Description of Middleham Castle
Middleham Castle as it stands today is the product of multiple phases of building between the 12th and the 15th centuries. The 12th-century keep, one of the largest in the country, dominates the rectangular inner bailey. The surrounding ranges transformed the castle into a palatial residence.
The great tower or keep is the most imposing building in the castle. It stands at about 49 feet (15 metres) high, 78 feet (24 metres) wide and 105 feet (32 metres) deep, making it one of the largest keeps in the country. The keep was probably built in the late 12th century by a descendant of Alan Rufus.
The entrance to the keep was at first-floor level via a stone stairway. Halfway up the stairway on the right is a wide recess, which would have housed a small guardroom controlling access to the keep. A drawbar socket on either side of the recess and traces of masonry survive of two sets of doors across the stairs.
On the east side of the keep is the three-storey chapel tower, added in the first half of the 13th century. The chapel was on the second floor, supported with stone vaulting. Remains of the priest’s piscina (basin for water used during Mass) can be seen at the east edge of the south wall. The first floor was occupied by the clergy, while the ground floor was used for storage. The chapel could also be entered from the keep ante-chamber.
The original gatehouse lay on the castle’s east side, through an outer court or bailey that is now built over. The footings of this gatehouse survive.
A new main entrance was created in about 1400 by inserting a passage through the curtain wall’s north-east tower. This gatehouse was heightened in about 1440 to create a third floor – turrets were built up from the north-east tower to rise high above the battlements.