| In October 1317, Conisbrough
Castle, then held by John de Warrene
8th earl of Surrey, was attacked by Thomas earl of Lancaster's men.
An artist's impression of Conisbrough Castle. The curtain wall
to the right of the picture is where the invaders attacked the castle
|A plan of Conisbrough
Seen from the exterior it is not obvious that the ashlar limestone keep at Conisbrough is circular. It is supported by six massive buttresses which provide it with an angular appearance. There are very few loop holes in the structure, which, with its fifteen foot thick walls would have provided security during attack but left the occupants with a feeling of claustrophobia. It is a testament to the ability of Thomas of Lancaster's men that they succeeded in taking the castle at all.
The Curtain Wall
Because of damage sustained to the south-east curtain wall during the taking of the castle, earl Thomas had repairs carried out in 1319. It is likely that the wall was undermined at this point. A common method was to use a 'tortoise' of shields, dig tunnels under the walls, prop the tunnels with timber and then set fire to the props causing the walls to collapse. This damaged part can be clearly seen as a later addition on the plan of the castle at left and also on the artist's impression above which included the second and third turrets from the gateway. Later this part of the wall collapsed indicating that these repairs were done hastily. Indeed relationships between Lancaster, the king and the king's 'evil advisers', Hugh Despenser the younger amongst them, began to degrade from the York Parliament of 1318.
An aerial view of Consisbrough Castle showing evidence of Lancaster's breaching of the bailey wall.