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  Tickhill Castle


 (The photographs which relate to this topic are in the Gallery section of the website under "Buildings" - "Castle ")

Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, land, previously held by Saxon lords, was confiscated and given to Norman barons by William l as a reward for their support: one of the main beneficiaries was Roger de Busli, who was given land in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Devon and Yorkshire, which included the manor of Dadsley. 

Late 11th Century

By the end of the 11th century, de Busli had built a motte and bailey castle on Tica’s Hill - a sandstone hill, about half a mile south of Dadsley. The Castle, which is thought to have taken about 30 days to construct, comprised of a wooden tower, built on a mound, known as a motte, surrounded by a courtyard (or bailey), which, in turn, was surrounded by a wooden fence and a moat.   

The location of this castle was to give its name to a new settlement – Tickhill.

De Busli, from Bully-de-Vicomte in Normandy, became one of the mightiest landowners in the north; collectively, all his estates were referred to as the Honour of Tickhill, which emphasised the importance of this new town.  

Over the next 550 years, England’s rulers were to play a prominent role in the Castle’s history.  

Henry l: 1100-35

Roger de Busli died without an heir, and in 1102 his estates, including Tickhill Castle, passed to Robert de Bellême (Belesme), Earl of Shrewsbury - a distant kinsman. In 1102, de Bellême rebelled against Henry l and fortified Tickhill Castle, however, his defeat and subsequent banishment led to the confiscation of all his estates; Henry took control of the Castle, which was to mark the beginning of 900 years of Crown tenure. 

By 1129-30, Henry had strengthened the fortifications, spending £30 on a gatehouse and a stone curtain wall with ramparts; the surrounding ditch was filled with water to the south and west, and the north and east side were protected by a bank on the outer slope of the ditch. Further improvements are thought to have included a great chamber above the gatehouse, where the Honour Court met. Henry bestowed the Castle and its lands on his wife, Matilda, and following her death, to his second wife, Adeliza. 

King Stephen: 1135-54

Civil war followed the death of Henry, and the powerful Barons chose Stephen, the grandson of William the Conqueror rather than the rightful heir, Henry’s daughter, Matilda as monarch; in return for their support, Stephen granted Tickhill to the Earls of Eu. (Eu is on the border of Normandy and Picardy). Following further turmoil Earl Ranulf of Chester took the castle until his death in 1153 after which, it reverted back to the Crown.  

Henry ll: 1154-89

Stephen was succeeded by Henry ll, the grandson of Henry l, and Tickhill Castle was held for the Crown by the Lacy family of Pontefract. Between 1178 and 1182, it was re-designed in grand style: Henry spent £138 on a new keep, stone bridge and new curtain wall; the keep was unique in England, it was described as being  ‘an eleven-sided tower on a circular plinth supported by pilaster buttresses’. A chapel in the courtyard was dedicated to St Nicholas by Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and in the latter years of the 12th century, a medieval secular college was located there also, this, however, was dissolved c1206.  Over the same period, similar ambitious building programmes were taking place at nearby Conisbrough Castle and Roche Abbey.  

Richard 1 and King John: 1189 -1216

On the death of Henry ll, his son, Richard l acceded the throne, however   whilst he was in the Holy Land fighting at the Crusades, Tickhill Castle was just one of several castles (including Nottingham) seized by his brother, John and was held by Roger de la Mare.  Following a siege by Hugh de Pudsey, Bishop of Durham in 1194, de la Mare surrendered, and the Castle was successfully reclaimed for Richard. John inherited the throne on the death of his brother in 1199, fifteen years later he gave Tickhill to the Count of Eu in exchange for his support; Robert de Vipont was appointed Custodian and the Castle temporarily passed out of Crown tenure.  

Throughout their reigns, both Richard and John continued to maintain and repair the fabric of the Castle. John is alleged to have visited Tickhill six times and to have spent approximately £500 on building a barbican, granary and stables, the enclosure of the ditches, together with various repairs.   

Henry lll and Edward l: 1216-1307

For the first 27 years of Henry’s reign, Tickhill Castle was in the keeping of Alice, Countess of Eu; however war between England and France in 1243 resulted in the forfeiture of the Honour of Tickhill to the Crown. Several years later Henry lll gave it to his son, the future Edward l, who in turn granted it to his wife Eleanor of Castile in 1254. 

During the Barons’ revolt of 1271, Edward gave Tickhill Castle to his cousin, Henry of Almain, in exchange for his allegiance to Henry lll.  (de Alain had originally supported Simon de Montfort, the leader of the revolt against the King). Following de Almain ‘s death, allegedly at the hands of the sons of de Montfort, the Castle passed to his widow, Constance of Bearn, however continuing hostilities with France resulted, one again, in its forfeiture. 

In 1290, a final petition by John, grandson of Alice of Eu to restore the Castle to the Eu family was unsuccessful, and once the war with France ended in 1304, the castle was restored to Constance de Bearn. 

Edward ll: 1307-1327

During the reign of Edward ll, there was again unrest between the King and the Barons. The rebellion began in the North, when their leader, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster called a parliament at Doncaster in November 1321, this was pronounced illegal by the king, and war between the two sides was inevitable. Hostilities began in February 1322 with the siege of Tickhill Castle by the rebels; for three weeks, William de Anne, the Constable successfully defended the Castle for the King. Following the news that Edward was marching North, the siege was called off and the rebels fled; Lancaster subsequently escaped to Scotland but was eventually captured and executed at Pontefract Castle. 

Edward lll: 1327-1377

Following the death of Edward ll in 1327, the new king Edward lll gave the Honour of Tickhill to his mother, Isabella; four years later, he bestowed it on his wife, Philippa of Hainault, finally it was given to his fourth son, John of Gaunt, in exchange for the Earldom of Richmond.  

John of Gaunt was married to Blanche, the daughter of the 1st Duke of Lancaster; the marriage brought with it the title of Earl of Lancaster but the Dukedom became extinct upon his death without a male heir. In 1362, Edward lll conferred the re-created title Duke of Lancaster on John, and since then Tickhill Castle has been in the keeping of the Duchy of Lancaster. 

Although it has not been substantiated, King Jean de Valois of France is alleged to have been held captive in the Castle gatehouse, following his capture at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 by Edward, the Black Prince, the eldest son of Edward lll. 

15th and 16th centuries: the decline of Tickhill Castle

Over the next 150 years very little is known about the Castle. Following the struggles between the houses of York and Lancaster during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487), Henry Tudor took the throne as Henry Vll; a strong, centralised monarchy saw the feudal power of the barons weakened and the rise of the merchant classes.  

By the end of the Medieval period, the military importance of castles, such as Tickhill, had diminished. Political stability meant there was no longer the need for the nobility and gentry to fortify their homes, and they favoured the relative comfort of spacious manor houses, consequently, these former strongholds fell into a state of disrepair. 

A report by the Commissioners of Henry Vlll in 1537-38 described Tickhill Castle as being in a state of decay. The stone keep had one door, two windows, battlements, gables and a staircase, and the remnants of a timber roof and floor were evident. There were two wells filled in with earth and a horse bridge beyond repair; reference was also made to a derelict stone hall with four chambers, a bake house, kitchen, pantry and gatehouse. 

Several years later in 1540 John Leland, on his travels around England, wrote of Tickhill castle: ‘…. All the buildings withyn the [castle] area be down saving the old haulle’. 

An inspection in 1564, by a Commission authorised by Queen Elizabeth l concluded that the Court House including the Constable’s lodging over gateway should be repaired. The Court House was considered important as it was used for the annual audit, the sitting of the Honour Court and safe keeping of the Court Rolls. The stables in the courtyard (with lodgings for Queen’s Receiver), together with a large hall, which was used as a barn, a kitchen now an oxhouse, two buildings used as granaries, a lodging house now a malt kiln and a chapel in middle of courtyard now used as a hay house were all deemed to be in reasonable state of repair. The house of George Mallorie, who farmed the castle lands, was also located in courtyard and was declared to be in very good repair. 

The Commission agreed that, as well as the Court House, maintenance and improvements were to be made to George Mallorie’s house and the castle walls. The floor and roof of the keep, however, were in a bad state of decay and were considered too expensive to repair and should be abandoned. 

The Hansby’s and the Civil War

The Hansby’s originated from New Malton in the East Riding of Yorkshire; their connections with Tickhill Castle are thought to have begun in the late 16th century, when, they were bailiffs for the lessees.  In 1614, Sir Ralph Hansby, who had been knighted by King James l two years earlier, obtained the Castle on a 31-year lease. In 1828, historian, Joseph Hunter described the Hansby’s as being among  ‘the most active and influential persons in the neighbourhood’ for over a century. 

The Hansby’s were Roman Catholics, and when Civil War seemed inevitable in 1642, declared for King Charles l. Repairs and re-fortification must have taken place at Tickhill as it was described as ‘a strong castle’ and became a Royalist garrison, held by Sir Ralph until his death in 1643, after which a Major Monckton took over the command. Following the defeat of the King at the Battle of Marston Moor in 1644, the Parliamentarians were determined that all Royalist strongholds in the north would surrender, subsequently, two hundred dragoons and 30 horsemen, who were camped near Doncaster under the command of the Earl of Manchester and Lt. Gen. John Lilburne, set off for Tickhill. After a two-day siege, the Royalists agreed to the terms of surrender at a meeting with Lilburne, and on July 28, 1644, Manchester took the Castle for Parliament without ‘the loss of one drop of blood’. The Royalist supporters, who included Major Monckton, together with Colonel Redhead, Major Redhead and other officers, some of their wives and about 80 musketeers were given safe conduct passes. 

On entering the Castle, Manchester discovered that the garrison had been prepared for a siege: there was a mounted cannon, about 100 muskets, some gunpowder and match, together with 60 horses. There was, also, a large amount of provisions, which is described as follows by the eminent local historian, Dr. Edward Miller: ‘…about 100 quarters of grain, many barrels of salt butter, store of cheese, powdered beef, beasts and sheep’. 

The Earl of Manchester left a garrison at Tickhill, but in 1647, Parliament ordered that all northern castles, which had been Royalist strongholds, were to be demolished. The fortifications were pulled down in 1649, and Tickhill Castle was never again used for defensive purposes. 

Tickhill Castle House

After the Civil War, a three-storey hall was built within the Castle courtyard incorporating the medieval remains, including those of the chapel of St Nicholas and the Norman walls. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, it became a private residence, the south curtain wall was partly demolished to let more light into the courtyard and improve the view. This mansion, with its elegant gables, tall chimneys and mullioned windows in the west elevation of the north wing, must have appeared to be the epitome of luxury, in contrast to the austere fortification that had stood on the site for the last 550 years. Further alterations followed over the next 200 years, most notably a new façade, incorporating a two-storey bow window, with small Venetian window on the second floor, which was completed in the early to mid-18th century. Buttresses, to strengthen the walls to the eastern elevation, are thought to be 19th century. 

Following the Restoration, the House was, once again, acquired by the Crown and the Duchy of Lancaster. The heirs of Sir Ralph Hansby leased the property until the early 18th century, after which, it had several notable tenants including Earl Fitzwilliam and the Lumley family - the Earls of Scarbrough, who were responsible for many of the alterations and the landscaping of the grounds.  

During the first half of the 19th century, kinsmen of the Earls of Scarbrough continued to reside at Tickhill Castle House: Frederick Lumley Savile, was a younger son of the 4th Earl, he was followed by his son, Richard George Lumley, until he succeeded to the title as 9th Earl in 1856. During the latter half of the century, residents included Lady Frances Hill, and from the 1870s the Rev. John Adolphus Wright; following his death, his widow, Anne continued to live there until the early years of the 20th century. For a brief period, it was home to Archibald White, player and President of Tickhill Cricket Club, until he succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his Uncle in 1907. In the inter-war years, Henry George Atkinson-Clark, J.P., Chairman of Tickhill Urban District Council added his name to the long list of Crown tenants. The last residents of the 20th century were Gerald Gentry, a Doncaster Council music advisor and his wife, Muriel, who lived there until 1980. 

In the mid-1980s, extensive archaeological excavations took place, and the Duchy of Lancaster put the Castle on the market with a long lease, together with the expectation that the leaseholder would spend thousands of pounds on restoration. After several years, however, the Castle House still remained unoccupied; the entire site was opened to the public one day a year for three hours.

Today (2009), Tickhill Castle House is, once again, occupied by a private tenant of the Duchy of Lancaster; the foundations of the keep, the crumbling walls and the 12th century gatehouse are all that remain of the fortification that dominated Tickhill for over five centuries.


Beastall, Tom, Tickhill: portrait of an English country town. Waterdale Press. 1995.

Beastall, T.W. & Blagden, M.A., The siege of Tickhill Castle in Collections for the history of Tickhill; edited by P.M. Tillott. 1967

The Duchy of Lancaster [at]

Hey, David, Medieval South Yorkshire. Landmark Publishing. 2003.

Hey, David, The making of South Yorkshire. Moorland Publishing. 1979.

Hippsley-Cox, C.I. Tickhill castle: an historical summary and interim report on the investigations 1984-1986. Doncaster Community Programme Agency.

Hunter, Rev Joseph, South Yorkshire, Vol 1. 1828.

Magilton, John, The Doncaster District: an archaeological survey. Museum & Arts Service Publication. 1977.

Miller, Dr. Edward, The history and antiquities of Doncaster. 1804.

The site and importance of Tickhill Castle. Doncaster Community Programme Agency. 1985.

Tickhill Castle, Yorkshire. Doncaster Community Programme Agency. 1985.

(The photographs which relate to this topic are in the Gallery section of the website under "Buildings" - "Castle ")

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