Bolton Castle-Wensleydale

The History of Bolton Castle

  • From Wanderings in Wensleydale by George Hardcastle 1864

The Castle in the 1950s

A mile north west from Redmire stands the stern stronghold of Bolton Castle. Long the lordly abode of the Sropes.
It is of an irregular square form, 125 feet on the east side, 131 on the West, 187 on the North and 184 on the South. It has had four towers 96 feet high, one at each corner, connected by buildings of enormous strength; the whole surrounding a court yard 96 feet by 52 feet with only one ground entrance to it through a gateway on the east side, defended by a strong portcullis. From the courtyard which so slopes from north to south as to be always dry) are five narrow doorways into the castle, all are portcullises; and on the west outer face of the building there is a small doorway about 15feet from the ground defended by machicolation.

Entrance to the Dungeon

Deep moats on the western side increased the difficulty of assaulting the door in question, which could only be reached by a ladder, or by “granary steps” running up alongside the wall.

The lower apartments are arched, and dimly lighted by narrow windows deeply splayed within, pierced through walls seven feet thick.

Sunk into the solid rock under a small tower projecting from the north side of the castle, is the dungeon, a dismal hole, 12 and a half feet long 9 feet broad and 8 feet high, into which captives were lowered through an opening in the arched roof, 30 inches by 24, which was then closed by a stone.

The floor is wet in one corner is a block of the rock to which prisoners were chained, and in another is a stone closet: there is no window to admit a ray of light, and the only ventilation is by a narrow horizontal slit in the highest part of the wall, communicating with the upper air.

The castle well, three feet in diameter and of excellent masonry, is in the North east tower. It has its mouth in one of the upper apartments; so that if an enemy got possession of the ground floor the castle garrison above would still command a supply of water. The garde robes of the castle are numerous, and placed in the most private and yet convenient situations.

This feudal fortress was built in 1399 by Richard, the first LORD SCROPE, high chancellor of England, in the eighteen last years of the reign of Richard the II at a cost of 1800 marks (£12,000,) an enormous sum in those days. Leland in the time of Henry VIII, was astonished to find “how chimneys were conveyed by tunnils made in the syds of the walls” of this castle; a marvellous improvement on the old hole in the roof through which part of the smoke escaped, the rest being inhaled by lords and ladies gay. Harrison says:- “For as the smoke in those days was supposed to be a sufficient hardening for the timber of the house, so it was reputed a farre better medicine to keep the good man and his family from the quack and pose.”

Lord Scrope of Bolton, headed the Wensleydale and Richmondshire men, September 9th 1513, on Flodden Field, where they made sad havoc of the Scots, who lost about 10,000 men including their King and the prime of their Nobility, Gentry, and Clergy; from which I gather that Scottish ministers were somewhat pugnacious even in those early times.

With Captain Cuttle’s permission I here make a note of the fact that Henry Jenkins, who died at Ellerton-on-Swale in 1670, was born at Bolton on Swale (just over the hill) in 1500. He was an angler by trade, and practiced the gentle craft for 140 years. On a trial at York, men a hundred years old said they new him as an “auld man” when they were boys. In answer to the presiding judge, as to what remarkable battle or other event happened during his boyhood, Harry said, that when turned of twelve, he went to Earl Surrey’s army at Northallerton with a string of Bolton horses carrying a supply of bows and arrows; and that soon after his return home, he heard that the Scots had been defeated on Flodden Field and their King killed.

Bolton was one of the many places in which Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned by her loving cousin the “good Queen Bess,” so called I conclude as other “Good” people have been, because they always took “good” care of themselves.

Mary Stuart Queen of Scots

On the 16th of May 1568, Mary landed at Workington, and on the 18th arrived at Carlisle. On the 13th of July she left Carlisle, in charge of Lord Scrope and Sir Francis Knollys, with a company of six faithful ladies, “with some followers.” Twenty carriage horses, twenty-three saddle horses, and four light cars, were used on the journey.

The Queen arrived at Bolton one hour after sunset on the 15th of July, and was received by Lady Scrope. The castle being unprovided with plenishings meet for a royal guest, Sir George Bowes supplied beds and hangings from his own house; and Queen Elizabeth sent from her household, pewter vessels, brass pots, pans, racks, spits and a large copper kettle for boiling beef. She also sent “garden sauces” and other dinner requisites: and a weekly supply of venison was ordered. Sorrel is still called “green sauce” in Yorkshire.

The whole of Queen Mary’s retinue consisted of forty persons, more than one half of whom were boarded in the village.

On the 28th of July, the Queen is described as being merry, passing her time in hunting and other country pleasures. This gaiety however, would seem to have been assumed to hide her intention to escape as soon as opportunity offered. In a private letter to the Queen of Spain, September 4th, Mary says:- I believe I have gained the hearts of a great many good people of this country since my coming, so that they are ready to hazard all they possess for me and my cause.”

The Queen’s Chamber 1911

It was at Bolton that the Duke of Norfolk, Lady Scrope’s brother, obtaining access to the prisoner queen, made the proposal of marriage that brought him to the block. Her apartment is known as The Queen’s Chamber”, and a pass through the crags in Bolton Park is called The Queen’s Gap, from her having been re-taken there in attempting to escape.

Mary’s earlier letters were written in Latin, French, and the Scotch of the period; but at Bolton she addressed Sir Francis Knollys in English, for the first time; and it must be admitted that she spelt the Queen’s English very little better than an Eton boy of our day. She thus concludes:-I pray God heuu you in his kepin. Your assured gud frind Marie R. Excus my iuel written thes fusrt tym.

Mary, wretchedly ill of rheumatism, was taken from Bolton on the 26th January, 1569, a bitterly cold day, to Ripon, and was thence removed to Tutbury, with her attendants, on some worn-out hacks, lent to Knollys by the Bishop of Durham. Barker asserts in his history of Wensleydale, that Bolton Castle is the sole survivor of the numerous prisons in which Mary was detained; and Miss Strickland, Mary’s apologist, says that the Old Hall at Buxton where Mary resided for a short time on account of her rheumatism has been destroyed. These statements are not strictly accurate; for I have a facsimile of an ancient engraving of The Old Hall which shows that the nucleus of the existing Buxton hotel of that name is the veritable prison of the Queen, but now surrounded by modern apartments.

In the Civil Wars of the time of Charles I, Bolton Castle was held for the King by the Richmond Cavaliers, first under Colonel Scrope, and afterwards under Colonel Chaytor, who resisted the Roundheads till the garrison had eaten their horses: Chaytor then capitulated upon the honourable terms on the 5th November 1645. This castle, with many others, was ordered by parliament to be made untenable in 1647; and in 1694, the north-east tower, which had been sorely battered during the siege by cannon planted on the hill behind, fell with a sudden crash. Emanuel, Earl of Sunderland, the 13th Lord Scrope, who died in 1630, was the last of the family that dwelt at Bolton Castle.

By Martha Jones his cook, daughter of one John Jones, a tailor the Earl Emanuel of Sunderland left four “morganatic” children, a son and three daughters. John, the tailor’s grandson, had his web of life snipped short by the shears of fate befoe he came of age. The vast estates of his noble father thereupon devolved on his sisters, who, though in law the ” Daughters of nobody,” became somebodies in society. Being well acred, they of course became well married.
Elizabeth, the youngest “morganatic” became the wife of Earl Rivers; Annabella, the second, married John Grubham esq., ancestor of Earl Howe; and Mary, the eldest, first married Lord Carey, and afterwards Charles Powlett, Marquis of Winchester, who, on account of his connection with the lands of the Marchioness (nee Jones) was created Duke of Bolton.

The Museum at Castle Bolton 1912

This Duke, who built Bolton Hall, was (a fellow of infinite whim;) sometimes he would not speak for weeks together, and at others he would not open his mouth till a certain hour of the day, when he deemed the air pure. He also hunted at night-time by torchlight; but with all his oddities, he was shrewd enough to steer with consummate tact through the troublous times of Charles, II James II, and William III. Charles, the fifth Duke of that ilk, left a “morganatic” daughter, who married one of the Ordes, of Northumberland; and on the death of Harry, the sixth and last Duke of Bolton, who left no heirs-male to take his title, Mr Orde succeeded to the estate by bequest, and having assumed the name and arms of Powlett, he was created Baron Bolton in 1797.
The present Lord Bolton is his grandson.

A “cross” is often found of advantage to peers, sheep, and short-horns.

Catherine, daughter of Duke Harry of Bolton, married William Henry, third Earl of Darlington, created first Duke of Cleveland, to whom she bore three sons, who, within the year of grace, successfully wore the ducal coronet in the lordly halls of Raby. A strange episode in the Romance of the peerage!

Ladies going to and from the well for water 1880 Glass Slide

The visitor to Castle Bolton will be struck by the copious and excellent supply of water in this as well as other of the upland villages in Wensleydale. The springs appear to be very numerous, and sometimes flow with considerable volume; even in dry seasons the inhabitants have generally a good supply of water. The water is drawn from the shales and sandstones of the Yoredale measures, and runs very clear, and free from all impurities.
From Romantic Richmondshire by Harry Speight

The Chapel at Bolton Castle 1911

In addition to the ruined chapel established in the chapel by Lord Scrope for the health of King Richard the second’s pious but feeble soul, the Lords of Bolton built two others outside, namely, St. Anne’s and St. Oswald’s.
The latter still survives, and is very curious in its double-transomed windows, sedilia, niches, and piscinae, and other relics of thee olden times.

The following lines were written on the east window of St. Oswald church Castle Bolton:

Lord Scrope, of Bolton, stern and stout
; On horseback who had not his peer
; No Englishman Scots more did doubt.

With him did wend all Wensleydale,
From Morton unto Mosdale Moor
; All they that dwelt by the banks of the Swale,
With him were bent in harness store.

From Wensleydale warlike wights did wend,
From Bishopdale went bowmen bold,
From Coverdale to Cotter End,
And all to Kisden Causeway cold.

From Mallerstang to Middleham,
And all from Marske and Melsonby
; And all that climb to Mountain Cam,
Whose crown from frost is seldom free.

With lusty lads and large of length,
which dwelt on Semerwater side
; All Richmondshire, its total strength,
The valiant Scrope did lead and guide.”

A fragment of an alter tomb (of course well white washed) projects from the north wall, and is enscribed “Tomas.” Slight record of one of the mighty man-hunters of Yore!

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