After an Iron age settlement, it is believed a Roman 4th century signal station stood on
this 300 ft high rocky headland that scannedthe north and south bays of this North Sea coastline.
About the year 966 a Norse Saga claims two Viking brothers, Kormak the poet and Thorgil of the hare-lip nicknamed Skardi, made their base here, building a fort on the headland
which became known as, ‘Skarthi’s burh’.
It is also believed the Norwegian King Hardrada and his forces first landed here in 1066 and burnt the village and church to the ground before heading south to battle against the northern Earls, finally to be defeated and killed by King Harold and his English forces at Stamford Bridge.
William le Gros, Earl of Aumâle, began building his castle here in about 1136. William played a significant role in the defeat of David I, King the Scots, at the Battle of the Standard in 1138.
William continued building this castle by strengthening the western cliffs with a wall and gate tower to command the approaches. As to whether he had started building the foundations of the present keep it is impossible to know. When Henry II became King in 1157, he began by reducing the power of the barons. William le Gros happened to be one of those and was forced to surrender it to the Crown.
Scarborough castle at this time was described as, “decayed tower”. When King Henry took personal charge he spent £650 on the new ‘Great Tower’ in order to made his royal presence felt in the north of England.
When John came to the throne, he visited the castle many times and spent over £2,000 on building curtain walls, half-backed towers and a general residential complex. Money continued to be spent on the castle for its maintenance due to its exposure to extreme weather conditions.
During King Henry III’s reign, Scarborough became a thriving port. Henry, mindful of its security,
spent considerable amounts of money on the castle and its garrison.
In April 1312 King Edward II made his favourite knight, Piers Gaveston, governor of the castle but the castle was takenby barons opposed to the King. Piers was killed shorty after.
In 1484 King Richard III stayed here, possibly to form a fleet to fight the Tudors.
During the Civil War, Sir Hugh Cholmley held the castle and the valuable port for the Parliamentarians until he and his 700 strong garrison changed sides in March 1643. Cholmley re-fortified the castle including, setting up the South Steel Battery for artillery. I8th February 1645 Sir John Meldrum and his Parliamentary troops took the town and laid a siege to the castle which was to last five months. In order to blast the castle and its defences, they set up the largest cannon in the country, the Cannon Royal, and proceeded to fire 56 to 65 pound (25 - 29 kg) cannon balls at it. Eventually the castle garrison surrendered, due to continued bombardment, scurvy, lack of water and probably the lack of gun powder. Out of 700 garrison of fighting men, only 25 men were fit enough to fight, about 250 were badly injured, the rest were dead.
It is now in the safe care of English Heritage and is open to the public.
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