A medieval castle at the heart of intrigue
Raby Castle is not only one of the finest medieval castles in Britain, it is infamous for being the place where the ‘Rising of the North’ was masterminded. Here, one night, an astonishing 700 knights met in the baronial hall to plot a way to oust the current queen.
The Nevill family who built the castle in the 14th century were right at the centre of the plot to overthrow the protestant Queen Elizabeth l and to place on the throne instead Mary Queen of Scots, a Catholic.
The attempt, which took place in 1569, failed and the Nevills lost everything, including their magnificent castle. By 1626 the estate and castle had been bought by the Vanes, Earls of Darlington and Dukes of Cleveland, and it remains their family home today, nearly 400 years on.
Castles evolved a great deal over the 500 years or so of the Medieval period, but their main purpose was almost always to provide defence against attack and as a residence. Early styles had simple stone keeps before mounded earthworks. These evolved into the concentric castles that provided good protection on all sides, some of the best examples of which (like Caerphilly) are in Wales.
In the later stages of castle building, a much more ornate style - Gothic was introduced. By the end of the Middle Ages castles could be remarkably luxurious.
The deer park
Raby Castle’s historic interior has certainly seen some bold changes. In the 1700s the main hall was enlarged so that carriages could drive right into it. The 80-hectare deer park that surrounds it is little changed, with some of the present 200 red deer and smaller fallow deer descended from herds who roamed here many hundreds of years ago.
Red deer are native to Britain, as are roe deer, but fallow deer were introduced by the Normans. Sika, Muntjac and Chinese water deer only arrived in the last 100 years, mostly as escapees from deer parks.