Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle offers layers of history for the public to explore. The seat of the mighty de Percy empire, the castle reflects the turns and tides of British history. Yet the remains of this once grand fortified manor still stand, allowing visitors a rare glimpse into the past.

Visiting Spofforth Castle


Free parking is available on the roadside in the village.




April to September: 10 am to 6 pm

October to March: 10 am to 4 pm

Location & Access

Castle Street, Spofforth, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 1DA

The castle is off Castle Street, the main road through Spofforth, off the A661.

Know Before You Go

  • Byland Abbey and Helmsley Castle also hold ties to Spofforth Castle and the famous Magna Carta drawing. Both are roughly 45 minutes from the castle and make up a great addition to the Spofforth Castle visit.
  • Another point of interest is Clifford’s Tower, located half an hour from Spofforth in York City Centre. 
  • Dogs on leads are welcome.
  • There are pubs and a convenience store in Spofforth.

History of Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle has a mysterious beauty and is a structure of great historical and cultural significance. It currently stands under the English Heritage guardianship as a tourist attraction and is under state care and is a Grade II* Listed Building. But this wasn’t always the case. Let’s explore this castle’s great and varied history.

Time Line

-1067 AD 

William I grants the manor to William de Percy, a trusted companion. The site was originally an Anglo-Saxon manor house called Spawford, named for its proximity to the River Spaw. The house itself perched on a rocky outcrop, and the de Percy family used the site to administer their extensive estates.

-13th Century

The de Percy’s upgraded the structure to a double-storey stone hall. At this time, the de Percys were one of the Baronial families opposing King John, and some historians believe that this castle hosted the creation of the Magna Carter. 


At this time, the de Percys are one of the Baronial families opposing King John. Many historians believe that the rebels met and drew up the Magna Carter at this site before its sealing at Runnymede.


When royal relations improved with Henry III, Johns’s successor, the King granted royal permission for markets to be held at Spofforth Castle each Friday. 


Edward II granted William de Percy license to crenellate (fortify) the manor at Spofforth. The de Percy’s substantially rebuilt the site with a large extension created in the north and a stair turret, new chambers, and a parapet. 


Scottish forces defeat the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, where Henry de Percy is captured and ransomed by the Scottish troops. He dies soon after his return, and the castle remains in the de Percy family with minor upgrades or maintenance.


Henry Baron de Percy dies at the hand of Royal forces after a rebellion against Henry VI. King Henry confers the confiscated estates on loyal supporter Thomas Rokeby.  


The unlucky de Percy family then supports the Lancastrian cause during the War of the Roses, and Henry de Percy loses his life at the Yorkists victory at the Battle of Towton. Spofforth castle is burned, sacked, and confiscated along with all the Percy-owned estates.


Henry Tudor restored the castle and land to the de Percys after the Battle of Bosworth Field. The castle, however, remained in ruins until 1559.

-16th Century

Although the de Percy’s partially restored the castle, it will never regain its former glory and is finally abandoned in the seventeenth century.


Parliamentary troops garrison the Spofforth castle during the English Civil War and severely damage the site. From then on, the castle sinks into obscurity and ruin.


Charles Henry, Baron Leconfield transfers ownership of the site to the state as a gift.

Spofforth Castle Occupants


Spofforth Castle was built in 1067 by William de Percy. This fortified manor house belonged to his family for centuries until it was given to the state in the early 1900s. With a rich history of ruin and restoration, you can see below the occupants of the castle over the years. Today, you can visit the once noble site in North Yorkshire for free during the day. 


  • 1067: William de Percy, a favourite of William the Conqueror, occupied the then manor house on the castle site.
  • 1125 Richard de Percy met with insurgent Barons to allegedly draw up the Magna Carta at the castle.
  • 1308: William de Percy began to fortify the Spofforth Castle.
  • 1403: Harry Hotspur was born at Spofforth and later lost his life at the Battle of Shrewsbury.
  • 1408: Henry VI granted Spofforth Castle to Sir Thomas Rokeby, Sheriff of Yorkshire.
  • 1559: Henry de Percy regioned ownership of the Spofforth Castle.
  • 1600: Sampson Ingleby, the family steward, was the last recorded occupant of Spofforth Castle.

 Images of Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle Spofforth Castle
Spofforth Castle Spofforth Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Spofforth Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Is Spofforth Castle?

Spofforth Castle is not a castle in the true sense due to its primary function as a manor house and is typically described as a fortified manor house. 

Is Spofforth Castle Haunted?

The site is not open to the public after 4pm, and interestingly, there have been paranormal incidents recorded at this iconic site. Richard Jones mentions a ‘half-ghost in his book “Richard Jones Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland." In fact, the Harrogate Advertiser lists this castle as one of the top haunted spots in Harrogate

How Old Is Spofforth Castle?

Evidence suggests that the Spofforth castle is much older than suspected from artefacts recovered from the site. Archaeologists recovered part of an Anglo Saxon cross shaft as well as evidence of burial mounds dating back to at least 660AD.

Site of Spofforth Castle

Before Spofforth Castle existed, the original site held an 11th century fortified manor house. There was also once a large stone house built by The de Percy family, of which only the undercroft still exists today. In the early 13th century, Edward II permitted Henry de Percy to crenellate his manor, where he began his large quadrangular castle.

With the tide of fortune and circumstance, only the west range is still standing, with two stories including a hall and a stairway. The first-floor hall was restored in the 15th century and leads to a platform in the east, which holds the now buried traces of the original ranges. 

The manor house would have had its primary function as a residence. It would have taken the form of a hall surrounded by a wooden balustrade and several outbuildings forming a courtyard. Historians believe that only one side of the original four-square enclosure remains of this four-square manor

Layout of Spofforth Castle

The Spofforth Castle makes use of a rocky natural outcrop on which they used to build part of the castle. The west side of the structure was initially located near two streams, but this aspect has changed due to the now disused railway line. The original castle would have consisted of several buildings grouped around a courtyard, but all that remains today is the western range. 

The original range would have contained the central castle apartments with a hall at the south end and the north end’s private chambers. The oldest remains of the castle is the undercroft below the hall dating from the first half of the 13th century. Above the undercroft, the de Percy’s built their private rooms and the great hall in the 14th and 15th centuries after the crenellate licensing.

The west range plan forms a parallelogram with a northeast extension, a stair turret and a spire in the northwest. The back of the building sits against the rock outcrop with a rear entrance leading up to the upper floor.

The undercroft holds three rooms and later was divided into four. The kitchen is located in the northwest corner room with two large fireplaces. The remains from one side of a rectangle stretching east and aerial evidence of crop marks suggest the foundations’ lines as they once were. The Norman foundation underlies the later medieval buildings. 

Location of Spofforth Castle