Barden Tower was built by Henry Clifford - the so-called Shepherd Lord - after the restoration of his lands and titles following the Wars of the Roses. Originally a rectangular three storey fortified house, it was later expanded by Lady Anne Clifford but thereafter was abandoned and allowed to drift into ruin.



Barden Tower was constructed in the late fifteenth century on the site of a former hunting lodge by Henry Clifford. His family had been ardent Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses with his grandfather (Thomas Clifford) having been killed at the first battle of St Albans (1455) and his father (John Clifford) at the Battle of Towton (1461). Following this, Henry’s mother sent him into hiding in Threlkeld in Cumberland until the Tudor victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485) which saw his estates and titles restored. After this Henry re-established his principal family seat at Skipton Castle but, perhaps due to his rural upbringing that had led to him becoming known as the Shepherd Lord, he favoured a more remote location and accordingly commenced construction of Barden Tower to supersede it.


Located near the River Wharfe, the Tower itself was a three storey rectangular structure. Originally it was the centre of a much larger estate which would have included landscaped grounds as well as domestic and service buildings. A Chapel and Priest House also formed part of the site which, along with the Tower, were enclosed within a curtain wall.


Although fortified, the Tower's defences were not substantial and proved insufficient in 1536 when Barden was captured by rebels during the Pilgrimage of Grace; a rebellion predominantly against Henry VIII's reforms to the church. After that uprising was suppressed, Barden was repaired but the heirs of Henry Clifford increasingly preferred other residences and use of the site reduced significantly.


During the Civil War the Cliffords supported the Royalist cause and whilst they fortified nearby Skipton Castle, Barden Tower was not garrisoned and played no part in the hostilities. Nevertheless the outer curtain wall, which originally surrounded the Tower and the adjacent buildings, was demolished after the war to prevent any future military use.


After an extended battle to secure her inheritance, Lady Anne Clifford acquired Barden Tower in 1649 along with numerous other sites previously owned by the Clifford family. Although her main seat was at Appleby Castle, she restored Barden back into a functional residence including adding a new L-shaped tower to the structure. When she died in 1676, the site passed into the hands of the Earls of Cork and by the late eighteenth century it had been abandoned as a residence and was allowed to drift into ruin.





Allen, R (1976). English Castles. Batsford, London.

Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Historic England (2015). Barden Tower, List Entry 1217012. Historic England, London.

Johnson, P (2006). Castles from the Air: An Aerial Portrait of Britain’s Finest Castles. Bloomsbury, London.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands.  Kraus International Publications.

Liddiard, R (2005). Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism and Landscape 1066-1500. Macclesfield.

Salter, M (2001). The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire. Folly Publications.


What's There?

Barden Tower is the ruined remains of a fifteenth century Tower House that was subsequently expanded. The exterior can be viewed but there is no access to the interior due to the risk of falling masonry.

Barden Tower. The tower was a three storey rectangular structure.

Getting There

Barden Tower is found directly off the B6180 and is clearly visible from the road. The site is adjacent to the ‘Priest’s House Restaurant’ which offers free car parking for patrons.

Barden Tower

B6180, BD23 6AS

54.010694N 1.923836W