe Castle had defensive qualities for the protection of one of the main routes from York to Scarborough. Archaeological remains at the site include pottery that is dated to the 12th century, suggesting that the Castle would have been built and in use by that date.

Castle Design

As noted by Leland, the castle was a stone keep following a quadrangular design. It had four towers visible to Leland when he visited the site in his travels of the 1530s and 1540s. It has been suggested that the towers were late 15th century additions, though this is hard to verify [source]. Henderskelfe Castle appears to have had a mixed existence. It was noted as being in ruins in 1359 [source].

A Garland of Roses as Rent

What we do know is that the Castle was held by the Barons Greystoke with a garland of roses payable by them to the King as rent [source].  The castle then transferred through marriage to Lords Dacre. The castle was clearly functioning in the 1560s as it is noted in the fines book of the City of York. By the 17th century it had fallen into disrepair. In 1683 Henderskelfe Castle was rebuilt. However, a fire destroyed the building in 1693.

Fire and the building of Castle Howard

The fire and a desire for a more comfortable home led to a decision to build a new home on the site. The result of which is Castle Howard, which was built between 1699 and 1720. Castle Howard’s gardens incorporate the site of Henderskelfe Castle. The precise relationship between the new Stately Home and its predecessor was noted in site plans drawn by in 1694. These have since been verified through archaeological work. This included a Time Team dig at the site of Henderskelfe Castle in 2003 [link to episode, UK users can gain free access by registering on the C4 website].

Henderskelfe Castle in the Wars of the Roses

In November 1436 Henderskelfe and other properties were inherited by Sir Ralph de Greystoke. Sir Ralph’s primary residence was initially Greystoke Castle, in Cumberland. He was summoned to several Parliaments and had a number of important roles. For example, Sir Ralph was one of the nobles chosen to escort Margaret of Anjou to England for her marriage to King Henry VI.

A Neville Retainer

With lands in Cumberland and Yorkshire, Sir Ralph was involved in the Percy-Neville feud. He had an indenture of retainer with Richard Neville 5th Earl of Salisbury to aid him in times of peace and war [dated 10 July 1447]. This was evident when he used his position to influence the decision to appoint Richard 3rd Duke of York as Protector in 1454. Sir Ralph cntinued to support the Yorkist cause after the First Battle of St. Albans, raising forces to help suppress uprisings in the North West on behalf of the Yorkist dominated government.

Arms of Ralph 5th Baron Greystoke who held Henderskelfe Castle
Arms of Greystoke: Barry argent and azure three chaplets of roses gules, CC BY 3.0, Via Wikipedia

A transfer of allegiances?

Sir Ralph Greystoke changed his allegiances following the rout at Ludford. He attended the Coventry Parliament of 1459 – the Parliament of Devils – and swore fealty to the Lancastrian regime at that time. Gregory’s Chronicle and that of Benet both place Sir Ralph as having been present at some of the early battles of the Wars of the Roses, on the Lancastrian side. There is reference to the Battles of Wakefield and the Second Battle of St. Albans. However, it is not entirely clear what, if any, role he had in either battle.

Service for the Yorkist regime

Given his previous indenture of retainer with the Earl of Salisbury it has been suggested that Sir Ralph simply paid lip service to the Lancastrian regime [see odnb]. This idea is supported by the speed at which he was integrated into Yorkist systems following the Battle of Towton. Sir Ralph was one of the nobles dispatched to secure the town of Beveley, near Hull. He was then received commissions to array men for the campaigns against Lancastrians in the North East.

Though Henderskelfe Castle itself is rarely mentioned, its location made it an important asset of Sir Ralph Greystoke and for the Yorkists. It was an area of note to the Neville family and Sir Ralph was honoured with ceremonial roles at the enthronement of George Neville as Archbishop of York. During this period it appears that Sir Ralph made Henderskelfe his families primary residence.

Sir Ralph Greystoke and loyalty to Richard Duke of Gloucester

As with many other former Neville retainers, Sir Ralph Greystoke transferred his allegiances to Richard Duke of Gloucester following the Duke’s acquisition of many Neville held lands in the 1470s. It was a link that continued after Richard became King of England. Sir Ralph was a Royal Councillor from 1483 until the death of Richard III at Bosworth. Sir Ralph died in 1487. He was succeeded by his second son as his eldest son, Sor Robert, predeceased him. Sir John Greystoke inherited but died in 1501 with no issue. The estates, including Henderskelfe Castle, then passed to the daughter of Sir Robert Greystoke, Elizabeth 6th Baroness Greystoke. Through her marriage to Thomas Dacre the Greystoke lands passed to the Dacre family.

Henderskelfe Castle Links

Gatehouse Gazetteer – Sources and References.

Heritage Gateway – Sources and References.

Time Team [Channel Four] – Time Team explored the site of Henderskelfe Castle. It is included in Series Ten Episode Eleven.

British History Online. Parishes: Bulmer with Henderskelfe’, A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2, (London, 1923), pp. 107-113.

Castle Howard website – History of Castle Howard.

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