Middleham Castle

Royal Residence
Building Activity


During his time spent in the north, both as duke of Gloucester and as king, Richard gained and embellished many residences, including Sandal, Scarborough and Sheriff Hutton. One of the most well-known of these residences is Middleham Castle.

When Richard spent time in the household of the earl of Warwick between 1465 and 1468/9, it is likely that he would have spent some of this time at Middleham Castle, which was owned by Warwick at the time. However, it is important to remember that he would have moved around frequently and stayed at Warwick’s other residences, such as Penrith in Cumberland and Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire. Richard made Middleham Castle his primary residence in the late 1470s, and his son, Edward of Middleham was born there and had his household established there in 1476. Richard showed his favour for the town by establishing an annual fair there. Edward’s earliest years were spent entirely at Middleham and Isabel Burgh was employed to nurse him and Anne Idley was appointed as ‘Mistress of the Nursery’. Edward died in April 1484 and Richard and Anne came to his possible site of burial, York Minster, before moving on to visit Middleham and the rest of the north.

Middleham was a lordship of 25 properties including manors, parks and forests across Richmondshire. It yielded £936 13s 6d, of which fees and wages to senior servants, foresters, auditors and other officials took up £75 14s and 2d and annuities to 22 local worthies who were retained for life took up £175 6s and 8d. Sir John Conyers was retained for £20 along with extra for his stewardship and service as constable of the castle, and brought his son Richard, brothers Richard and Roger, brother-in-law William Burgh, sons-in-law Thomas Markenfield, Roland Pudsay and Robert Wycliffe and his wife’s half-brother, Thomas Tunstall, with him into Richard’s service. Tunstall, who received the largest retainer (£33 6s 8d), had supported Henry VI’s restoration with his brother Richard Tunstall of Thurland Castle, Lancashire, as had Robert Clifford’s father Thomas, who died fighting for Henry at the first battle of St Albans. Richard retained Thomas and Robert as he needed their support as much as he needed their patronage.

Richard planned to found three colleges in the north, at York Minster, Barnard Castle and Middleham. On 21st February, 1478, Richard obtained a royal licence for the colleges he wished to establish at Barnard Castle and Middleham, but only the Middleham establishment came into being. Middleham College was founded in 1478, through the conversion of the old church of Middleham. Middleham College consisted of a dean, six chaplains, five clerks and six choristers whose main responsibility was to pray for the king and queen, Richard’s parents, brothers and sisters, and Richard’s wife and son. Richard was very interested in the project and was probably responsible for dictating the statutes governing its constitution and organisation. The college always struggled financially, which in part could be due to Richard developing a plan to establish a greater foundation of 100 priests in York Minster after his coronation, as his attention moved away.


Grant of Middleham to Richard, 29th June 1471

"Grant to Richard of Gloucester and heirs male of the castles, manors and lordships of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, co. York, and Penrith, co. Cumberland."

CPR, 1467-77, p. 260.

Licence to found a college at Barnard Castle, 21st February 1478

"Licence for Richard of Gloucester to found a college at Barnard Castle, within the castle there, of a dean and twelve chaplains, ten clerks and six choristers and one clerk, to pray for Edward IV and Elizabeth, Richard of Gloucester and Anne his wife, and heirs, and the souls of the king’s father Richard late duke of York, and the king’s brothers and sisters, to be called the college of the said duke at Barnard Castle."

CPR, 1476-85, p. 67.

Licence to found a college at Middleham, 21st February 1478

"Licence for Richard of Gloucester to found a college at Middleham...to be called the college of the said duke at Middleham."

CPR, 1476-85, p. 67.

Grant of land to the college of Middleham

"The kinges colleige of Middelham: Manor of Wygenhale (lat) and of Fersfeld in valorem per annum "

R. Horrox and P. W. Hammond (eds.), British Library Harleian Manuscript 433 Volume II (Upminster, 1979-82), p. 137.

Prince Edward born at Middleham Castle

"'The noble and myghty prynce Edward prynce of Walys duke also of cornewale and Eorle of Chestyr Son & eyre to the most hye & excelent prynce kynge Rychard the thryd and hys moost noble lady and wyfe Quene Anne enherytour to bothe Royall possesions he was borne yn the castell of mydlam in the north cuntre' "

From the English 'Rous Roll', British Library Additional MS 48976, printed in W. Pickering (ed.), Thys rol was laburd and finishid by Master John Rows of Warrewyk (London, 1845)