The castle is thought to have been built during William the Conqueror’s vengeful ‘harrying of the north’, between 1069 to 1070. It was his campaign mass murder of terrorising the north of England by mass murder in reply to the English Earls rising up against his rule, to which they thought he
had no legal claim other than by conquest.
Originally a timber castle of the motte and bailey type, it was situated at the crossroads on the southern edge of the North York Moors, overlooking the vale to which it gives its name.
For most of the 11th and 12th century historical information is thin on the ground, especially during the Civil War of 1135 to 1153 between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, otherwise called the period of ‘anarchy’, but there is archaeological evidence to suggest that the castle came under siege.
During the baron’s rebellion, after the signing of ‘Magna Carta’, it is believed that Louis, Dauphin of France also laid siege to Pickering circa 1217 and probably made use of a new French stone throwing machine called, ‘Trebuchet’ because the castle at this time sustained tremendous damage.
Again, there is little information.
During King Henry III’s reign there was much rebuilding and repairs carried out and in the period, 1250 to 1256 fifty four oaks were cut for repairs. Over the years the castle also played host for the enjoyment of hunting wild boar and deer. There are records of payments for huntsmen and
dogs and the carriage of game to London.
Although the castle continued to be repaired and transformed from timber to stone, not a lot happened other than it was an administrative centre.
By the 1530’s the castle had already started to fall into ruin.
Today, it is in the care of English Heritage and is open to the public
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