Harewood Castle

Standing in the north west corner of the Harewood Estate, the 14th century ruins of Harewood Castle were, in 2013, surrounded by mature trees, and almost hidden from sight. Field Society members were granted permission to make an accompanied visit, and see what remained of the ancient structure. One of the members of the Local History/Vernacular Buildings group, Mr Les Bloom, presented us with a history of the building of the castle and the Harewood family, which he had produced in 2002 for a walk he led from Harewood Bridge to Golden Acre. Those notes and some of the family history are included below. The photographs were taken in 2013, by Mrs Phyllida Oates and the accompanying description and information is taken from 1966 when the building was first listed.

HAREWOOD BRIDGE TO GOLDEN ACRE. Sat.7th Sept 02. Leader- Les Bloom

1) 1753 Edwin Lascelles (1712-95) led about 80 well armed estate tenants and workmen to face a disruptive mob of around 300, to prevent the destruction of the toll bar at Harewood Bridge and defeated them, taking 30 rioters prisoner, 10 of which were later committed to detention in York Castle. (Bridge l729)

2) It was Edwin’s father Henry Lascelles, who had bought the Harewood and Gawthorp estates in 1738. The family fortunes came from sugar and slaves in Barbados and Jamaica, Henry having been a merchant and Collector of Customs in Barbados – considerable money could be made, often by dubious methods, some of which went on reverberating long after he had returned to England and bought this country estate.

3) The Lascelles came from Norman stock (the name is from a village in Normandy – Lassele). Picot de Lascelles commanded part of Norman army at the Battle of Hastings. First of the Harewood line in any record books is in 1315; John de Lascelles of Hinderskelfe – where Castle Howard is now. Henry’s great-grandfather Francis served as a colonel in Cromwell’s army, but still became an M.P. under the restored Charles ll. They became connected with Northallerton in the early l600’s through marriage into a local family.

4) At Rougemont on the N side of the river Wharfe (GR297463) there was a wooden castle held by vassals of the Percy family, following the Conquest and it was the Lisle family who were living here in the mid-14th century who granted the church at Harewood (or Harwood as it was then) to Bolton Priory – there had been a church here since the 10th century. Robert, the third Lord Lisle gave his lands at Harewood to his brother-in-law William Lord Aldburgh who built Harewood Castle on the S side of the Wharfe in 1367. Harewood Church was built in its present form about 1410 for the grand-daughters of this Lord Aldburgh It was altered/improved in 1793 (John Carr) and in 1863 (Sir George Gilbert Scott)

5) The Aldburgh heiresses – Elizabeth married Sir Richard Redman and Sibilla (or Sybil) married Sir William Ryther (of Ryther Castle) d 1440 – the Rythers and the Redmans lived in Harewood Castle for more than 200 years.

6) Isabella, daughter of Sir William Ryther and his wife Sibilla married John Thwaites of Denton (d 1469), a lawyer, and it was grand-daughter Isabel (daughter and heir of Thomas Thwaite of Denton) who married Sir William Fairfax of Steeton (near Tadcaster) in 1518 which brought Denton into the Fairfax family, This is the Fairfax who reputedly rode up to Nun Appleton, forced an entrance in to the nunnery and carried the wealthy but orphaned Isabel away from the Abbess – they married at Bolton Percy.

7) The Gascoigne family, connected by marriage with both the Redmans and Rythers, were living at neighbouring Gawthorpe (sited where there is now the lake of Harewood House), This had been their home from medieval times, and they added Harewood to their domains.

8) In 1580 the estate passed to the Wentworths and it was the son of Sir Thomas Wentworth, the ill-fated Earl of Strafford (beheaded for treason under Charles 1) who sold it to Sir John Cutler in 1657.

9) As mentioned in 2) above it was 1738 when Henry Lascelles of Northallerton bought the whole estate from a certain John Boulter. The Lascelles have lived there ever since. Edwin Lascelles (1712-95) later Lord Harewood, the eldest son started the new building work in 1755. First, the stable block by John Carr (whose father Robert Carr was Lascelles’s clerk of the works) followed by the new house. Robert Adam was also involved mainly for the interior. Harewood House or the’ New House at Gawthorpe’ became habitable in 1771 when Gawthorpe was pulled down. Thomas Chippendale was responsible for the furniture and furnishings throughout the house. Edwin Lascelles had the strongest effect on the house and what we see to-day, of any of Harewood’s owners.

The Castle

When it was built, of locally quarried millstone grit, by William, Lord Aldburgh, the castle would have offered its occupants wonderful views over the valley of the Wharfe, as this was a domestic residence, rather than fortifications for defence. The design catered for all eventualities, however, for William obtained a license to crenellate in 1366. The entrance, in the north east wall, had two pairs of doors and a portcullis, and there are arrow slit windows. The building was listed in 1966, and is now in the care of Historic England. It has deteriorated considerable since then, but the photographs show something of the original impressive size of the castle, and the large dressed stone of which it was built.

The entrance was in one of the five bays which make up the thick outer wall. It is in the north east wall, and seems rather small and narrow, not meant to impress, bur for protection, with two doors and a portcullis.


The entrance from the inside.

The building is made up of a lower hall, with a great hall and solar above, a service range and cellars under part of it, and south-east and south-west projections with 4-storey towers over 100 feet high carried up above the roof of the main block, other projections formerly had towers.

The base of the hall is filled with rubble, soil and grass, apparently hiding stone benches along the side walls, and a raised stone dais which supports the fire place.

The inside of the south wall.

The outline of the former roof shows its steep pitch, and the line of large corbels indicates the position of the support the floor of the solar. The huge fireplace has lost its surround.  To the right of the group as we look at the picture is “an elaborate recess with a richly-cusped arch, crocketed ogee gable,” lit by a small window. This is thought to be a buffet or sideboard for the display of plate.

The buffet.

Detail of the decorative carving

Above the portcullis is a chamber, and over that a chapel, one window of which remains. There are shields on either side of some of the tracery which decorated the window. The shields have the coat of arms of Aldburgh, and of Edward Balliol, former king of Scotland, and over the window is the inscription


[What shall be shall].

The remains of the chapel window

The ruins include a range of window designs, include the arrow slits in the towers.

Lancet window in the tower.

Two bays have chamfered cross-mullioned windows one surviving with mullions.

Shamfered mullions

The rear of hall range has 3 bays of former cross-windows. The hall windows, with have segmental – arched heads, are raised up to a high level in which are seats, approached up a short flight of steps in the wall thickness.

The description from 1996 describes the castle as having five bays with towers. Bays 1 and 2 project with from the south side of the building, with arrow slit windows, one of which lights a staircase. Within the towers were small rooms, many of which had fireplaces, garde-robes and wall cupboards.

The south wall from the outside.

The inside of south west tower.

Above the northern end of the upper hall was a solar, the corbels to support it remain projecting from the wall. In the north-west corner of the lower hall is the doorway to the kitchen and cellars, with access to the buttery through an arched doorway.

Former roof line, and corbels.

Suggested remains of kitchen.

From their position, it would seem that these arches are part of the kitchen or cellar, and the picture illustrates how much debris has accumulated over the centuries. The same is true of the interior.

The castle is regarded as an example of medieval domestic planning, and has been very little altered since it was built. It was latterly the home of the Remayle and Ryther families, and although lived in until at least 1630, it was derelict by 1656, when it was bought by Sir John Cutler.

History- Les Bloom

Photographs – Phyllida Oates

Text (From Listed Buildings – on line) – Marion Hutchinson

From the Harewood website

The oldest building at Harewood is Harewood Castle. A major programme of repair and consolidation of the surviving structure took place during 2004 and 2005, with financial support from English Heritage and the Harewood Estate. A considerable body of new information, both architectural and archaeological, was gathered which has prompted a number of new interpretations, as well as challenging some of the existing theories.