Situated on the southern slope of Yoredale (Wensleydale) lies the formidable remains of Middleham Castle.
In 1069, Alan the Red, one of William the Conqueror's chief supporters was granted the land by Gilpatric. The first site, called William's Hill, sits 250 yards behind the current location of the castle. The entry of Middleham in the Domesday Book refers to the castle as "Medelai", a French corruption of the name meaning the center of a group of hamlets. In or around 1083, Ribald, Alan's brother was granted the castle. After the death of his wife Beatrix, Ribald granted the property to his son, Ralph. Ralph's son, Robert Fitzranulph began building the castle keep in or around 1170-80.
In 1270, Robert de Nevill received Middleham through his wife, Mary, daughter and heiress of Ralph Fitzranulph. Their son, Robert Neville, was killed in a border struggle and his brother, Ralph, inherited Middleham. After his death in 1367, his son John inherited Middleham. John's son Ralph, inherited Middleham after his death in 1388.
After Ralph's death, the lands of Raby and Middleham were divided to his two sons. Richard, Earl of Salisbury inherited Middleham in 1440 after the death of his mother, Joan Beaufort. Richard Neville, known as the "Kingmaker" inherited Middleham. After the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471, Richard, Duke of Gloucester received the lordship of Middleham along with many other properties.
After his marriage to the Lady Anne Neville in 1472, the couple returned to Middleham and established their household. In 1473, Anne gave birth to a son, Edward. Richard spent the next twelve years of his life governing the north for his brother. He encouraged trade in Middleham and secured a license from Edward IV so the village could hold two fairs a year. He earned a reputation for fairness and incorruptibility. He listened to the common manís grievances and performed many acts of kindness. One of his greatest achievements was the Scottish Border campaign where he led his retainers into Scotland on behalf of Edward IV.
After his death, Henry VII seized Middleham where it remained under the crown until 1604. Under James I, Middleham was given to Sir Henry Linley. In 1613, it passed hands to Edward, Viscount Loftus. In 1662, it was sold to Edward Wood. Samuel Cuniffe-Lister, the first Lord Masham made some repairs but in 1906, the second Lord Masham sought to repair and employed Walter Brierley of York. In 1925, the castle was placed in the Office of Works until today, where it is under the care of English Heritage.
In 1994, The Richard III Foundation, Inc., donated a replica of King Richard III's banner to the castle where it is showcased on important events in the castle. In 1997, the Foundation donated a chalice to the church that is used on the important Ricardian dates for King Richard III, his queen, Anne Neville and their son, Edward, Prince of Wales. In prior years, the Middleham Restoration Endowment, Inc., a division of the Foundation, raised funds for the fabric of the castle that was used to repair the lintels on the north wall and other preservation work done on the south wall.
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