by Jonathan Rudd
Have you ever wondered what the oldest building in Yorkshire is? Find out below as we take a journey through the county’s historic buildings. To qualify at least some of the original building must exist, even if there have been more modern additions. Secondly ruins are counted, even if only fragments of them still remain. We start our journey in York (where else) on our quest to find Yorkshire’s oldest building.
1. Clifford’s Tower – York – 1265
Clifford’s Tower is the only remaining part of York Castle, which was built around 1265, on the banks of the River Foss. It replaced a hastily built wooden castle at the same location, constructed just after the Norman Conquest of 1066. On March 16th 1190 before Clifford’s Tower keep was built, the original castle was the scene of one of the grizzliest episodes in York’s history. A series of anti-semetic riots led to 150 Jews being massacred and shame brought on the city. Over the centuries other parts of York Castle were either demolished or used for different purposes, Clifford’s Tower still stands and is owned by English Heritage.
2. Skipton Castle- 1090
While there were too many Yorkshire castles to mention built in the 11th and 12th Centuries, one of the earliest and best preserved fortifications was at Skipton. It was built in 1090 by Norman landowner, Robert de Romille for the purpose of establishing authority in the area. The presence of the castle also helped to grow Skipton into a thriving medieval market town at the foot of the rugged landscape to the north. Eventually the building fell into the hands of the Clifford family and its last owner, Lady Anne, who preserved the castle after a siege there during the Civil War. Nowadays it is a popular tourist attraction.
3. St Mary’s Abbey- York – 1088
St Mary’s Abbey was built in 1088 by the Benedictine order of monks and became one of the wealthiest and most powerful monasteries in the country. In its pomp, the entire complex would have taken over the whole Museum Gardens site and been the place where the monks ate, prayed, traded and helped the local community. During the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1540, the monks were given money to leave and it became a residence for King Henry VIII when he visited York. The Abbey eventually fell into disrepair and became the ruin it is today.
4. Richmond Castle – 1072
Constructed just six years after the Norman invasion, Richmond Castle is still a prominent landmark in the town. It was built by Alan Rufus, who fought alongside William the Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings of 1066. The reward for his bravery was the lands of Richmondshire and the right to rule over the population. Like Skipton, Richmond Castle is well preserved, with some original features remaining from Norman times, including the surrounding stone curtain wall, the great archway in the keep and Scolland’s Hall.
5. Selby Abbey – 1069
Selby Abbey is older than you would think and has survived for nearly 1000 years on the same spot. As the name suggests it was founded by monks in 1069 and became a principle place of worship due to its proximity to York. It became a “mitred abbey,” in 1256 which was a special status and was visited by several monarchs of the age. Selby Abbey even survived the Dissolution of Monasteries in the 1530s, largely due to the last abbot, Robert Rogers’ friendship with Henry VIII. Rogers had been one of the people to help the king divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon by signing a petition in favour of their separation. The King did not forget this deed and decided to pay off the abbot and his 23 monks to leave the abbey, which was still stripped of all its assets, but was not destroyed. Selby Abbey eventually continued as a rather grand parish church, which it has done ever since.
6. All Hallows Church, Bardsey – c 825AD
Home of the The Bingley Arms, Britain’s oldest pub, the very historical village of Bardsey, just north of Leeds also has one of the oldest churches in Yorkshire too. The inside of All Hallows dates back over 1,000 years, although more modern additions have been added since. The building is one of the finest examples of Anglo Saxon architecture in West Yorkshire; including a Saxon style porch and doorway, plus a 10th Century tower.
7. All Saints Church- Ledsham – c700AD
Bardsey may have the oldest pub, but Ledsham in West Yorkshire boasts the oldest village church in Yorkshire. All Saints Church also carries the title of the oldest building in West Yorkshire. The church boasts one of the finest examples of religious architecture from the Anglo-Saxon period in the UK. Although there have been many modernisations since, both the south and west walls of the nave can be traced back to the 8th Century, along with several motifs carved into the south door of the tower. Ledsham church though is not the oldest building in the whole of Yorkshire…
8. St Wilfrid’s Crypt, Ripon Cathedral – 672AD
Ripon Cathedral was founded by St Wilfrid in 672AD, who was then the Archbishop of York. One part of the original church remains, known as St Wilfrid’s Crypt, which is dedicated to its founder. This is also the oldest place of worship in the UK, which is still in continuous use. The original church crypt was pioneering in that it was one of the first in the Kingdom of Northumbria to be made of stone, instead of wood. Wilfrid died in AD709 and is buried in the cathedral. The gothic style interior was built in the 11th and 12th Centuries, around the original crypt, which by then was over 500 years old. Further extensions to Ripon Cathedral since have made it into one of the finest cathedrals in the country.
9. The Multiangular Roman Tower, York c200AD
Long before St Wilfrid’s was a twinkle in his mother’s eye, the Romans occupied Yorkshire. In their capital, Eboracum, they built walls around the city, in order to defend themselves from attack. Although most of the walls have now gone, one multangular tower remains in what is in the Museum gardens, along with a stretch of original Roman wall. The walls and tower are one of the oldest remaining structures in Yorkshire and dates back to the 3rd Century AD. It was built with a series of other similar towers, which have since been destroyed or buried. The tower was extended in medieval times, probably around the time that the current walls were constructed to defend the city from attack. The Tower has certainly seen many battles over the centuries, but it is still not the oldest building in Yorkshire.
10. Starr Carr house near Scarborough – c8500BC
The oldest building in Yorkshire is Starr Carr House near Scarborough. In 2010 one of the most interesting historical discoveries in Britain was made. It was the remains of the house, which dates back 11,000 years to the end of the last ice age. The structure included planks of wood which is thought to be the oldest example of carpentry in the world, plus flints, arrowheads and evidence of a larger settlement which once stood here. The discovery was located next to an ancient lake and would have been occupied by hunter gatherers, who moved there from the North Sea when it was still a land mass. At this point in history, Britain would have still been connected by a land border to continental Europe. The area, which is made of peat has preserved the foundations of the building for over 11,500 years and laid undiscovered until 2008. The area was already known to historians as an important archaeological site. The discovery of Britain’s oldest house in Yorkshire and the UK has put into question the nomadic existence of hunter gatherers in the Mesolithic Period. Starr Carr House is not only the oldest building in Yorkshire, but the whole of Britain.