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Harlsey Castle



The only remains of Harlsey Castle are three vaulted undercrofts and the remains of three sides of a moat. The castle sits at the northern end of a hill than sits between the western edge of the moors and Northallerton, stretching south as far as Sigston, and the site of a slightly older castle. While Sigston Castle sat at the base of the hill, Harlsey was built at the top of its steep western slope.

The masonry remains were later used as part of a farm building. The moat survives on the western, southern and eastern sides, with the modern road running along the probably northern side. The three vaulted undercrofts were probably the foundations of a typical northern tower house.

A certain level of confusion has to be noted in the names of the castle and settlement. The correct spelling is Harlsey (l before s), but the 1-25,000 OS map incorrectly spells the village as West Harsley (s before l) - a mistake not made on the 1-50,000 map or for East Harlsey.

According to Leland the castle was built by Sir James Strangeways, a judge who bought the manor in 1423. Sir James was succeeded by his son James, who served as High Sheriff of Yorkshire (1445-6, 1452 and 1468) and as Speaker of the House of Commons in 1461. He was in possession of the manor in 1469, but then gave it to his son Richard, who had possession at his early death in 1488. Although his father survived until 1516, the castle passed to Richard's son James.

It remained in the Strangeway's family for another two generations, but in 1541 Sir James Strangways the younger quitclaimed the manor to William Lord Dacre and Christopher Dacre. This apparently straightforward property sale eventually attracted the attention of the crown, which had a rather spurious claim to the land based on an alleged agreement between the first Sir James and Henry V. The Dacres managed to take possession of the estate for a short time, only to lose it to the crown during the reign of Elizabeth I.

This will have marked the point at which Harlsey Castle began to fall into decay, for it will have been of little interest to Queen Elizabeth. The Dacres were later able to regain ownership of the land, but by then the damage had been done.


Grid Reference: SE 415 980

On private ground at West Harsley.