Perched on a narrow ridge between the North York Moors and the wide sweep of Sandsend Bay, near Whitby stands Old Mulgrave Castle. Several hundred feet below, deeply wooded ravines and fast moving streams snake around the hill, making the castle safe from attack. It is in the grounds of the 'modern' 18th century Mulgrave Castle, the home of the Marquis of Normanby. But crumbling towers and arches and now broken down walls are all that's left now of a once magnificent fortress.
The legend goes that the founder of the ancient building was a man who had great need of a secure refuge. He was a 12ft giant called Wadda or Wade, who lived at the end of the eighth century. He was one of the conspirators responsible for the death of King Ethelred and he built Mulgrave Castle to protect himself from the revenging allies of the murdered King.
His giant wife Bell helped him to build their two homes, Mulgrave and Pickering Castles. They split the work between them but only had one hammer. So they threw it backwards and forwards over the 23 miles - the only precaution being that one should shout to the other to be ready to catch it.
The Roman Road, Wade's Causeway, across the nearby Wheeldale Moor is said to be the work of the giant and his wife. They made it for Bell who had to cross the moors to milk her cows. Waddy did the paving work while his wife brought the stones in her apron. Occasionally her apron strings gave way and the contents fell to the ground forming the heaps of stones still to be found among the heather.
The couple had a son who grew up to be just as large and as strong as his parents. One day when he was still a baby he became inpatient for his milk while his mother was away in the fields. So he picked up a huge stone and hurled it at her across the valley. It struck her with such great force that although she was not hurt, a large dent was made in the stone. The stone was kept as a testimony to the strength of the child until a few years ago when it was broken up to mend the roads.
Despite his size, Wadda eventually met his death in a battle in Lincolnshire. His body was brought back to Mulgrave and he was buried on top of a hill just north of the Castle. Two gravestones 12 feet apart marked the head and foot of the giant's grave. And to this day a large stone on the top of that hill is called Wade's Stone. What a story,but apparently it refers to the much earlier Foss Castle which was built of timber and earth and was abandoned in the 11th century when Old Mulgrave Castle was built.Mulgrave Castle would have been an impressive building when it was constructed around the year 1214. The castle was home to several important families during its history but by about the year 1600 was recorded as being in a ruinous state. Converted to a hunting lodge it was later re-fortified before finally being blown up in 1647 during the English civil war, it seems Mr. Cromwell was up to no good again.