Old Mulgrave Castle, sadly there's not much of it left now.

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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.

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Comments (6)

Yorkshire Sam on October 30, 2012

The story has plenty of fascination and imagination if nowt else. Like you say not much left to see but it's a good capture of it all the same and I'm intrigued by the windows being as and where they are.

Rosalyn Hilborne on October 30, 2012

Not a good year 1647! I like the colour of the stone and you've got good detail there. Even the clouds worked well for you. On the other hand, reading what you have learnt from Sam...I expect you waited there until they were right ;-)) I am learning, it takes a lot of patience to get the best picture! Like.

Neil Grimwood on October 30, 2012

Well spotted Sam,they have me puzzled an'all i just can't see the logic in having windows on the tower. They look like the original windows to me and the tower has been added later and for some reason built around them...who knows!! Thats a great legend though,i couldn't resist adding it, cheers mate;-)


Hi Rosa, It wasn't a good year and i've a feeling my ancester could have been here with Ollie;-) It was the right time of day,there was some nice light on the stonework,as for the clouds, yes i did wait. If you look at the cloud top right it doesn't sort of look natural, i was hoping it would drift away but it wasn't playing the game,rather than try to edit i left it alone. Anyway, i'm happy with the result,i'm pleased you like it too.

Neil Grimwood on November 2, 2012

Hi Ian, this is all thats left of the main building, parts of the curtain wall are there but not much good for a picture. They did know about them but the selectors thought they must have been on something....probably good old Yorkshire ale;-))) Thanks for popping in Ian.

Macdonald on June 14, 2013

Hi Neil, Great location! I used to play in the ruins in the early 1960's As my Dad was the Head Gardener at the present Mulgrave Castle. Thanks for a memorable pic Regards Mac

Neil Grimwood on June 15, 2013

Hi Mac, it must have brought back a few memories then;-) all happy ones i'll bet too. Its nice to hear from you and thanks for calling in,glad you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.


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Photo details

  • Uploaded on October 29, 2012
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by Neil Grimwood
    • Camera: SONY DSLR-A300
    • Taken on 2012/09/22 14:17:14
    • Exposure: 0.006s (1/160)
    • Focal Length: 30.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash