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08/27/2008 Archived Entry: "Castles of Mulgrave"
For a tiny village to act as host to three castles is probably quite unusual, but that distinction goes to Lythe near Whitby. Better known perhaps for the steep Lythe Bank on the A174 that descends into Sandsend en route to Whitby, the village, small though it is, has earned its place in history through its castles.
Although many people reared in the surrounding area often refer to Lythe Castle, the correct name for both the two most recent constructions is Mulgrave Castle. The third and most ancient is often called Foss Castle and all are to be found in or near Mulgrave Woods.
This wonderful woodland with sites such as Devil’s Bridge, Wizard’s Glen and Eagles’ Nest fills the ravine of Sandsend Beck and lies below Lythe, inland from Sandsend. There are no public rights of way through the woods, although they are open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays with access from Sandsend.
The oldest castle was a motte and bailey structure about which little is known. Said to have been built before the ninth century, its site is difficult to identify although it is reported to have survived into Norman times. Its fame is ensured because it was said to be the home of the legendary giant who built Wade’s Causeway near Goathland. The old name for this castle was Mongrave and although the story of Wade’s Causeway is pure legend, a huge man called Wade did live in this locality. He was born at the end of the eighth century and lived until the middle of the ninth.
Wade was heavily involved in the politics of the time, leading warring armies across the north from Lancashire to Northumberland. It seems he fought for the rights of ordinary people because, for over thirty years, he fought tyrannical leaders who occupied the kingdom of Northumbria between the Scottish border and the River Humber. He is said to have led a rebellion against the brutal King of Northumbria in AD 796 and his activities led to him being regarded as a folk hero. Although Wade exerted tremendous power, he was always on good terms with the local people and was considered kind and gentle in domestic situations. He was not immortal, however; some accounts say he died from "a distemper" whilst others claim he was fatally wounded at Whalley in Lancashire, although he did manage to return home to Mulgrave where he died. His larger-than-life career has given rise to many legends that have depicted him as a giant.
The second castle was probably constructed in the 11th century as evidence of Norman buttresses have been found. It developed into a splendid building complete with tower and moat but it has been much altered since it was originally built. Although built by the Fossards, it became the stronghold of the renowned de Mauley family. It appears they won favour with King John of Magna Carta fame, thus enabling them to become wealthy, but in the reign of Henry V, Mulgrave Castle passed to the Bigods and later to the Radcliffes. In reading about this castle, there are varying reports about its eventual destruction. The truth is that it was destroyed by the English State. During the aftermath of the Reformation, the Radcliffes remained staunch Catholics and refused to attend services in the newly formed Protestant Church of England. For this they were persistently fined and when they could no longer afford to pay, their estates were forfeited to the State. Because Mulgrave Castle was so well built, it could only be destroyed by explosives and by order of the Government and that occurred in 1647. Some reports say it was dismantled without giving the reason. The Radcliffes moved to the Old Hall at Ugthorpe complete with its priests’ hiding place.
The present castle is its replacement. Building was commenced by the Duchess of Buckingham in 1735 and it has since been altered and improved considerably. It is now the home of the Marquis of Normanby and his family. It has been host to many eminent visitors including members of the royal family. Charles Dickens also enjoyed a visit and it is said he enjoyed himself so much that he danced on the lawns in ecstasy. He later dedicated his novel Dombey and Son "with great esteem to the Marchioness of Normanby."