Stories of Bolton Castle, Part 1: A Brief History and a Wars of the Roses connection

Bolton Castle across the Valley from West Witton
I hadn’t heard of Bolton Castle. It isn’t that much of a surprise, once you start learning about North Yorkshire and the shear number of castles that still mark the landscape today!

We were staying in West Witton, on the other side of the valley and I spotted Bolton Castle across the valley. Solid, imposing, and distant, we added it to the list.

A Brief History of Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle from the west
Bolton Castle was built in the late 14th century by Richard Scrope, the 1st Baron of Bolton. He was in the service of Richard II, and became Lord Chancellor in 1378. He resigned in 1380, which probably was a good thing seeing his successor was Simon Sudbury….

In 1378, he received permission from Richard II to build his castle, and it was complete by 1399.

The castle itself is built in a quadrangular design, and remains much intact today, despite the efforts of the Parliamentarians during the civil war. It is said that the castle at Sheriff Hutton looked very like Bolton before it fell to ruin in the 17th century, as it was built around the same time.

The Castle had four towers, one on each corner, which owning to the design of the castle

The Inner Courtyard
created an inner courtyard. There is a gatehouse on the eastern side, complete with portcullis. In fact, each door that opens onto the courtyard has its own portcullis, with many of them also retaining an infamous murder hole.


The living quarters were located on the first and second floor, and were large and spacious. The castle also included a chapel (now in ruins) and everything else you would expect in a functioning castle including stables.

The castle still remains in the possession of the Scrope family today.

Alongside Kings and Queens

Entry to the castle through the East Gatehouse
Bolton Castle has many a story to tell, and the consistent theme is that the owner of Bolton Castle’s story remained entwined with that of the monarch at the time.

Richard, the 1st Baron of Bolton passed the castle to his son Roger, and the castle passed through 2 of his descendants before John, 5th Baron of Bolton inherited it on the death of his father in 1459.

John was a Yorkist, and fought for Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. He was injured at the great battle of Towton when Edward IV won a decisive victory against the forces of Queen Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI.

Bolton Castle from the West
Edward must have been grateful to him, as he presented him with the garter that had belonged to his father, Richard, Duke of York when investing him into the Order of the Garter.

He continued to have a busy military career, joining Edward IV in his invasion of France in 1475, and had command under the Earl of Northumberland during Richard, Duke of Gloucester’s (later Richard III) invasion of Scotland in 1482.


He was a supporter of King Richard III, and they must have known each other well due to the intersecting of their lives. Also, Richard’s castle at Middleham is only about 8 miles away, and I like to think of them spending some good times together whilst Richard was based there, ruling the North on behalf of his brother.

Approaching Bolton Castle from the South
In 1485, John remained loyal to Richard and fought for him at the Battle of Bosworth. He was one of the few supporters of Richard to survive, and was pardoned by Henry VII. This was possibly due to a family connection, as Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort was the half sister to John’s wife.

Yet another reason to call the Wars of the Roses the cousin’s war!

John wasn’t to forget where his loyalties lay however. He supported the Yorkist pretender Lambert Simnel in 1487.

South West wing of the Castle
Lambert Simnel was the figure head of a Yorkist rebellion against Henry VII, put forward as the Earl of Warwick, the son of George of Clarence who had a strong claim to Henry’s throne.

John went on to die in 1498, which I find remarkable in those times. After the rebellion of Lambert Simnel failed, he was made to pay a fine and stay within the London area.

Although he didn’t return to Yorkshire during his life, he was laid to rest at Easeby Abbey, North Yorkshire.

I like John Scrope 🙂

Next post: Bolton Castle and Mary, Queen of Scots



Wikipedia – Bolton Castle
Wikipedia – Richard, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton
Britain Express – Bolton Castle
Wikipedia – John, 5th Baron Scrope of Bolton
Wikipedia – Lambert Simnel – John Scrope
Luminarium – John Scrope



3 thoughts on “Stories of Bolton Castle, Part 1: A Brief History and a Wars of the Roses connection

  1. I’ve been to Bolton! Mary Queen of Scots was held here briefly after she abdicated and crossed the border into England. We had a lovely lunch there in the Great Hall. Very medieval.

    1. Sounds fabulous! Not the Mary Q of Scots imprisonment part 😉 (would have been very bleak!)I went in winter and it was closed – hoping to see it open one day 🙂

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