Scarborough Castle – A Wonderful Piece of History

Posted by Helen Marsden on ← Back to posts

Scarborough Castle is one of the finest tourist attractions in the North East and stands above the coastal town of Scarborough in North Yorkshire. It started life as an Iron Age Fort and over the years has been occupied by Romans and Vikings, been fought over in the English Civil War and been bombed during the First World War.

The castle is on a sheer-sided rock on the Scarborough headland and looks out over the North Sea. The headland has been intermittently inhabited for nearly three millennia, as what we know now as Scarborough was an important gateway to the north-east of England. Pieces of pottery from 2100 BC have been found on the headland, but the first clear evidence of a settlement on the headline date from around 800BC.

A fortified tower was built in the late 4th century, and coins and pottery have been found from this period that suggest it was a signal station. These stations fell out of use, and the next evidence of human activity comes from the year 1000 when there was a chapel and small cemetery on the site.

The town is first documented as a prospering borough with a castle in the mid-12th century. William le Gros, Count of Aumale, is the founder of the castle, and when he was made Earl of York he set himself up as political master in the area. A wall and tower were erected at this stage, but a few years later with Henry II on the throne the castle passed into the hands of the Crown.

Rebuilding work took place and the new town was created. The great tower was built from 1159-69. King John also invested in the castle, and Henry III, Edward I and Edward II all used it too. Richard III was the last king to stay there in 1484.

The castle remained an important part of national history during rebellions against Henry VIII and Queen Mary, and later when Charles I was on the throne. During its lifetime the castle has been besieged and changed hands many times.

In more recent history the castle served as a prison and barracks, and it suffered damage in the German bombardment of the coast from warships.

The castle is now in the care of English Heritage and brings many tourists to the town. Visitors can take a guided or audio tour of the site and learn more about the history.