A Conversation for Yorkshire's Castles: Richmond Castle

Purpose of Richmond Castle

Post 1


Given its location off the beaten track, it's doubtful that Richmond Castle was built, as some sites say, to awe the locals (as few as they were). Since the town grew up around it, it would seem that its effect was more to attract people than to repel them.

If anyone has primary or reliable secondary evidence of Alan Rufus's being culpable in the Harrying of the North, I will be very interested to read it. The Register of the Honour of Richmond asserts that Queen Matilda persuaded King William to transfer Edwin's lands to Alan, and this was done at the Siege of York, which I would guess means in 1069, before the Harrying.

Orderic Vitalis recorded that Odo, the Bishop of Bayeux, was one of the worst oppressors of the English people. He certainly was a major culprit in the Harrying of the North in 1069-70 and again in 1080.

There is evidence that Alan and Odo held very different views of how the people should be governed: Odo pillaged them, but Alan enriched them and actually favoured English families such as those of the exiled Earl Gospatric (who subsequently named two of their heirs "Alan") and he settled them beside his own family members who were Bretons, not Normans.

In 1086, the only Normans who owned anything in Richmondshire were King William (one eastern border vill, shared with Alan) and Odo's brother Count Robert of Mortain (one southern border vill). The others, especially Odo, were kept out.

In 1087, Alan persuaded the Conqueror to come to York to refound St Olave's Church as a way of apologising to the Anglo-Danes for the Harrying and all the other damage done to York and the North. In early 1088, Alan brought William II and the whole royal court to York to found St Mary's Abbey, and Odo was a witness. It was immediately after this that Odo plotted with most of the magnates in England and Normandy to rebel against William II in favour of his brother Duke Robert Curthose.

Alan opposed the rebellion and persuaded the King to promise better laws and financial incentives so that the English would be on his side. They did so with gusto and not only crushed the rebels on land but captured or sank most of Robert Curthose's Norman fleet. Odo was captured and exiled for life. Alan urged the king to forgive the other rebels - even though that meant giving up vaste swathes of territory that Alan had captured.

Alan was closely connected with many of the people who worked on the Domesday survey. For example, Thomas the Archbishop of York was one of Alan's tenants and had been a canon at Bayeux, as had Thomas's brother Samson (later Bishop of Worcester) and Alan's brother Richard. So had William de St Calais, who many think was the mastermind behind Domesday (because one of his Durham scribes wrote most of Great Domesday); he was a tenant of Alan's too.

Moreover, when St Calais was charged with treason for abandoning the royal army during the 1088 rebellion, it was Alan who arrested him, defended him in court against the king himself, and escorted him to Southampton to take ship for exile in Normandy; Alan lived to see St Calais restored to favour in 1091.

Key: Complain about this post

Purpose of Richmond Castle

More Conversations for Yorkshire's Castles: Richmond Castle

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more