Clitheroe Castle

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Clitheroe Castle
Clitheroe Castle.JPG
Clitheroe Castle August 2007
Location Clitheroe, Lancashire
Coordinates 53°52′15″N 2°23′35″W / 53.8709°N 2.3931°W / 53.8709; -2.3931Coordinates: 53°52′15″N 2°23′35″W / 53.8709°N 2.3931°W / 53.8709; -2.3931
OS grid reference SD 742416
Designated 10 April 1915 [1]
Reference no. 1016196
Listed Building – Grade I
Designated 19 May 1950 [2]
Reference no. 1071553
Clitheroe Castle is located in the Borough of Ribble Valley
Clitheroe Castle
Location of Clitheroe Castle in the Borough of Ribble Valley

Clitheroe Castle is located in Clitheroe, Lancashire, England. The castle is a Norman, probably built in the early twelfth century. Stewards were living in part of the castle in the nineteenth century. Clitheroe Castle Museum is adjacent to the castle.


The castle is not a Motte-and-bailey design, it is classified as an enclosure castle, the principal defence being the wall surrounding the site, and the keep not being significant in defensive terms. It is one of 126 recorded examples in England (with no two being alike).[1] It is thought the gatehouse tower with an arched doorway, stood approximately at the site of the stone gate piers on the drive up to the house.[3] A tall embattled wall , it is believed, ran round the top of the hill, turning behind the steward's house, and then behind the steward's gallery and the keep.[4] The keep is the second smallest stone-built keep in England.[1] It's thought that, as the keep was so small, other essential buildings, such as the great hall may have been located on the site where the education suite now stands.[5] A 1602 survey mentions Mr Auditor's chamber, the hall and buttery.[6] The medieval castle keep and some of the curtain wall remain above ground, although the medieval buildings in the bailey have not survived. However there are sub-surface remains of the castle gateway and other buildings.[1] A document from 1304 mentions ditches and moats surrounding the castle, however these have since been filled in.[7]

The keep[edit]

Only one of these openings is thought to have been a doorway
The keep and surviving inner wall
Later additions viewed from the wall
Clitheroe Castle c.1650 from "An history of the original Parish of Whalley, and honor of Clitheroe" 4th ed.

The keep is square three-story tower with flat pilasters at the corners giving the appearance of corner towers. The ground floor, is thought to have been accessed from above via a trapdoor, with arrowslits in the middle of the walls on three sides, except the northwest. Two of these have been converted into entrances, with the other, on the south-west side, filled-in. The main entrance to the keep was on the first floor on the northwest side, accessed by an external staircase. Next to this, in the western corner tower is the lower entry to a spiral staircase, which today rises to a height of 46 feet (14.0 m) from the ground, somewhat higher than the other surviving walls. It is thought that the keep would have had a parapet with turrets at the corners. The first floor also had another door in the southwest wall with recessed arrowslits in the other walls. The doorway may have led to the ramparts of the adjacent curtain wall, only 11 feet (3.4 m) away at this point. What today appears to be a another doorway next to this, leading by a right-angled passage into the keep, was actually a barrel vaulted mural chamber, which seems to have had a arrowslit in the wall at this end, now breached. The second floor shows no signs of any wall openings even to the staircase. There is also no evidence of fireplace openings or garderobes in any part of the keep.[4]

The hole[edit]

There is a legend that the Devil threw a boulder from Pendle Hill and hit the castle creating the hole visible in the side of keep today. According to Historic England, this hole was made in 1649 as ordered by the government. It was to be put in "such condition that in might neither be a charge to the Commonwealth to keep it, nor a danger to have it kept against them".[1] However, there is a tradition [perhaps apocryphal] cited in the guidebook to the castle which relates that, "they always said that the hole in the side of the keep was made by Cromwell in the Civil War. It's only a story but they say that he attacked the castle and fired at it with a cannon from the top of Pendle Hill - it must have been a good cannon for the time to reach that far!" The same source suggests that the most likely cause was a failed window.[5]

Chapel of St Michael de Castro[edit]

The chapel of St. Michael within the castle in mentioned in charters from 1120, and was ecclesiastically separated from the ancient parish of Whalley. Some records call it extra-parochial and it is sometimes described as the parish church of the castle and demesne, with the forest districts of the honour.[4] The chapel had reinforced walls and formed part of the inner bailey wall.[1] When Henry de Lacy (c.1251-1311) gave Whalley to the monks of Stanlaw (Whalley Abbey), he withheld the chapel and its district. From 1334, the Abbey entered a legal battle for control over it, finally purchasing it from John of Gaunt in 1365.[6] By 1717 nothing but the decayed walls remained.[6]



After the Norman conquest, the Anglo-Saxon hundred of Blackburnshire was part of a fief given to Roger de Poitou and the Domesday survey shows he had given it to Roger de Busli and Albert de Gresle.[8] Clitheroe is not mentioned by name,[4] and it is assumed that Blackburn had previously been the administrative centre.[9] However sometime during the reign of William Rufus, Poitou gave Blackburnshire and the Bowland area, north of the River Ribble (under Craven in the Domesday Book) to the Baron of Pontefract, Robert de Lacy.[10] When de Poitou lost his English holdings in 1102, Henry I not only allowed de Lacy to keep these lands, but added to them with the vills of Chipping, Aighton and Dutton.[11][a] Clitheroe would become the centre of this new honour.

The valley of the River Ribble has formed a significant transport route for a long time, a roman road runs up it, passing just south of the castle site.[13] The steep limestone outcrop which rises 39 metres (128 ft) above the surrounding land is strategically located to effectively bar the pass and provide extensive views over the surrounding area.[1]


It has been suggested that Clitheroe Castle may have been first built before 1086 as there is reference to the "castellatu Rogerii pictaviensis" in the Domesday Book entry for nearby Barnoldswick.[b] However, it is likely the passage refers to another castle.[15] It is thought that there was a castle at Clitheroe in 1102,[c] and twenty years later a charter mentions repairs to the Chapel of St Michael de Castro. In the summer of 1138, early in the civil war known as the Anarchy, a Scottish force under William fitz Duncan harried the Craven area; on 10 June, he met and defeated an English force of knights and men-at-arms at the battle of Clitheroe.[17] Although the town wasn't attacked, the castle was garrisoned for a long time afterwards.[d][18] New construction work was carried out in the late 12th century by Robert de Lacy (died 1193).[1] This Robert died without an heir, and his lands passed to his cousin, and to on her grandson Roger, the constable of Chester. He changed his surname to de Lacy and his descendants would also be the Earls of Lincoln (from 1232).[19]

The Duke of Albemarle was given the castle by Charles II

During the early 14th century repairs were carried out to buildings within the castle and a new gate was built.[1] When Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln died in London in 1311, ownership of his properties passed to Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster who had been married to his daughter and heiress Alice.[20][21] When Sir Adam Banastre led a rebellion against the earl in 1315, Clitheroe was amongst the castles raided for weapons.[5] Lancaster lost all his castles to the crown when he was executed for treason in 1322, his brother Henry would later be granted his lands, with them subsequently becoming part of the Duchy of Lancaster.[22][21]

In the 15th century, additional repairs were undertaken and a new chamber was built in 1425.[1] During the Wars of the Roses, Edward IV ordered repairs to the castle, but afterwards it seems to have fallen into disrepair.[5] A survey in 1602 described the castle as very ruinous, warning that buildings were very likely to fall down, with another in 1608, showing that parts of the decayed buildings had actually collapsed.[6]

During the Civil War the castle was garrisoned for a short time by Royalists who repaired the main gateway, and in 1649, following the Royalist defeat, the castle was reoccupied by members of the Lancashire militia who refused to disband.[1]

In 1660 the castle and its honour were given as a reward to the first Duke of Albemarle by Charles II for helping him to regain the crown.[23] It subsequently passed down through the family to the Dukes of Buccleuch, under whom, in 1848, the keep underwent a series of repairs, including the installation of a series of buttresses on the north and east walls.[5] However it seems much of the remaining curtain wall was demolished at the time the Steward's House was constructed,[4] with garden terraces that were created cutting-up much of the site and making difficult to identify the castle's limits.[24]

The castle was listed as a Scheduled Monument on 10 April 1915 (and later, under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 law). It was Grade I listed on 19 May 1950.[2] The keep was restored in 2009. It is located within 16 acres of parkland.[25]


Clitheroe Castle Museum

Clitheroe Castle Museum can be found in the Steward's House, which is a Grade II listed building that was built in the 18th century.[26] It is a museum showing the history of the local area.[25] The museum was originally opened in 1954 in the Steward's Gallery, later moving to the Steward's House.[25] The museum underwent a £3.5-million refurbishment and redevelopment[27] and re-opened on 23 May 2009.[25] It was officially opened on 23 June 2009 by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.[28]

Castle grounds[edit]

The castle grounds where established as a public park after the castle site was purchased by public subscription by the then borough council from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu in November 1920, to create a memorial to the 260 soldiers from the town who died in World War I. A total of £15,000 was raised, with £9,500 spent on the purchase, the rest used laying out the park. It incorporates the early 18th century garden terraces from the Steward's residence.[29] Bowling greens, tennis courts, a putting green, a bandstand and pavilion café where installed, and specimen trees planted as part of the landscaping include a fern-leaf beech and a dawn redwood.[30] The war memorial, a sculpture of a soldier standing atop a pedestal in a mourning pose with head bowed and arms reversed, is located south of the castle. The main inscription reads "Erected by the inhabitants of Clitheroe in grateful remembrance of their fellow townsmen who gave their lives in defence of their king and country in the great war 1914 1918". The sculptor was Louis Frederick Roslyn, and the same figure is used in the memorial at Slaidburn.[31]

The centrepiece of the old rose garden, south of the castle is a turret from the Houses of Parliament, presented to the borough by its MP (Sir William Brass) in 1937, in commemoration of the coronation of King George VI.[32] Also known as the Pinnacle, it dates back to the mid-1800s rebuilding work at the Place of Westminster. Clitheroe Civic Society has been running a project to restore the monument after it was discovered that corroding iron fixings have been damaging the stonework.[33]

In April 2006, a new skatepark officially opened in the Woone Lane corner of the Castle grounds, the £200,000 cost funded by the Lancaster Foundation charitable trust.[34] Also opened in 2006 is a turf labyrinth designed by Jim Buchanan.[29]

The town's annual Guy Fawkes Night bonfire fireworks display is among a number of regular events staged.[30]


The keep is on the summit of a large carboniferous rock, which is the highest and most prominent point for miles around. This is now identified as a Waulsortian mudmound. The rock comprises of light grey, unbedded, micritic limestone, heavily jointed with calcite veining. There is some galena and sphalerite mineralisation in the joints. It is rich in fossils: mainly Crinoid ossicles together with gastropods and brachiopods. There has been much debate on how these mud mounds were formed, one theory led to them being called reef knolls, knoll reefs,or bioherms but work in 1972 by Miller & Grayson[35] explained their structure.[36] Clitheroe Castle is the most south-westerly of a chain of mudmounds in the Bowland Sub-basin of the Craven Basin, that has been dubbed the Clitheroe 'Reef' Belt. They include important geological sites at Salthill and Bellman quarries, Crow Hill and Worsaw, Gerna and Sykes.[36]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Chipping, Aighton and Dutton where surveyed under Amounderness in Domesday, subsequently being added to Blackburnshire.[12]
  2. ^ Robert's son, Henry de Lacy would grant Barnoldswick to monks from Fountains Abbey by 1147.[14]
  3. ^ In 1102/3 Robert de Lacy granted lands formerly the property of Orme le Engleis, within the baillie and below, to Ralph de Rous.[16][13]
  4. ^ In the early 1190s five knights and fifteen sergeants, each with horses where stationed here, paid for by the sheriff.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Historic England 1016196
  2. ^ a b Historic England 1071553
  3. ^ Historic England 1001361
  4. ^ a b c d e Farrer & Brownbill 1911, pp. 360-72
  5. ^ a b c d e Ashworth 2010, p. 24
  6. ^ a b c d Farrer & Brownbill 1911, pp. 360-72, footnote
  7. ^ Scheduled Ancient Monument – Clitheroe Castle, Lancashire County Council, retrieved 2011-01-26 
  8. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1911, pp. 230-34
  9. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1906, pp. 271
  10. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1906, pp. 313
  11. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1906, pp. 282,314
  12. ^ Farrer and Brownbill 1911, pp. 230-34
  13. ^ a b Farrer & Brownbill 1908, pp. 523-24
  14. ^ Whitaker 1805, pp. 55-56
  15. ^ Harfield, C. G. (1991), "A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book", English Historical Review 106: 371–392, doi:10.1093/ehr/CVI.CCCCXIX.371, JSTOR 573107 
    Citing Edwards, B. J. N. (1984), "George Vertue’s engraving of Clitheroe Castle", Antiquaries Journal 64: 366–372, doi:10.1017/s0003581500080501 
  16. ^ Whitaker 1805, p. 20
  17. ^ Oram, Richard (2004). David I: The King Who Made Scotland. Tempus. pp. 133–4. 
  18. ^ a b Ashworth 2010, pp. 23-4
  19. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1906, p. 319
  20. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1906, pp. 311-12
  21. ^ a b Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, English Monarchs, Retrieved 13 September 2015
  22. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1906, pp. 296-97
  23. ^ Clitheroe Castle, CheshireNow, Retrieved 13 September 2015
  24. ^ Farrer & Brownbill 1908, p. 524
  25. ^ a b c d "Clitheroe Castle Museum". Ribble Valley Borough Council. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  26. ^ Ashworth 2010, p. 5
  27. ^ "News : Quality Assurance for Clitheroe Castle Museum". Lancashire County Council. 9 November 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  28. ^ Ashworth 2010, p. 0
  29. ^ a b "Castle Grounds, Clitheroe". Parks and Gardens UK. Parks and Gardens Data Services Ltd. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  30. ^ a b Ashworth 2010, p. 31
  31. ^ "Clitheroe Serviceman WW1". UK War Memorials Archive. Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  32. ^ Historic England, "Turret from Houses of Parliament in gardens of Clitheroe Castle (1071555)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 27 September 2015 
  33. ^ Neil Athey (26 August 2015). "Restoration work to begin on historic landmark from Houses of Parliament in Clitheroe". Lancashire Telegraph (Newquest). Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  34. ^ Adrian Worsley (27 April 2006). "Skate park gets rolling". Lancashire Telegraph (Newquest). Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  35. ^ Miller, J.; Grayson, R.F. (1972). "Origin and structure of Lower Viséan "reef"limestones near Clitheroe, Lancashire". proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 38: 607–638. 
  36. ^ a b Kabrna, Paul. "Clitheroe Reef Belt". Craven Basin:Waulsortian Mudmounds. Craven & Pendle Geological Society. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Adams, Paul (2005-6), 'Clitheroe Castle', Castle Studies Group Journal, Vol 19 p179–192
  • Fry, Plantagenet Somerset (1980), The David & Charles Book of Castles, David & Charles, ISBN 0-7153-7976-3
  • Gooderson, P.J. (1980), A History of Lancashire, Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-2588-1
  • Jones, R.O. (1982), Clitheroe Castle
  • Langshaw, A. (1940), A Guide to Clitheroe Castle