Raby Castle – County Durham

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Raby Castle

Raby Castle1569, in the south western corner of the County Of Durham in Northeast England, a group of noblemen gather. In London, Queen Elizabeth, protestant is on the throne. On the throne north of the border in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots, a Catholic eyed the throne of England, whilst imprisoned in Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, who was subsequently moved further south to Sheffield Castle.

Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland and Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland gather like-minded noblemen at Raby Castle. Their plan was to release Mary and restore Catholicism as the dominant religion of the realm by releasing people such as the Duke of Norfolk who they regarded as being imprisoned unfairly.

Risking their lives by even discussing the idea, Percy and Neville gathered their trusted friends to explain their plan and decide how it could be carried out. Forces loyal to Percy and Neville marched south heading towards Bramham Moor. Their objective was to put the city of York under siege.

However, betrayal of the rising said to have come from Leonard Dacre. A quirk of fate had resulted in what he regarded as his rightful inheritance being passed to three sisters following the untimely death of  his young nephew. Seeing the castles and lands pass to his nieces wrankled him. As a catalyst of the rising, he then went on to betray his co-conspirators to Queen Elizabeth, suggesting he should gain control of the lands of his nieces.

Receiving word that the Earl of Sussex had raised a substantial force against the rising and supporting Queen Elizabeth, Percy & Neville abandoned plans to lay siege at York and captured the nearby town of Barnard Castle in south western County Durham. As word spread of the Sussex’s forces, support for rising faded away and it subsequently failed.

Neville and Percy fled to what they perceived to be as the relative safety of Scotland, however Percy was captured by the Earl of Morton and handed to the forces of Queen Elizabeth. He was executed by beheading in York in 1572. Neville managed to escape to Flanders in Northern France, where he died in abject poverty some years later.

As was often the case, reprisals came swiftly. The entire Raby estate was forfeited to the English Crown. It remained in royal ownership until around 1626 when the estate was bought by Sir Henry Vane. It remains in Vane family ownership to this day.

Today, Raby Castle is run as a modern estate. It’s deer herds can often be seen by drivers passing on the A688 near to West Middle Lodge Wood. Guided tours of the castle are available to the public and the schedule of visiting times is available on the Raby Castle website.

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