Scarborough Castle Feature

The History Of Scarborough Castle

LocationScarborough, North Yorkshire, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byWilliam le Gros, Earl of York
Official WebsiteScarborough Castle
Rooms AvailableNo

Built as a medieval fortress, Scarborough Castle has been one of the most important gateways to northeast England. It is one of the newest castles built by Henry II in a long line of fortifications. It is situated on a rocky headland above the village of Scarborough and is defended by 300-foot-high cliffs. These specifications make it a serenely beautiful site of attraction for visitors in North Yorkshire.


The history of Scarborough Castle goes way back to the Romans, the Vikings, and the Saxons. A fortified watchtower was erected on the headland by the Romans in the late 4th century AD. The castle came under the control of the Vikings after a few centuries, and it was during this time its name ‘Scarborough’ was given, meaning ‘stronghold of Skardi’. It was established on the low ground below the headland to enable the people residing there to have easy access to the sea. The castle, however, is believed to have been destroyed later in the century.

The founder of Scarborough Castle was William le Gros, Count of Aumâle, whom King Stephen granted the Earldom of York in 1138. He was rewarded for his victory over Scottish forces in the Battle of Northallerton. He established himself as a strong political ruler of the region, and his work at the castle probably began in the 1130s. Henry II ascended to the throne in 1154, the anarchy ended, and the castle came under his control along with all the other royal castles. After decades of civil war, Henry II was keen to re-establish Royal authority over the land. It included demanding the surrender of all castles built without Royal permission during the war. William le Gros had attempted to defy the Royal order, but he relented when faced with a Royal army. Scarborough was strategically crucial to the King as it offered a harbour that facilitated access into Yorkshire and thus enabled effective military control.

Scarborough Castle
Scarborough Castle”, by Scott Rimmer, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many repairs and modifications took place to strengthen the castle’s defences against external forces during many centuries of its existence. Scarborough Castle was besieged for a short period in April 1312, when Piers Gaveston sheltered at the castle. He had angered the Earls of Lancaster and Warwick and pursued by their forces. He was tried and executed in Warwick Castle. Richard III visited the castle for a short period in 1484 to oversee preparations of a powerful fleet to resist an expected invasion by Henry Tudor. However, the castle was involved in two significant rebellions during the sixteenth century, Pilgrimage of Grace and the anti-Catholic rebellion.

Sir Hugh Cholmley was commissioned to hold Scarborough for Parliament at the beginning of the Civil War, but he was persuaded to change sides soon. Immediately afterwards, while he was visiting Charles I in York, 40 seamen under the command of Hugh Cholmley’s cousin, Captain Browne Bushell, surprised the guards at night and captured the castle. The castle served as an invaluable port facility on the Yorkshire coast for the next two years. It enabled the Royalists to import supplies and troops from abroad while simultaneously raiding supply ships heading south. However, this resulted in a coal shortage in London, forcing the Parliament to act. In 1645 Sir John Meldrum commenced an assault on the town, but it took three weeks of brutal fighting before he dislodged the Royalist garrison, forcing them back into the castle. The castle was then besieged and made attempts to breach the walls using artillery, destroying the west wall of the Great Tower. The Royalists refused to yield and only surrendered after five months.

Scarborough Castle suffered again during the Second Civil War when on 27 July 1648, Colonel Matthew Boynton, the Parliamentary Governor, absconded to the Royalist cause. The castle was besieged and retaken in December 1648. The Parliament had ordered its destruction, but it survived, albeit in a ruinous state due to lobbying by the locals.


Scarborough Castle is surrounded on three sides by the cliff and the sea and on the side facing the town is a large double ditch. The only approach leading to the castle is by a great bridge across it. The Great Tower built by Henry II between 1159 and 1169 was one of the most important buildings; only part of it still stands. The tower is a vast and square structure and stands over 90 feet high with walls 12 feet thick. It is broad with regularly spaced buttresses articulating its faces. Remains of the 14th-century bakehouse, brewhouse, and kitchen are seen even today. The 12th century well over 140 feet deep, is also an interesting attraction for visitors.

The 13th-century royal residence called Mosdale Hall is still present in the castle’s outer bailey. Remains of the Roman signal station and a medieval chapel can be viewed by visitors near the edge of the cliffs.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was Scarborough Castle built?

Scarborough Castle was built in 1138 by William le Gros, Count of Aumâle, named Earl of York. However, Henry II later rebuilt it in 1159 when it came under his control.

What is Scarborough Castle famous for?

Scarborough Castle is famous for being one of the greatest royal fortresses built by Henry II and has been periodically fortified for nearly 3,000 years. It was held by Romans, the Saxons, and the Vikings for many centuries before it was built as a medieval fortress.

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He is a versatile E-Learning Support Officer and former Academic Officer at the University of York, United Kingdom. Not just an expert in education and technology, Debayan also has a deep love for castles and mountains. With a passion for travel, having explored 168+ cities worldwide, and a keen eye for photography, He brings a unique blend of experiences to the table. Specializing in E-learning content, IT support, AR development, and software engineering, Debayan has made a significant impact, educating over 200,000 students on Udemy.

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