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why visit conisbrough castle

Why Visit Conisbrough Castle?

There is something almost mystical when it comes to visiting historical landmarks such as castles.

Spread across the UK, they are stamps of the British history and have survived many years and, luckily, many have the protection in place to survive many more years to come, preserving this step back into medieval times for our children and grandchildren.

Conisbrough lies in South Yorkshire, standing proud above the River Don, rising from a limestone and clay hill and is a prime example of a well preserved and protected part of history.

Parts of the floor and roof have been restored recently to provide visitors protection from the elements and to re-ignite the real feel of the 12th century building as well as a brand new visitor centre, making this one impressive landmark which is worth a visit from anywhere in the UK.

This is another English Heritage site, one of many of across the country – which you need to visit and explore.

A Brief History of Conisbrough Castle

Conisbrough Castle is believed to have originally begun as a motte and bailey design around 1070 by William de Warenne who was the son-in-law of William the Conqueror and the acting first Earl of Surrey.

What we see that stands there today was built by the man that Warenne’s great-granddaughter, Isabel, married.

Known as Hamelin Plantagenet, he was the half-brother of Henry II, and both Isabel and Hamelin visited Conisbrough on a regular basis.

Hamelin built the stone keep which, based on its style, has been dated to the 1170’s or 1180’s and later in 1189, they created a chaplain at the castle.

It was noted that the work done by Hamelin was of unusual and advanced design for the time, and the stone he used was of high quality, which is maybe why the castle stands proudly still till this day.

Over the years, the castle fell into the hands of many royal officials including Thomas, the Earl of Lancaster and Richard of Conisbrough and his wife, who later remained in the castle till her death as his widow.

Between 1446-1538, the use of the castle had ceased and had become almost ruinous, which in fact worked in its favour, as it meant it avoided damage during the English Civil War.


Like the majority of English Heritage sites, if you are a member you can access for free.

Member – Join nowFreeFree
Child (5-17 years)£3.50£3.90
Family (2 adults, up to 3 children)£15.30£16.90
Overseas Visitor Pass
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Famous in Fiction

Conisbrough Castle has achieved world wide fame thanks to a beautiful novel written by Sir Walter Scott, titled Ivanhoe.

Sir Walter Scott wrote many novels, yet Ivanhoe was easily the most popular one written.

It has been made into plays, dramas and movies with some of the most famous actors and actresses starting out their career featuring in Ivanhoe- the TV series even featured Roger Moore, and to a certain degree, it was this that launched is acting career.

Written in approximately 1820, Sir Walter Scott used Conisbrough as the main setting for this novel.

He believed it was Anglo Saxon and throughout the book he gives great detail of the layout and set up of the castle, which presented the castle so beautiful and dramatic as it once stood; the perfect setting for a love story set in 1194 in Saxon England.

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The Keep

The keep is by far the most interesting part of the stronghold and is a must see for all visitors.

The circular keep reaches a staggering 100 feet high and is supported by six buttresses which give it a star shaped cross section.

The entrance to the keep is on the first floor accessed via a modern staircase.

As mentioned earlier, the unique design was innovative to the time and marks an important period in the evolution of castle design, a move that evolved in response to possible new methods of attack including undermining.

The six large buttresses keeping its strength are solid apart from one that holds the chapel and the staircases are built into the main masonry of the tower.

It is because of this, that it is one of the finest keeps in England.

The Curtain Wall and Inner Bailey Buildings

The curtain wall was not as well constructed as the keep and consists of cornerstones or quoins at the angles.

When looking at the castle with a compass, the east, south and west have five small semi-circular mural towers which, although are believed to be contemporary with the wall, they are not well bonded to it.  Upon closer inspection of the wall, it is apparent that the south-west tower may have begun leaning outwards at an early date.  To the north, the curtain wall has no towers as it is here the building has natural defence from the slope of the hill.

The curtain wall was once lined with buildings from every direction apart from the east, yet only remains of these walls survive.  These walls would have created rooms such as halls, service rooms, kitchens and residential chambers, made up of two floors in some areas, the ground floors would have been used for storage or service individuals.

Something Here for Everyone

Thanks to the recent renovations beginning in 1992 and lasting till the castles re-opening in 1995, it now has a great visitor centre and interesting audio-visual displays.  Most parts of the castle can be accessed by visitors including the keep, private chambers and the impressive steep, curving staircases.  Not only can visitors experience the unique and innovative construction styles, there is also the chance to gain an insight into some of the times most interesting characters including Lord Hamelin and Lady Isabel de Warenne.  Animated characters are projected on to the castle walls as you explore the grounds, allowing visitors a special insight into the lives they lived many hundreds of years ago.

The castle is one of Yorkshires most popular tourist attractions and it is easy to see why.    The step back in time can be enjoyed by the whole family, old and young, and the outer grounds including the defences, ditches and banks provide the perfect areas to enjoy picnics and play games. The visitor centre welcomes all to discover more about the history by viewing object displays, digital models and illustrated panels helping bring the castles exciting history back to life.


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