Notes: The castle is found on The Avenue in the village of the same name. If arriving from the main road you will drive down a road lined with Lime Trees - the castle is immediately on left after these. No dedicated car parking facilities but on-road parking is possible.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The castle itself is a private residence with no access. However the connected chapel (which is still in use) is open to the public and the path to/from this offers good views of the east and north-east parts of the castle.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Access to the Chapel. The chapel is the only part of the castle open to the public and is accessed via a footpath from the main road. The path takes you through a small portion of the castle’s ruins.
1. The castle has no stone foundations. Instead it rests upon oak piles that were driven into the marshy ground and it was from this terrain that the site got its name - Snape derives from "boggy pasture".
Upgraded from a Manor House into a more substantial structure in the fifteenth century, Snape Castle was owned by the powerful Neville family. The castle was used as a residence by Cecilly Neville, mother of Edward IV and Richard III, and later by Catherine Parr who went on to marry Henry VIII. It was briefly occupied during the Pilgrimage of Grace.
HISTORY OF SNAPE CASTLE
Snape Castle started life as a Manor House built in the mid-thirteenth century by Ralph FitzRanulph, Lord of Middleham and passed through the marriage of his daughter, Mary, to Robert Neville. This family had been small scale Anglo-Saxon landowners prior to the Norman Conquest but had slowly risen in prominence and eventually made their principal seat Raby Castle. It was this increasing wealth and status of the family which led to Snape being upgraded into a courtyard castle, enclosed on all sides by ranges. The work was done between 1420-1450 most probably by George Neville who had been created Baron Latimer in 1432. Shortly after, the family found itself at the heart of the Wars of the Roses when Richard, Duke of York - who was married to Cecily Neville - challenged Henry VI for the throne. After his death at the Battle of Wakefield (1460), her sons would continue the struggle with two becoming King - Edward IV and Richard III. Throughout this turbulent time, Snape Castle was regularly used as a short-term residence by the Nevilles including Cecily and Queen Anne (wife of Richard III).
The castle remained in Neville ownership following the end of the wars and the arrival of the Tudor dynasty. Of note during this period the castle was home to Catherine Parr who spent significant periods of time there with her second husband, John Neville, before his death in 1543 and her subsequent marriage to Henry VIII the same year. During this period (in 1536), the castle was briefly occupied by rebels during the Pilgrimage of Grace - a revolt against Henry's decision to break with the Roman Catholic Church.
John Neville, fourth Lord Latimer, left no male heirs and his wider estates were split between his daughters. Accordingly in 1577 Snape Castle came under the control of Thomas Cecil, Lord Burghley (later Earl of Exeter) through his marriage to Dorothy Neville. Circa-1587 he made extensive modifications adding four corner towers and upgrading much of the existing infrastructure to suit Elizabethan-era living. Whilst crenellations were added, they were decorative whilst the installation of numerous windows suggests the intent behind the upgrades was comfortable living rather than defence. Despite those modifications it seems Cecil never took to the castle referring to it merely as "this place where I live".
The castle remained with the Cecil family after Thomas' death in 1623 but his successors had little need for the site. It remained dormant for 60 years before John Cecil, Earl of Exeter restored the property. It was still a functional residence in 1725 when Edward Harley, Earl of Oxford described it as "a good old house belonging to his Honour Cecill, in which are several good pictures and some fine paintings by the hands of Signor Verrio". Within a few decades though the castle had again gone out of fashion and saw little use. The property was converted into twin residences in the early nineteenth century (a rare example of a semi-detached castle!) but was recombined into single ownership in 2003. Nevertheless the property remains sub-divided with the west wing available for short term rent.