Picture Post: The castle that became home to a future king

PIC: Bruce Rollinson
PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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It’s a view of Middleham Castle most never get to see.

Under a starry sky, the sprawling ruins take on a fairy tale quality, its 900 year history bathed in the moonlight.

It was Robert Fitzrandolph who commissioned the property and work began in 1190, close to an earlier, more rudimental castle. Eighty years later it came into the hands of the Neville family and it was one of that clan who became one of the castle’s most influential residents.

Richard Neville was the 16th Earl of Warwick, but he is better known as Kingmaker and a leading figure in the Wars of the Roses. One of the wealthiest and most powerful English peers of his age, Warwick was initially a supporter of Henry VI, but following a dispute over lands he crucially switched allegiance, backing the Duke of York against the king’s armies.

Having pinned his colours to the mast when the Duke died, his two younger sons – George and Richard – came into Warwick’s care. The latter eventually ascended the throne as Richard III, but spent little time at the North Yorkshire castle during his short and ill-fated two year reign.

He died on the field of Bosworth – the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses – in 1485, and the castle remained in royal hands until the reign of James I, when it was sold.

Like many of England’s once great castles, while empty, Middleham quickly fell into disrepair during the 17th century. Today, only the foundations remain of the original gatehouse and despite later attempts at restoration, the keep suffered extensive damage.

Doorways crumbled, floors gave way and the once impressive battlements were soon no more. More of the site, however, could have disappeared had Middleham not enjoyed a renaissance in the 18th century thanks to horse racing.

The growth of the industry in Georgian times saw the rebuilding of Middleham and now much of the town is protected as a conservation area. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage and while time and the elements may have taken their toll on the stone walls, its grandeur its undeniable.

Technical details: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 16mm f2.8, 25secs @f2.8 3200asa

Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Words: Sarah Freeman