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FOSS,1 near Whitby. (Fig. 3.)
History. All historical inferences would tend to show that this castle was founded c. 1071-3, as the caput of his extensive Cleveland estates, by Nigel Fossard, one of the two great feudatories of Robert, Earl of Mortain and Cornwall. Nigel held under the Earl the following property in Yorkshire, viz.:
Nigel was a great castle builder, and would appear, in addition to Foss, to have erected the huge fortress of Mountferrant, near Birdsall (East Riding) his chief seat-Langthwaite, near Doncaster, and Lockington and Aughton, two East Riding castles. In its original form Foss Castle probably bore a large timber tower or keep on the summit of the motte,
1 The writer names this earthwork after the neighbouring mill, as it is some little distance from the village of Lythe, in which parish it is situated. Lythe may have been a place of some importance in Anglo-Saxon times, and some hogbacks have been found in rebuilding the church there; these are enumerated in the interesting article on Anglo-Saxon sculptured stone by Mr. W. G. Collingwood, F.S.A., in the V.C.H. of Yorks., vol. ii, pp. 125-6. Lythe is thus described in the Survey:-" In Lid 2 carucates for geld, and I plough can plough (them). Swen had 1 manor there. Now the Count of Mortain has (it), and Nigel (Fossard) of him. 6 villeins (are) there with 1 plough and 6 acres of meadow. Pasturable woodland 1 league in length and 2 furlongs in breadth. The whole manor (is) I leagues in length and half a league in breadth. T.R.E. it was worth 20s.; now 5s. 6d."
The great castle of Mountferrant, near Birdsall (East Riding), stood on a long narrow promontory among the Wolds. It was, undoubtedly, one of the largest and strongest of the Yorkshire earth-and-timber castles. Unfortunately it is, and apparently has been for some considerable time, under the plough, and the ditches dividing the various wards are almost obliterated.
3 Langthwaite was probably the first castle erected by Nigel. The motte is, unfortunately, very much mutilated;
The motte and bailey castle of Lockington, which was always a favourite residence of the Fossards and of their successors, the Mauleys, is still in very fair preservation. The motte is only 14 feet high, and that it was never much higher is shown by the fact that it still retains a portion of its banquette. The bailey was walled round either by Robert de Turnham or by his successor, Peter de Mauley I.
5 The motte and bailey castle of Aughton-which subsequently became the stronghold of the Askes, feudatories of the Fossards and Mauleys-stands well above the river Derwent, and occupies a site of considerable strategic importance. The motte is placed on a square platform, which is itself encircled by a square ditch-a somewhat unusual arrangement. The bailey, which is completely isolated from the motte, is guarded by a ditch, 40 feet wide and 6 feet deep.
containing great hall and private apartments; but when William Fossard II, the last of the Fossard barons, made Foss his principal residence, a new hall, etc., would probably be constructed at the south end of the bailey overlooking the precipice and the Sandsend Beck. Considering the importance of the Fossard family, it is somewhat extraordinary that we appear to know so little about them. Of Nigel's ancestry it would appear impossible to ascertain anything definite; the surname, which is not a territorial one, seems to throw no light on the subject. Shortly before his death Nigel, who appears to have been a grasping and unscrupulous man, made an extensive grant of lands to the abbey of St. Mary at York. He left at least 3 sons, Robert (afterwards second feudal baron), Walter, and Stephen.2 Robert married a certain Atscelina, and had issue four sons, William, Robert, Nigel and Ralph, and two daughters, Gertrude and Agnes.3 Previous to 21 Henry I (1120) he gave the churches of Bramham, Warrum, and Lythe, with twentyeight bovates of land, to the priory of St. Oswald at Nostel.4 William Fossard, the third feudal baron, would appear to have succeeded his father c. 1135,5 and was one of the principal commanders at the battle of the Standard. William Fossard II, the fourth feudal baron, may have been the grandson rather than the son of William I, and the custody of his person and estates was given by Henry II, in 1165, to William le Gros, Earl of Albemarle." He died c. 1195, leaving by his wife,
1 Dugdale's Mon. Angl., iii, 551b; Cal. Chart. Rot., 1300-1326, p. 115. In this lavish gift his wife's name, uxoris meae," is not given, so that we get no clue as to who she was. It is witnessed by his sons, Robert and Walter. The gift is not included in the confirmation to St. Mary's, issued by Rufus in 1089, showing that it was made subsequent to that date. Nigel died c. 1091. In 1088, owing to the rebellion of the Earl of Mortain, he would appear to have become a tenant-in-capite, and was one of the most powerful and energetic of the Yorkshire barons.
2 In Henry II (1154-5) a Nigellus de Doncaster paid into the Exchequer 20 marcs of silver, the fine of his sons for the death of a man (Pipe Roll, I Henry II).
3 Gertrude married Robert de Meynell, and was the mother of his son and heir, Stephen de Meynell, of Whorlton (Whitby Chart., ii, 374). On the death of her first husband, she married Jordan Paynell, who, for the good of her soul, gave a carucate of land in Bridlington to the priory there, with the consent
of his step-son, Stephen de Meynell (Dugdale's Mon. Angl., vi, 286). Robert de Meynell, Gertrude's first husband, was the founder of Whorlton Castle, and gave Miton to St. Mary's, York, during the abbacy of Stephen (ibid., iii, 558). Agnes, the other daughter of Robert Fossard, married Alexander Paganel.
He also founded a chapel at his manor-house of Rossington, near Doncaster; gave, in 1124, a carucate of land in Roucebi to Whitby (Mem. of Foundation, Cart. Abb. de Whiteby), and gave the church of Huntington to Evesham (ibid., No. 175).
In 1135 he confirmed the grants to Whitby of his father. Robert, and of his vassal, Durand, of land at Rousby (Cart. Abb. de Whiteby, No. 69), and his father's gift of Huntington to Evesham (ibid., No. 79), etc.
He came of age in 17 Henry II (1170-1) (Pipe Roll, p. 73). The fine on succession was paid off by 23 Henry II (Pipe Roll, p. 70). The Meaux chronicler says that he seduced a sister of the Earl, and afraid of that noble's vengeance,
Beatrice, who survived him,1 two daughters, Joan and Idonia, the former eventually becoming his sole heiress. Joan was given in marriage by Richard I to his favourite and armour-bearer, Robert de Turnham, Junr. She is principally noted as the founder of the little priory of Grosmont, near Whitby. Robert de Turnham was the elder of the two sons of Robert de Turnham, of Thurnham Castle, Kent. Realising that, owing to the proximity of higher ground immediately north of Foss Castle and to the rapid advances then being made in siege artillery, the fortress was not capable of withstanding a determined attack, Turnham abandoned it c. 1197, and commenced the erection of a rectangular keep castle on the broadest part of a long narrow ridge some half-mile east of the old castle. Although inhabited for some 125 years, Foss never developed any works in masɔnry.
Description. The earthworks which mark the site of this old stronghold of the Fossards stand on the northern bank of the Sandsend or Barnby Beck, about 4 miles east-north-east of Whitby, and about 2 miles from the coast. It is, undoubtedly, one of the most beautifully situated of our North Riding castles. The Sandsend Beck rises on the dreary moorlands of Newton Mulgrave, and flowing in an easterly direction, at one point in the course of its career dashes through a narrow dingle or ravine, where picturesque rocks jut out like gargoyles, where ledges create beautiful water-falls, and where the beck fights its way seawards, 'mid moss-grown rocks and hanging precipices overhung by ancient trees. On the left-hand side of this ravine, at the edge of a wood, are the tree-grown earthworks of Foss Castle.
The motte, which is only about 13 feet in height, is circular, and measures some 120 feet in diameter on its summit, which is exactly 100 feet above the beck, which washes its southern base. It has, owing to mutilation about the beginning of the
fled abroad, and did not return until after the Earl's death in 1179. As Fossard would, when the event is said to have occurred, be only some 16 years of age, and the Earl's sister must have been about 40-her father died before 1130 the story is probably incorrect. Chroniclers were not above introducing a little fiction into their narratives to relieve the monotony. The castle of Mountferrant, which the chronicler says was destroyed by Henry II as a mark of his displeasure at this escapade, had, almost certainly, been destroyed some ten years previously.
1 Pedes Finium Ebor., vol. xciv, p. 1. 2 The foundation charter will be found in Dugdale, iii, p. 15. No remains of the priory now exist, but the Suppres sion papers show that the church was 60 feet in length by 24 feet in width, and contained 3 altars and 16 stalls. To the south of the church were the miniature cloisters, 36 feet square, with the various buildings ranged round them.
3 Arms-Gules, a lion passant in fess or between two mascles in pale argent. The Fossards bore the wellknown arms, "Or, a bend sable."
last century, lost its banquette, which may, when complete, have increased the height of the motte ramparts to some 22 feet above the bottom of the ditch. It is surrounded by a ditch except for a distance of some 80 feet on the south, where the sides of the motte rest on the edge of a precipice dropping sheer some 80 feet towards the beck beneath. This ditch is continued on the side (south-east) next the bailey, and is carried right round the motte, widening on the north, where the counterscarp is enlarged into a long platform, which doubtless bore additional defences for the protection of this, the weakest part of the fortress.
The bailey is small compared with the motte, but its exact dimensions are difficult to ascertain, owing to the fact that the precipice and steep slopes by which it is protected on the south-west and south, and to some extent on the south-southeast, rendered a ditch unnecessary, the stockading being placed on the very verge of these formidable natural defences.2 It probably measured some 180 or 190 feet each way, and approximates to a horse-shoe in shape. From the base of the motte the ground on which the bailey was placed drops towards the beck, so that the enclosure was completely dominated by the defences on the summit of the motte. On the west the bailey was defended by a deep broad ditch, now much silted up in places, with scarp and counterscarp banks, which ditch, on the north-west, joins the main ditch running round the motte.3
At the time of the Survey, Robert, Earl of Mortain and of Cornwall, the greatest of the Cleveland tenants-in-capite, was the principal landowner in Guisborough, holding in that vill and in Middleton and Hutton Lowcross twenty-five carucates of land, and having in his demesne one plough, and ten villanes
1 Dr. Young gives us some clue to this mutilation. He describes (p. 687) the motte "round camp," "strength or circular fort," near Foss Mill, about half a mile north-west from old Mulgrave Castle," and states that it is a large mound of earth, about 120 feet diameter at top, 30 feet high on east side, and near 40 on the west, where the ground is lower "; that the top was crowned with a low parapet of earth, the descent on every side being very steep." He adds in a note, top was dug into some years ago to examine the materials, its original form
is therefore a little altered." He gives us no results of this unscientific examination. Probably the mutilation was caused (see Pickhill) by some tradition as to hidden treasure.
2 In this Foss somewhat resembles the well-known earthworks of the Busli Castle at Bailey Hill, Bradfield (West Riding).
3 The bailey ditch is not shown on the 25 in. ordnance map. D.B., fo. 300a, col. 1; 320b, col. 1; 332b, col. 2; col. I.
305a, col. 1 ; Recap., 380b,
with four ploughs. There was a church, priest, and mill.1 The Earl subinfeuded the greater portion of his Yorkshire estates to his two great feudatories, Richard de Surdeval, of Skelton Castle, and Nigel Fossard, who, as we have just seen, had a fortress near Whitby. But Guisborough was one of the manors he retained in his own hands; he was one of the greatest of our Norman castle builders, and it is by no means improbable that he founded a stronghold at this place soon after the Conquest. If so, the only three castles existing in Cleveland at the time of the Survey were in his hands or in those of his feudatories. If a castle ever existed at Guisborough, certainly not the faintest trace of the earthworks which usually mark the site of a Norman stronghold are now to be found,
indeed appear to have been visible for many centuries.3 If, on the very scanty evidence we possess, we come to the conclusion that the Earl did construct a fortress here, it would probably be destroyed when he rebelled in 1088, and when Rufus confiscated his Yorkshire property.
HELMSLEY. (Fig. 2.)
History. The rectangular and concentric earthworks on which, c. 1200, Robert de Roos, or "Fursan," erected a stone castle, are certainly not of the type usually associated with a Norman stronghold, and the theory that they form part of a pre-Conquest fortification, possibly of Roman date, has been advanced by more than one authority.
The erection of Helmsley Castle is always assigned to Robert de Roos, probably on the authority of Dugdale and Camden5; but this would only appear to be one of several instances known to the writer where the honour of actually founding a certain castle is given, by monastic chroniclers, to the man who first substituted masonry for timbering.