stands on a rocky outcrop
overlooking the River Don with views
of Conisbrough, Mexborough and
beyond. It occupied a strategically
important site. The area is thought
to have been owned by Anglo-Saxon
kings, and later by King Harold.
After the Battle of Hastings in
1066, the Normans would have taken
The first castle was
a construction of a wooden keep or
'motte' surrounded by a 'bailey'.
This was built by William de Warrene
who was the first earl. William was
the son-in-law of William I. He was
very rich, possibly the richest
person in the land. He had come from
Normandy and was one of the chief
knights of the conquest. He probably
built his wooden castle just after
the battle, around 1070.
His son, William
(the second Earl) then took
possession of the castle. He was the
grandson of William I and was the
nephew of Henry I and William Rufus.
He married Isabel and was linked
into the royal family of England.
The third earl died
in 1147 with no male heir, but a
daughter Isabel. She married William
d Blois, son of King Stephen. (see
the Brother Cadfael books for a
flavour of the time.) This William
became the Fourth Earl. When he
died, Isabel married again, this
time it was Hamelin Plantagenet.
From 1163 until 1202 when he died,
he embarked on a major
re-development of Conisbrough
Castle, and constructed the great
stone keep, and later, the curtain
By 1537 the walls,
gates and bridge was in disrepair
and the curtain walls were slipping
in places. The castle had passed its
sell-by-date and was thus
de-commissioned. It was this that
has saved it for posterity. Because
it was no use as a castle by the
time of the English Civil War in the
17th century, it was not used and
therefore attacked by neither
roundheads nor cavaliers.
Sir Walter Scott set
a part of his Ivanhoe novel here
"There are few more
beautiful or striking scenes in
England than are presented by the
vicinity of this ancient Saxon
fortress. The soft and gentle River
Don sweeps through an amphitheatre
in which cultivation is richly
blended with vegetation."
It is now maintained
by English Heritage.