The house of Neville held the manor of Raby from the 13th century, and although the family had no formal title from 1295 they were summoned to Parliament as Barons of Raby. Ralph Neville, 1st Baron Neville de Raby, was the first to be summoned to Parliament. His heir, John Neville (1299/1300–1335), became a member of Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster's household, beginning the family's link with the Earls of Lancaster. Raby was the family's caput, their seat of power, and there may have been a fortified house on the site of the present building from around 1300. In the second half of the 14th century the Nevilles began rebuilding several of their properties in northern England, including Raby Castle between roughly 1367 and 1390. In the closing years of the century the Nevilles were becoming one of the most powerful families in northern England, comparable to the House of Percy, who had been made Earls of Northumberland in 1377. In 1378 Thomas Hatfield Bishop of Durham granted John de Neville a licence to fortify his property at Raby. John died in 1388 and was succeeded by his son, Ralph. Almost nothing of the family's papers survive from this period so there is little documentary evidence of Raby Castle's construction. The dating is based mostly on architectural details. In the words of historian Anthony Emery, the work "converted it from a defendable house into a palace-fortress". Ralph was created Earl of Westmorland on 29 September 1397 by Richard II as a reward for his loyalty in the face of political unrest. However his family's traditional association with the Earls of Lancaster meant that when Henry Bolinbroke of the House of Lancaster invaded in July 1399 Neville sided with Bolingbroke. Neville helped persuade Richard II to abdicate and Henry was crowned as Henry IV. Neville was made Earl Marshal of England on the day of Henry's coronation and a Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1403.
Henry Neville, 5th Earl of Westmorland, died in 1564 and was succeeded by his son, Charles. The Nevilles were Catholics and Charles was one of the leaders of the failed Rising of the North in 1569 against England's Protestant Queen Elizabeth I. Owing to the severity of the threat to the Crown, more than 800 rebels were executed and Charles Neville and Thomas Percy (Earl of Westmorland and another leader of the rebellion) fled into exile. In 1571 an attainder was issued against Neville and his lands were forfeited to the Crown. After the Rising of the North the castle became the property of the Crown for more than forty-three years before being bought by Henry Vane the Elder. He was impressed by the size and lands, contrasting with Barnard Castle, which was hemmed in by the surrounding town. The House of Vane was responsible for much of the modernising of the castle, especially the interior. This included renovation of the medieval chapel and drawing room. The family drove a carriageway though the castle, causing much damage to its medieval fabric. Architect William Burn carried out alterations to Raby Castle between 1843 and 1848, including adding new roofs to the great hall and the chapel and adding a drawing room to one of the towers in Jacobean style. The present family is responsible for the great collection of art in the castle. On 17 March 1849, William the then Prince of Orange, succeeded to the throne of the Netherlands. He was at that moment a guest of the Duchess of Cleveland in Raby Castle. In 1890 the former 4th Duke of Cleveland died, leaving the line of succession to the castle and its vast estates unclear. The case was decided in 1891 when the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords deemed his relative, Henry de Vere Vane, to be the 9th Baron Barnard and inheritor of the vast estates of Raby. He did not, however, inherit the title of Duke of Cleveland, which became extinct.Christopher Vane, 10th Baron Barnard divested himself of all but 1,713 acres (693 ha) of the 53,000-acre (21,000 ha) Raby estate.
Raby Castle has an irregular plan, with nine towers along its perimeter. The main entrance was in the west through the four-storey Neville Gateway. Access to the gatehouse was via a drawbridge, since replaced by a flagged causeway. The gatehouse originally contained three portcullises, as is shown by the still-visible grooves used to work them. Two smaller towers beside the gatehouse have no defensive function and were added during the renovations of Henry Vane, 2nd Earl of Darlington. Access to the gatehouse is via a door through the curtain wall, which rose to a height of thirty feet from the waters of the moat. It is strengthened periodically by buttress towers and formed the second line of defence, the moat being the first. The passage along the parapet was the ancient chemin de ronde (allure) on which guards were posted. Similar passages can be found at York Castle and around the city of Oxford. The castle buildings surround a central courtyard. Forming its east side is the great hall, also known as the Baron's Hall. The interiors of the medieval kitchen and keep are mostly intact. Due to its Grade I listed nature and medieval structure, wheelchair access is limited inside the Castle. Parts of the castle ground floor are wheelchair accessible and there is a level access DVD presentation viewing area, which includes subtitles showing the interior of the castle situated on the ground floor in the Entrance Hall. There are room notes containing detailed information in each room and the DVD presentation in the Entrance Hall has subtitles. Assistance dogs are welcome. There are two toilets but no accessible toilets inside the Castle, the main toilets and accessible toilets are in the Coach Yard near the tearooms. Those that are unable to access the whole of the Castle can still be admitted to the Castle with a Park & Gardens ticket.
Location : Staindrop, Darlington, Co. Durham DL2 3AH
Transport: Darlington (National Rail) 15 miles. Bus: Scarlet Band Route 85A (closest stop) runs between the towns of Darlington and Barnard Castle; Arriva bus service 6 runs from Durham, via Bishop Auckland; Arriva Bus Service 75 travels between Darlington and Barnard Castle via Staindrop.
Opening Times Castle: April to June, September; Sunday to Wednesday 13:00 to 16:30.
Opening Times Castle: July, August; Sunday to Friday 13:00 to 16:30.
Opening Times Gardens: April to June, September; Sunday to Wednesday 11:00 to 17:00.
Opening Times Gardens: July, August; Sunday to Friday 11:00 to 17:00.
Tickets Castle + Grounds: Adults £10.00. Concessions £9.00. Children (5 - 15) £4.50.
Tickets Park only: Adults £6.00. Concessions £5.00. Children (5 - 15) £2.50.
Tel: 01833 660202