(MAIDEN BOWER and COCK LODGE)
Topcliffe Castle, which is also known as the Maiden Bower, was built shortly after the Norman Conquest by William de Percy, a Norman Knight who was granted extensive estates across Yorkshire. By the fourteenth century this early castle was replaced with a fortified manorial site known as Cock Lodge.
Topcliffe is located at the confluence of the River Swale and Cod Beck. In the pre-industrial era, the former was a major waterway that, via the Rivers Urie and Ouse, connected the site with the northern capital at York. At the time of the Norman Conquest it was a small but valuable estate owned by Berwulf, a Lord with substantial regional holdings in Yorkshire and Lancashire. He forfeited most of his estates to the Normans and many, including Topcliffe, were granted to William de Percy. He was a Norman Knight who had facilitated William I's invasion of England by staying behind to secure Normandy. Percy arrived in England in 1067 and he established three regional caputs to manage his new estates; Leconfield, Spofforth and Topcliffe. At the latter he commenced construction of Topcliffe Castle.
The original castle, which is now known as Maiden Bower, was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. It was constructed between the river and Cod Beck, just before they converged, providing strong natural defences on three sides which would have further been enhanced by extensive marshy ground that surrounded the site. The motte itself was placed on the eastern end of a spur of higher land. It would originally have been topped with a timber palisade and a timber tower. A D-shaped bailey, separated from the motte by a deep ditch, extended to the north-west and enclosed an area of approximately one acre.
By the start of the fourteenth century the Maiden Bower had been replaced by a new manorial complex. Now known as Cock Lodge, this was a five sided fortification enclosed seven acres and occupied the area to the north-west of the former castle. It was protected by an earth rampart which was fronted, at least on the eastern side, by a ditch. An internal enclosure in the north-west corner originally hosted the manor house and the associated buildings.
By the fourteenth century the Percy family had expanded their landholdings significantly and in 1309 purchased Alnwick Castle which then became their family seat. Nevertheless, Topcliffe was periodically used by the family through to at least the late fifteenth century. The extent of its defences at this time is uncertain but in 1489 an angry mob stormed the site and murdered Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland as part of a localised revolt in response to increases in taxes.
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Topcliffe Castle (Maiden Bower) is on private land with no public access. However, the earthworks of Cock Lodge can be viewed from a public right of way that extends the length of Winn Lane.
Topcliffe Castle Layout. Both the Maiden Bower and Cock Lodge were built on a long promontory sandwiched between the River Swale and Cod Beck. These waterways provided strong natural defences as well as a source of fresh water and waste removal.
Maiden Bower. The motte-and-bailey castle built by William de Percy in the eleventh century. In the late medieval period, long after it had been abandoned, the motte was terraced to provide a spiral path to the summit.
Topcliffe Castle. Cock Lodge (foreground) was a five sided enclosure with an Inner Ward containing the manorial buildings). Maiden Bower can be seen in the distance.
Cock Lodge Ditch. Cock Lodge was enclosed by a ditch and rampart.
Cock Lodge Manorial Site. The site of the manorial buildings is marked by the raised earthworks. In the post-medieval era the manor house was abandoned and a windmill (now demolished) was later built on the site.
Topcliffe Castle is found at the end of Winn Lane which is accessed off the A168. On-road car parking is possible on the public part of the road.
Car Parking Option
Winn Lane, YO7 3RP
Maiden Bower (Topcliffe Castle)