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Castle Grounds, Clitheroe


Castle Grounds is a public park featuring the motte and keep of a 12th-century castle, with early 19th-century garden terraces. There is a turf labyrinth designed by Jim Buchanan, which was opened in 2006.


. The land falls steeply on all sides from the castle mound, down to level ground to the west and south, on which the grounds are laid out.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

A castle mound, used as the grounds of a private residence, with garden terraces laid out in the early 19th century, the mound and adjacent land being developed for use as a public park in the 1920s.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

The Castle and grounds of 6.8ha are situated on the western side of Clitheroe. The land falls steeply on all sides from the castle mound, down to level ground to the west and south, on which the grounds are laid out. The western boundary is formed by the railway line and the southern boundary is Eshton Terrace and the gardens of the houses, built in the 1840s, which stand along the north side of this road. The other boundaries are marked by the buildings on Parson Lane to the north-west, the buildings on Moor Lane to the north-east, and by Woone Lane to the east.

Entrances and Approaches

The main entrance to the Castle grounds is the gateway at the southern end of Castle Street, which leads into the northern tip of the site. From the Castle Street gate a drive, laid out around 1830, leads up along the east side of the mound to Castle House. The original approach was very steep, taking a straight rather than curving line. A pair of stone gate piers mark the approximate site of a former gatehouse.

There are also entrances from Moor Lane to the east, the west end of Eshton Terrace to the south, and the west end of Parson Lane to the west.

Principal Building

The Castle (listed grade I), which is also a scheduled ancient monument (scheduled ancient monument) was noted in the Domesday Book and consists of a small C12 square tower keep, built on a steep crag. The keep survives today (1990s) as four walls, open to the elements, the result of considerable restoration work carried out in 1848.

Immediately (5m) to the south of the Castle are the former stables and outbuildings (together listed grade II), and, adjoining these to the south, the Old Courthouse building (listed grade II), now the home of the North-West Sound Archive. Castle House (listed grade II) is situated 10m to the south-west of the Old Courthouse. It was built as a private residence and opened as a museum in 1981. Although much of the present fabric of these buildings is of mid C19 date, the stables, courthouse and house all appear on a ground plan of c 1723 (Best 1990), and their existence is confirmed by the mid C18 steward's records (ibid).

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

To the east of the stable buildings is a levelled area, held by a retaining wall along its eastern side, currently (1990s) used as the park depot and storage area. At the southern end of this terrace is the site of the former castle chapel, the Chapel of St Michael, now occupied by a toilet block. Below is a second terrace, laid out as gardens round the War Memorial. Both garden terraces were in place by 1844 (1st edition OS map published 1844).

At the northern end of the range of buildings is the keep. A walkway runs along the top of the encircling wall which encloses a small garden area within. A flight of steps leads down the wooded north slope of the mound through patches of exposed rock, the path having been laid out pre 1844 (OS).

To the west, a walk put in as part of the original public park improvements leads round the grassy lower slopes of the mound to the lower areas of the park. At the southern end of these western slopes, within a hedged enclosure, is the bandstand, an arc of associated terraced seating rising from it. The present structure, of the mid 1970s, replaces the original park bandstand which was destroyed by fire.

The southern slope of the mound is laid out with ornamental grounds including a walk parallel to the south front of Castle House, which forms part of the mid C19 improvements to the grounds. This leads west to a formal rose garden, the centrepiece of which is a pinnacle from the Houses of Parliament (listed grade II), presented to the Borough of Clitheroe by the local MP in 1937 to commemorate the coronation of George VI. This scheme replaced a bowling green, formed on a garden terrace constructed in the mid C19, the green being part of the scheme of conversion of the site for public use. South of the rose garden is an area laid out as a putting green. To the west, below and to the south-west of Castle House, is a square, hedge-enclosed bowling green with a shelter at its southern end, roughly occupying the area developed in the mid C19 as a kitchen garden. South of the green lie tennis courts, both facilities being part of the park developments in the 1920s.

The south-western part of the park is left open as a recreation ground, with tree-lined walks along its western and southern sides. Prior to its development as a public park, this land to the south and south-west of the castle mount had comprised two large fields, which had been truncated on the western side by the construction of the Blackburn to Chatburn railway in 1846-50. By 1844 (OS), the Castle landscaping included a belt of trees along the eastern side of the fields, adjacent to Woone Lane, and also planting to screen the houses along the southern end of the Castle grounds.

At the northern end of the level ground is a second bowling green, added post 1930, while in the north-west corner an area is divided off as a children's playground, also an addition to the original public park layout.

Kitchen Garden

West of the Castle House is the site of the former kitchen gardens, enclosed by walls to south and west. The west wall carries a walk from which there are long views out to the west and south across the park to the countryside beyond the town.


  • Ground plan of the Castle, around 1723
  • OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition 1844; 2nd edition 1886; 3rd edition 1912; 1932 edition

Description written: February 1999

Edited: April 1999, November 2022

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

14th Century

The land on which the Castle stands reverted to the Crown in 1322, Edward III later granting it to Queen Isabella.

17th - 18th Century

Following Queen Isabella's death it remained as part of the Crown lands until granted by Charles II to General George Monck, first Duke of Albemarle (1608-70), in gratitude for his support. The land passed to Monck's son, Christopher, second Duke (1653-88) then, on his death, to his wife Elizabeth (died 1734). Elizabeth remarried to Ralph, first Duke of Montagu (1638-1709) in 1692, and on her death the Castle thus passed into the Montagu family, in whose ownership it remained for almost two hundred years.

19th Century

Until 1895 the Castle site was ex-parochial and lay outside the borough. It functioned as the administrative centre for the Blackburn Hundred until 1822 when the new town hall was built in Church Street.

20th Century

The Castle site and grounds were purchased by public subscription by the then borough council from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu in November 1920, to form a memorial to the 260 soldiers from the town who lost their lives in the war. A total of £15,000 was raised, the balance from the purchase price of £9,500 being spent on the laying out of the park.

21st Century

Ribble Valley Borough Council owns and manages the Castle and grounds as a museum and public park.

The castle grounds are a part of the Fields in Trust historic protection programme and have been protected since November 2012 under the Queen Elizabeth II Fields protection type.

Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD 3036
  • Grade: II
  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: former stables and outbuildings
  • Grade: II
  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: pinnacle from the House of Parliament
  • Grade: II
  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: The Castle
  • Grade: I
  • Scheduled Ancient Monument

  • Reference: The Castle


  • Labyrinth
  • Description: There is a turf labyrinth designed by Jim Buchanan.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Flower Bed
  • Cenotaph
  • Castle (featured building)
  • Keep
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Bandstand
  • Description: Original park bandstand which was destroyed by fire.
  • War Memorial
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Description: Developed mid-19th Century
  • Rose Garden
  • Bowling Green
  • Description: Two bowling greens. Second bowling green added post 1930s.
Key Information


Public Park


Urban Park

Principal Building



Part: standing remains

Open to the public


Civil Parish