The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


11 Feb 2018
  Scarborough Castle, Part 2 - From Civil War Fortress to Tourist Attraction

Ths is the second part about the history of Scarborough Castle. After James I (James IV in Scotland) ascended the throne in 1603, there was no longer any danger of an invasion from the north, therefore King James parcelled out a number of northern English castles to private owners. Scarborough was bought by a prominent local family, the Thompsons. Since it was no longer used as fortress, the defenses were no longer kept up.

Scarborough Castle, view from the barbican to the keep in the mist

But the castle must still have been in a decent shape, because it played a role again in the Civil War (1642-1651). At the time, a local gentleman named Sir Hugh Cholmley commanded the castle (1). He had been commissioned by the Parlamentarians to raise a regiment, but eventually switched sides and defended Scarborough Castle for King Charles I after he had visited the king in York.

Hugh Cholmley repaired the fortifications and had a garrison of 700 Royalist soldiers (2) who held the castle, as well as the town and the harbour. It was the only port not under dominion of the Royalists, which made them pretty angry, especially since King Charles had his base in nearby York – not to mention the interception of the Parlamentarian supply ships. Even stout Puritans didn't like to go hungry.

The curtain wall leading to the sally port

King Charles lost the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, a defeat that strengthened the position of the Parlamentarians. They began to roll up the Royalist strongholds in the north, and in February 1648, Sir John Meldrum laid siege to the town of Scarborough which surrendered after three weeks, thus cutting off the supply lines for the Royalists. Sir Hugh Cholmley retreated to the castle. It followed five months of one of the bloodiest sieges of the Civil War. Sir Meldrum put a whopper of a cannon nicknamed Cannon Royal (and that for a Parlamentarian weapon) onto the rock west of the castle. It was able to fire 65 pound (about 30 kg) balls. One of those partly destroyed the Norman keep.

Tthe curtain walls were damaged badly and several bloody engagements between soldiers of both sides took place. Meldrum was killed in one of these. Cholmley's garrison suffered from lack of provisions, especially food and - at the end - gunpowder as well. His men died in the fights or of scruvy, so that he finally surrendered in July 1654.

The keep which was partly destroyed during the Civil War

But this was not the end of Scarborough's role in the Civil War. The walls were repaired by the Parlamentarians who used the castle as fortress under the governor Matthew Boynton. He followed the example of Cholmley and declared for King Charles - already imprisoned at that point - in July 1648, after his soldiers went unpaid. Though how the king should have payed them is beyond me.

This time the siege lasted until December when Boynton surrendered. The castle was ordered to be slighted, but the opposition from the town prevented such a drastic measure. King Charles was beheaded on January 30th, 1649, but the war would last another two years. Upon restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Scarborough Castle was returned to the Crown

The bridge between barbican and castle

The castle served as prison in the following years. One of the most famous prisoners was George Fox (1624-1691), founder of the 'Religious Society of Friends', today known as Quakers. He and his followers said that God was everywhere and anyone could preach, so an established church was not neccesary. They also would not take up arms or swear oaths. Small wonder that Fox made enemies among the authorities and was imprisoned several times (the time in Scarborough lasted from April 1665 to September 1666; his quarter was - according to his letters - cold and wet). Cromwell met with Fox in person and they got along rather well, but the Parliament under Charles II forbade the Quaker meetings and had many of them arrested. Fox spent several years traveling in the colonies, especially America. At his death, his religious movement had been firmly established despite all adversary (3).

The 18th century Master Gunner's House

The castle declined in the years to follows. During the last Jacobite Rising of 1754/46 - one of the attempts to regain the British throne for the Catholic Stuarts - some repair was made to the walls by the Hanoverian government, including the addition of three gun batteries. Barracks were constructed inside the remains of King John's Chambers. These would be in use into the mid-19th century. The Master Gunner's House was built at that time as well; the remains of the keep were used as powder magazine. But the castle saw no action during the Rising.

The castle was garrisoned again during the Napoleonic Wars to prevent a French landing in England.

Another angle of the curtain walls

In December 1916, Scarborough was attacked by two German warships, Derfflinger and Von der Tann, that fired some 500 shells into town and castle. 17 civilians were killed and more than 80 wounded. The castle keep and the barracks were damaged; the latter so badly that they were dismantled. The bombardment shocked the British public.

The castle seen from the harbour (on a sunny afternoon the next day)

Scarborough had become a 'spa' town already in the second half of the 17th century. The castle came into focus as tourist attraction during the second half of the 19th century when it was no longer used for military purposes. At that time, the foundations of the King's Hall were excavated.

In 1920 the castle came into the guardianship of the Ministry of Works. As the damanged barracks were dismantled, the remains of King John's Chambers were discovered, as well as the remains of the Roman signal station further seaward on the plateau. English Heritage took over the care for the castle in 1984.

Scarborough Castle is said to be haunted by three ghosts, no less, among them a Roman soldier. But despite the fog and the suitably spooky atmosphere, I didn't meet any of those.

Scarborough Castle veiled by the incoming evening fog

Footnotes
1) I could not find out what happened to the Thompson family who had bought the castle in 1603.
2) They had been raised to support the Parlamentarians, but only few left after Cholmley changed sides, though they were allowed to do so.
3) This is a very simplified summary of Fox's life, of course, and I admit that I know little about the details of the Quaker religion.

Literature
John A.A. Goodall: Scarborough Castle; English Heritage Guidebook, 2010

 
Comments:
I can't believe I missed these posts on Scarborough Castle! Brings back happy holiday memories, even if poor Piers didn't hold out there for as long as he wanted. It is a remarkable castle in size and history. If Piers had had time, he would have been able to withstand a long siege.
 
Just saw you name checked my blog - thanks!
 
Anerje,

I leave the info about Piers Gaveston and Edward II to the specialists. :-)

Yes, considering the fact that the castle held out five months against considerably more modern siege equipment during the Civil War, Piers could have held Scarborough for a long time with enough provisions and a decent garrison.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History, interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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A Baltic Sea Cruise

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Mediaeval History

General Essays

by Country
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The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
The Hunting Frieze in Königslutter Cathedral
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Geneaology

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Kings and Emperors

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King Heinrich IV

Staufen against Welfen
Emperor Otto IV

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The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen

The Landgraves of Thuringia
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Local Feuds
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The Star Wars


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King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

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King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
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Local Troubles

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A Scottish Wedding

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Alexander of Argyll
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The Rise of House Aberffraw

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Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

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King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
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Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

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Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Contested Territories

Livonian Towns
The History of Mediaeval Riga
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Luxembourg

House Luxembourg
King Sigismund


Flanders

More to come


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Famous Romans

The Late Empire

Alaric
The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


History and Literature

Germany

The Weimar Classicism
Introduction


Geology

Geological Landscapes: Germany

Baltic Sea Coast
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

Harz Mountains
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

Geological Landscapes: Great Britain

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Geological Landscapes: Baltic Sea

Lithuania
Geology of the Curonian Spit

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite (Czechia)



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