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Castles of the British Isles

Photo Focus: Bolton Castle

by Vikki Hope of 'Explore Here and There', 15 May 2022

 

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

Bolton Castle is located in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire. It is a fourteenth century castle which was built between 1379 and 1399 by Sir Richard Le Scrope, lord chancellor of England to Richard II. The magnificent structure is an example of a quadrangular castle, and today it is a Grade 1 listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The licence to crenellate was granted in July 1379, and the cost of construction was reported as being 18,000 marks. Sir Richard's father, Sir Henry Le Scrope, had served in the retinue of the earl of Warwick in France - largely Plantagenet-controlled at the time - and later served under John of Gaunt, duke of Aquitaine. He fought at the Battle of Crécy, and at the Battle of Neville's Cross (Durham) where he was knighted.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The chapel was first mentioned in 1378/79, being dedicated to St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary. It was endowed as a chantry in 1399, the year in which King Richard II was deposed and murdered.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The chapel would have been richly endowed with vestments and altar furnishings, such as chalices and gold candlesticks.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

In the sixteenth century the 'Solar' would have been a small, family sitting room. It looks south over the castle gardens which catches the best of the sun. The fugitive Mary Queen of Scots was brought to Bolton Castle on 13 July 1568 where she spent the next six months of her life.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

During her captivity she and her retinue took over a suite of rooms which included the Solar.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

This bed chamber would originally have belonged to the Lady Scrope, with her husband occupying the room above to show his status as the most important person in the castle.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

Each bed chamber had its own garderobe (toilet) and a large fire to keep the occupants warm.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

In the medieval period the great chamber served as a family living room, something which was less formal than the great hall where the meals and entertainment would have been on a much grander scale.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The fireplace in the great hall would have provided warmth during grand dinners and more lavish entertainment when the castle's owners really wanted (or needed) to impress their guests.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The castle kitchen was in use long before the mess kitchen and great kitchen were built. In addition, an earlier kitchen would have needed butteries.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

This is probably the original use for those rooms which remain standing now. However, the chutes in the floor which lead down to the meal house and bakehouse indicate their later purpose as a malting house and granary.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The south-east tower's ground floor would have been a guard room in which soldiers would have been on duty while they guarded the great portcullis.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

When the castle was first built this would have been the only way in and out of the building. A large fireplace and a narrow passageway which led to the garderobe meant that the soldiers were kept in relative comfort during their long nights on guard.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

The castle's ground floor rooms were vaulted, which had the dual purpose of adding strength to the structure and preventing groups of raiders from attacking the castle from within.

Bolton Castle, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, by Vikki Hope
Photo © Vikki Hope

When it came to this form of attack, it was the Border Rievers especially who were renowned all over the north of England for lighting a fire on the ground floor of their target and burning down an entire tower.

 

All photos kindly contributed by Vikki Hope of 'Explore Here and There' on Instagram & Facebook, taken in April 2022.

Main Sources

Bolton Castle website

 

Images and text copyright © Vikki Hope except where stated. An original feature for the History Files.