For 364 days of the year, Tickhill Castle remains hidden behind its imposing Norman gatehouse and curtain wall.
The Crown estate owns this fascinating historic monument, which has been fought over many times over the centuries and has played a pivotal role in several bloody conflicts. Nowadays, it's rented out, and the tenants are required to throw open its doors for just one day each year to allow the public inside.
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That day is this coming Sunday - June 9, when visitors can explore the remains of the Norman motte-and-bailey castle located in a pretty village on the outskirts of Doncaster.
A Norman construction
Tickhill Castle dates back to the 11th century, when Norman lord Roger de Busli was rewarded for his role in the conquest of England with lands spread across Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Tickhill became his capital, and he built an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle over a two-acre site. The mound he chose is particularly high and still towers over the village today.
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De Busli died without an heir, so his estates were granted to Robert de Belleme by King William II. However, a political miscalculation by Robert led to his downfall. After the king's death in a hunting accident, Robert supported a rival claimant, the Duke of Normandy, for the English throne rather than William's son King Henry I. Henry won, and he sent the Bishop of Lincoln to besiege Tickhill Castle. The garrison was forced to surrender and the castle was taken into Crown ownership. King Henry took the opportunity to strengthen its defences with a stone curtain wall and gatehouse.
In 1154, King Henry II took the throne and invested heavily in fortifying royal castles. He built an eleven-sided stone keep at Tickhill - the foundations are still visible although the fortress no longer stands. King John later added a barbican to the site.
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The castle was attacked again in 1322 during a rebellion against King Edward II, proving its strategic importance. Tickhill was not breached. By 1362, the estate had fallen into the possession of the Duke of Lancaster, and it has remained part of the Duchy ever since. The property is held by the reigning monarch.
Rising from the ruins
The castle then began to fall into ruin, although a constable remained resident in the gatehouse and there was also a functining courthouse.
In 1614, the Hansby family took out a 31-year lease, and built a new house over the site of the old Great Hall. They were Catholic, and when the Civil War broke out supported the Royalists. They re-fortified their castle and it became a military garrison once again. They were forced to surrender when Parliamentary forces were sent to attack Tickhill.
The castle's defences were destroyed by order - parts of the curtain wall were pulled down and the keep demolished. The house remained, and was remodelled in the 18th century, when more sections of the curtain wall were removed to improve the views. The grounds were landscaped and a footpath around the perimeter was added.
The outer gateway is reached by a bridge over the moat, which is still water-filled, and through the barbican - a walled passage.
Its more recent tenants have included a Doncaster Council music advisor, who lived in the house in the 1980s.
Tickhill Castle is open this Sunday (June 9) from 2 - 4.30pm. Entry is £3 for adults and £2 for children.