The names of Castle Close and Castle Barn serve to remind local people that a castle once stood nearby, but no traditions connected with it have survived.

The earliest History of Northamptonshire (compiled by Bridges in 1719 but not printed until 1791) tells us that the castle was probably built in the reign of King Steven, and when Baker wrote about 1835 he could add nothing to the conjecture. When Stephen and his cousin Matilda disputed succession to the throne in 1135, civil war of a very ferocious kind broke out, the period being described as the worst in the country’s history since the Danish invasions. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle relates that the barons did just as they pleased, ‘never was more misery and never heathens acted worse than these……… they filled the country full of castles; they oppressed the wretched people severely with castle building and filled the castles with devils and wicked men’.

The conflict was finally ended by the accession of Matilda’s son as Henry II who caused all unlicensed castles to be demolished, hence, whenever in future the history of a demolished castle was unknown, it became a habit to attribute the building of it to the reign of Stephen.

One glance at the site of Moor End Castle would indicate to anyone with an elementary knowledge of castle-building that no Norman ever built a castle in such a low-lying situation. Norman castles were raised either on a natural hill or on an artificial mound or motte, surrounded by a deep ditch which might be damp or wet. The fact that there is no mention at all of Moor End in records before 1304 gave a lead to the probable period of the castle’s building, and access to records which were not available to Baker or Bridges, or were not used by them, enables the curtain to be drawn aside and reveals to us a portion of Yardley History hitherto hidden.

The spelling ‘Moor End’ has only come into use during the last hundred years previously it had been More End or Morend. It was so called because it was the moorish or marshy part of the parish of Potterspury. For long after the village of Potterspury was founded there would be plenty of spare land, and the marshy end would remain in its wild state, a tangle of trees, bushes and pools of water, the haunt of birds and wildfowl. As the land near the village was taken up, younger sons would have to go further and further afield, and their strips of cultivated land would get nearer to what is now Yardley. Eventually they would build cottages and barns on the ley or clearing, and the hamlet of Yardley would be formed. While younger sons of farmers were clearing new land and forming hamlets, the younger sons of the ruling classes were also on the look-out for new manors, and about the end of the 12th century the overlord of Potterspury granted the hamlet of Yardley to a Gobion from Northampton, hence the name Yardley Gobion (Baker II,227).

Time passed and soon it was the turn of the last wild portion of the parish to be cleared and cultivated. Between 1274 and 1284 the name of Roger de le More de Yardeley occurs as witness on deeds immediately after Ivo and John Gobion, from which it may be deduced that he was a close connection and was living on a portion of land at the edge of Yardley verging on the moor end. (Furtho Charity Estate Records; Northants record Office). After his name disappears, John de Tyngewick comes on the scene. He was the eldest son of Elias de Tygewick who was at this time the warden or Master Forester of Whittlewood Forest, and may have lived at Deanshanger on the site of the present Dovehouse Farm, although also owned part of the manor of Wappenham on the far side of the forest. Elias de Tyngewick ought to have lived in Puxley in the official residence of the Chief Forester, but a rather peculiar situation had arisen.

The office of warden was first created by Henry II when he gave the position and the house at Puxley together with many perquisites and privileges to Brownman the Forester and his heirs for ever. Several generations of the Forester family held the office, but eventually the heir was a small boy who could not perform the Warden’s duties, so the King appointed Elias de Tyngewick as temporary Warden, on the understanding that he would relinquish the position when the young Forester was old enough to claim it. However he never applied for the Wardenship although he continued to live at Puxley and to enjoy the rights and privileges which included the run of the entire forest for his cattle and pigs, unlimited wood, and tolls and payments of various kinds from all the villages in the Forest area. Perhaps he and Elias came to an amicable arrangement; there was plenty of room in the forest for both. When Elias died, his son John succeeded to the Wardenship, but continued to live at Moor End in what was describes as a capital messuage with a garden and a dovehouse. He made six assarts in the forest totalling 180 acres, i.e. six portions of land cleared of trees and fenced round to keep out the deer. The small farmers of Potterspury and Yardley whose cattle commoned on the forest, had to give him a goose, a hen, and 4d in money every year. “Hen Money” amounting to about 20/- a year was still being paid by the commoners of Pury and Yardley down to the year 1854 when Whittlewood was disforested; by then it was the perquisite of the Keeper of Wakefield Walk who collected it himself from house to house.

When John de Tyngewick died in 1304 he owned parts of the Manor of Evenley and Wappenham, his house at Moor End and six cottages there, together with 300 acres of land in Yardley, Alderton and Old Stratford. (Baker and Cal.Imq.P.M.). Just before his death he offended the King (Edward I) who claimed the right to present a priest to the church at Wappenham and did so, only to discover that John de Tyngwick also claimed the right and had already got his younger son John instituted to the living. The King was at Dumfermline in Scotland when he heard of the affair and sent a mandate to the Bishop of Chester and the Council of York “to take councel and ordain a remedy so that the King’s right may be saved that John de Tyngewick who is his minister, and those who aided him may be punished”. (Cal Chancery Warrants, Dec. 6.1303). It was probably an account of this that John’s son and heir William did not succeed to the Wardenship, although he inherited Moor End and the other property, and the younger son remained undisturbed in his rectory at Wappenham. John de Tyngewick the elder had owned some land in Furtho and Cosgrove, derived probably through connection with the Cheyne family who at that time shared with the Furtho family and the lordship of Furtho, and trouble seems to have developed, as in 1316 Adam de Furtho complained to the King that William de Tyngewick and his brother John, the Rector of Wappenham had come with others by night and burned down his house at Furtho. (Cal.Pat.Rolls). Either by right or might William retained his land in Furtho, and when he died without issue later in the same year, his brother John the Rector succeeded to all his property. He also was dead by 1322, and it is uncertain how he disposed of Moor End. His other estates at Furtho, Wappenham and Evenly were either sold or let on lease just before his death. (Baker and Furtho records).

The next time we hear of Moor End it was owned by Thomas de Ferrers, supposed to be a distant connection of the family of de Ferrers who held Potterspury from the Conquest til they forfeited it in 1265 for their part in the rebellion of Simon de Montford against Henry III. This Thomas de Ferrers seems to have been in favour with Edward III, who in 1347 granted him a licence to fortify his manor house at Moor End and to make a park there, in other words to build a castle with towers, moat and bridge etc. It must not be thought that this castle was intended to be a massive stronghold such as the Normans built in order to keep the English in subjection after the Conquest, or like the later castles built by Edward I along the Welsh border. By 1347 England was at peace within her own borders and expected to continue so. It was a prosperous and expanding period. Norman conquerors and English subjects had fused into the English nation, and at last the French tongue had given way to English which was being spoken by high and low.

There was no need for defensive castles, but as the great lords were still living in the castles built by their ancestors, every rising man naturally wanted one too. A castle was a prestige symbol then, just as sprawling mansions like Burghley, Hatfield and Audley End were at a later date. Normally the King granted a licence in return for a fee, and as he remitted it in the case of Thomas de Ferrers it may be supposed that the latter had rendered the King some service , perhaps in France where the battle of Crecy had been won the year before. (Cal.Close.Rolls).

Nothing is known of the castle built by de Ferrers, but it was probably never completed by him, as in 1348 the plague known as the Black Death swept across England, brought by soldiers returning from the French wars, and perhaps a third of the entire population of the country died. No statistics are available to show how this part of England was affected, but it is not likely that Yardley would escape entirely, situated on or near two main roads only 60 miles from London. There is a certain amount of evidence that Furtho became depopulated and abandoned at this time. Thomas de Ferrers however did survive the Plague, and when he died in 1353 his property eventually came to a Sir Edward Despencer whose widow and son in 1363 gave Moor End to Edward III in return for land at Burley in Rutland. (Cal.Pat.Rolls and Cal. Ancient Deeds). One wonders what Yardley people thought when they knew the King intended to finish the castle. What did he mean by it? Surely he would not live in such a an out-of-the-way spot. Even if he did not live there, there would be officials coming and going all the time, and it would be much more difficult to help themselves to deer and wood from the forest.

On October 1st 1363 the King appointed John de Newenham, parson of Cheadle to be the Clerk of the Works and Richard Wydeville of Grafton to be Supervisor. They were directed to take hewers of stone, masons, carpenters, and other artificaers and workmen; to provide stone, timber and all other necessaries, and cartage to bring in same; to make all payments of wages to the workmen and other necessary payments. John de Newenham was further instructed to bring back all the workmen who had withdrawn from the works without licence, and to arrest all others found contrarient or rebellious and to imprison them until they gave security to serve in the works. He was also to set up a jury to inquire into the timber, stone, etc. which had been taken away, and to have it brought back again. His wages were to be the same as William de Mulsho received when he was Clerk of the Works at Windsor Castle. (Cal.Pat.Rolls).

The building seems to have gone on for the next two years, during which time £861 was spent on it. Men were paid a lump sum of 60/- for making a new pit at the quarry at Cosgrove containing 24 feet each way; removing the earth and ragstone in order to get at the freestone there, and a further £95 for digging 14,300 feet of stone, and 13/4 per 100 foot for removing same. Iron at 16d the piece was fetched from Gloucester. Other items were stone slates for eaves and guttering; 30 crested tiles for the roof ridge of the hall at 11/2 d each; pitch for blackening hinges and hooks, and tin for whitening same; 12 latches and snatches flower tinned for various doors, and 24 rings with flowers, and nails for same; sprigs and other nails cost 14d the thousand. Sixty pounds of hard fish for glue-making; was bought from a Northampton fishmonger named Brassinbourne at a cost of 18d. A block of bronze was bought for the roof louvers to adjust so smoke could escape from the hall, indicating a central fireplace. Oak trees were obtained mainly from the forest, but a special purchase was made of 12 regalbords, i.e. large-sized oak scantlings, from Riga in the Baltic, for making the head of the King’s bed. William the Bellgetter was paid 7/6 for a bell weighing 18lb to be rung at various times to stir up the workmen to hasten their work, and candles were purchased so the men could work by night in order in order to finish in time for the King’s arrival. There was already a hall with chamber at one end which needed re-roofing with tiles, and a new chamber for the King was built, connected to the hall by an allure or covered way with glass windows. The kitchen was a separate building in the courtyard connected to the hall by an enclosed passageway called a pentice. Three old towers are mentioned and a new King’s tower was built. Painted glass for windows in the chapel was obtained from John Gedding of London, and 85 feet of glass painted with borders of the Royal Arms was used in the castle windows. The Bellgetter also supplied a small bell for the chapel. Several old buildings in the courtyard were repaired, some of which were thatched, including one next to the outer gate, and new ones were built including a scullery, larder and bakery. The watermill on the stream was repaired, and also two dovecotes within the castle yard. The long wall on the north side of the castle was completed in accordance with the contract made by William of Wykeham.

By November1365 the main work was nearing completion; the scaffolding was dismantled and the scaffold holes filled in both inside and out by Robert Boseyate the layer. Furniture was then fetched from the King’s Palace at Langley in Herfordshire. During the next four years £105 was spent on repairs to various buildings, screens for the chapel, a new lock for the door of the King’s Great Chamber, and a new padlock fixed to the Great Gate after the escape of prisoners. Entrance to the castle was through an embattled Gate House with towers, whose upper storeys were reached by winding stairs, and which had another upper chamber looking inwards towards the hall. The castle was either wholly or partly surrounded by a moat crossed by a bridge. From the start to finish of the work, i.e. from October 1363 to June 1369 John East was Master Mason, and John Langton Master Carpenter, each receiving 4/- a week. In June 1369 the work was declared to be finished.

No plan exists of the castle but from allusions in the accounts it would appear to have been a rectangular enclosure with a tower at each corner, entered by an imposing Gate House in the south wall; the hall and chamber were evidently placed against the no0rth wall, and the chamber connected to the Great Chamber in the King’s Tower by a covered rampart walk with windows looking into the yard and across the yard to the windows of the Great House Chamber. The domestic offices were ranged against the outer walls, leaving the centre of the yard clear. The mill on the stream no doubt ground corn into flour, the stream supplied fish and the dovecote pigeons. It is uncertain whether the 300 acres belonging to the estate were kept in hand, but it seems most likely that they were let to a farm or farmers. The castle and rents arising therefrom were settled on the Queen, Philippa of Hainault, who appointed a fellow countryman, John de Ypres as Constable of the castle for life, and at the same time he was made Warden of Whittlewood. Hugh de Springfield was to be the Keeper of the Gate at a wage of 3d per day. (‘Building in England’, L.F. Salzman; History of the King’s Works, R. Allen Brown & A. J. Taylor; Cal.Pat, Rolls).

It may be wondered why the King needed this castle seeing that there were already 63 Royal Castles scattered about England, and another new one just completed in the Isle of Sheppey named Queensborough in honour of the Queen. (‘The English Castle, Hugh Braun). He visited Moor End several times whilst it was being built and occasionally afterwards, but the main purpose was probably to give the Warden of the Forest an imposing residence to overawe the local people, and to provide a prison for offenders against the forest laws. Henry II had had a hunting lodge at Wakefield but it was abandoned by King John who had one at Silverstone instead. This was given away by Edward II who was not a sporting type, and Edward III therefore had no house in the forest. In 1346 he had ordered the Warden to have a lodge built in the Shrob and stocks erected there ‘in which to detain tresspassers until they could be taken to Rockingham Castle for justice after the Assizes of the Forest be done at such lodge because the King’s manor of Silverstone where stocks used to be kept is not now in his hands’. (Cal.Pat.Rolls). Perhaps this arrangement had not proved satisfactory and a stronger prison was needed near at hand.

The charge of Moor End seems to have been largely left in the hands of the Gate Keeper, Hugh de Springfield, who would appear to have been something more than a mere gatekeeper. He was the terror of the countryside if we can believe the accusations brought against him four years after his appointment. He was said to have killed bucks for his own use at Redmoor, Geggares Well, Appletree wood and Knotwood; when he was instructed to cut 40 loads of wood for the King, he actually cut 80 and sold the excess for his own profit; he took to his own use gallons of honey found in the forest which he ought to have reserved for the King’s own use (honey was of course used for all sweetening purposes, there being no sugar). He had cut down six trees called ‘mapeles’ worth 6d each and an oak worth 40d in the Shrob; had fished in the King’s water and taken pikes, bream and roaches worth ¾d; had pretended to be the Forester and had charged John Martin £10 for pasturing his sheep and horses in the forest; had met a stranger travelling along Watling street and had imprisoned him in the castle till he paid ransom; had imprisoned Nicholas Clerk of Potterspury and made him pay 2/-; had extorted 40d from William Turville of Hulcote (near Towcester) or otherwise he would have beaten him; had carried away the stocks from the castle to Hulcote and put William Turville’s servants in them; had extorted a quarter of Wheat and 30 peacocks feathers from Alan de Aete, Lord of Shalstone, because his dog was found in the forest; had caused himself to be made a minister and forester in the Baileywick of William de Quinton in Salcey Forest, but promised to meddle no more there if William gave him 40/- for himself and a purse with 6/8 in it for Hughe’s wife; he released without warrant three thieves taken by the foresters; had brewed ale for sale in the castle contrary to the Assize of the forest, and had many times demanded and taken various sums from local people. Apparently he had powerful friends at Court as he was given free pardon for his offences, and retained Keepership of the Gate for another 20 years. (Cal.Pat. R.). No doubt many interesting encounters between him and the locals took place during that time, but history is silent thereon.

Although the King owned the castle and manor of Moor End he was supposed to hold it of the lord of Potterspury at a rent of 32/21/2 and a pound of pepper each Christmas. Ivo Gobion was also entitled to 121/2d and a pound of cumin seed for one house and 30 acres which formed part of the manor, presumably carved out of Gobion Manor originally and granted to Roger de le More. After nine years of non-payment the Earl of Warwick, then lord of Potterspury, appealed to the King to have the matter put right. A jury sat to inquire into the affair and returned a verdict that the Earl was entitled to the amount claimed, and a letter from John de Ypres confirmed it. Four years later nothing had been paid, and another order was issued that all arrears should be paid up at once and the rent in future promptly each Christmas. In 1375 another ‘clerical error’ was uncovered. The manor included a house and 9 acres of land in Alderton parish for which rent should have been paid to the King since he bought the manor in 1363. it now transpired that several tenants had in turn occupied the property rent free, the last one having pulled down buildings and cut down trees, thereby defrauding the King of £10. (Cal.Inq.Misc.Vol3).

Only two months after the castle was settled on the Queen she died, and from then on the King was entirely dominated by his mistress, Alice Ferrers, whose greed became a byword. She wheedled out of the King many manors and various goods including even the late Queen’s jewels. John de Ypres was induced to hand over Moor End Castle to her, and the King granted her unlimited timber for fuel and repairs when she should stay there. De Ypres retained the Wardenship, but deputed Sir Thomas Green of Green’s Norton to act for him, and himself became Seneschal of the Royal Household.

After the King’s death in 1377 the castle was taken from Alice and restored to the Crown by John of Gaunt, uncle and guardian of the young King Richard II. A jury reported that Alice had no goods in the castle except boards and trestles; the castle needed 40/- spent on immediate repairs and ought to have 10 marks spent yearly; the watermill was in decay and would soon be useless unless repaired. Richard Wydville of Grafton was directed to sell all the crops off the land and pay the proceeds into the Exchequer (C.P.R; Cal.Inq.Misc.). When he came of age King Richard settled the castle on his wife Queen Anne, and she appointed a Constable, and Hugh de Springfield was confirmed as Gate keeper. (C.P.R.)

In 1384 a Commission sat to inquire into a complaint by John Wendlynbrough a merchant of Northampton, that the Abbot of Croyland with others had lain in wait for him in Horton and had taken him prisoner to Moor End, made him pay 40/- and got his friend to promise £200,then took him to Northampton prison, ‘and now they promise to do it all over again’. (C.P.R.).

After the death of Anne, the castle was let on lease, the next King, Henry IV giving it to his Queen, Joan, who spent a few pounds on repairs. In 1420 during Henry V’s reign, a French lord de Touteville was kept prisoner at Moor End for a long time, probably waiting for ransom to come from France. For a great part of the time he was ill, and was attended by a physician named Peter Altobasse, and supplied with medicines at the King’s cost. (Cal.Issue Rolls). During the following reigns the castle was held by various members of the Royal family, including Margaret, wife of Henry VI, and George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV. It was never in the King’s hands for very long, and no repairs at his expense are recorded.

Eventually the castle was given to Henry Duke of York, younger son of Henry VII. During Henry VII’s reign the notorious Richard Empson was Con stable of the castle and Steward of Potterspury Manor. He was born at Towcester, son of a sieve-maker and rose to favour with Henry VII because of the vast wealth he amassed for him by extortions from the people on every possible pretext. On the accession of Henry VIII the outcry against Empson and his associate Dudley was so great that Henry yielded to the clamour, sacrificed them and had them executed on a trumped-up charge of treason, and proceeded to enjoy the money inherited from his father. Henry VIII is known to have been at More End on one occasion when he granted an licence for a man named Morgan to wear his hat in the King’s presence on account of infirmity (Copy at N.R.O.), but this may have been merely a visit from his new house at Grafton Regis. By this time the castle was probably in ruins and in any case castles were going out of fashion. The current rage was for the new type of house with very large glass windows, fireplaces against the wall with chimneys and other modern amenities. In 1541, William Clerke, Sergeant-at-Arms, was appointed Keeper of the castle and its lands, and this is the last mention of the castle in the crown records. (L&P Hen.VIII). It is not known whether it was allowed to disintegrate or whether it was demolished. Nothing was visible in 1719 when John Bridges was collecting information for his history. When Baker wrote about 1835 he said that the tenant of manor Farm had dug out the foundations and obtained 2000yards of stone; the castle Barn is said to have been built with the stone. It seems obvious that the small island now shown on the O.S.6” map as the site of the castle can only represent a portion of the area originally occupied; perhaps the Gate House stood there, and it was the foundations of this structure which was excavated in the 19th century?

The hamlet of Moor End contained six cottages in the time of John de Tyngewick at the beginning of the 14th century, and it does not seem to have varied much in size since. It is uncertain when the manor House was first built. If the castle was built on the same site as John de Tyngewick’s manor House, then the present manor house was probably built later, perhaps when the castle itself was finally abandoned as a dwelling. About the time the castle disappeared from record a family named Smith, alias Kent came to Moor End from Warwickshire. They were gentry, and the only Yardley family who recorded a coat of arms at Herald’s Visitation in 1618, so presumably they lived in a house of some size. Bridges referred to a large old house which was said to have been the home of the Gobions but the Gobions never lived at Moor End.

During the Civil War between Charles I and Parliament, Moor End was sold away from the crown estates by the Parliamentary Party (Madge’s Index, P.R.O.) but was reclaimed to the Crown at the Restoration of Charles II, who in due course settled it as part of the Honour of Grafton on his son the 1st Duke of Grafton, with whose descendants it remained till the break-up of the Grafton Estate in 1919-20 when the Manor Farm and cottages were purchased by tenants.