Scarborough Motto and Bailey Castle

Scarborough Motto and Bailey Castle

William le Gros, Count of Aumale, a powerful Anglo-Norman baron and grand-nephew of William the Conqueror, built a wooden fortification after his receipt of the Earldom of York, from King Stephen in 1138, granted as reward for his victory at the Battle of the Standard.

Aumale may have re-founded the town of Scardeburg, though there is little evidence of this. As with other castles, there would have been at least a small settlement nearby.

Some information on the establishment of the castle has survived in the chronicle of William of Newburgh, a monk who in the 1190s wrote about the its foundation.  The castle had a gate tower, curtain wall, dry moat and chapel.  This motte and bailey castle subsequently disappeared, with only the small, raised mound of the motte visible in the inner bailey today.

The fate of the original fortifications is unclear.  Henry II ordered that all royal castles be returned to the Crown.  He had a policy of destroying adulterine castles, built without royal permission, during Stephen’s chaotic reign.  Initially, Aumale resisted the call to hand over Scarborough, which he had built on a royal manor, until Henry’s forces arrived at York.  The wooden castle vanished – William of Newburgh, writing near the time, claimed that the structure had decayed through age and the elements, battered beyond repair on the windswept headland.  Later interpretations view this as implausible and argue that Henry wanted to stamp his mark on Scarborough, by demolishing William’s fort and creating a much stronger stone complex.