TV Historian Emma Wells explores the secrets of Snape Castle

in Snape, North Yorkshire

Snape Castle, near Bedale, is best known as the residence of Cecily Neville, Duchess of Warwick, Countess of Worcester, and mother to two Yorkist kings of England: Edward IV and Richard III (for a short time he owned Snape). Before then, however, the first medieval manor house was replaced with a fortified residence by George Neville, Lord of Snape and Danby. It was not until the late 16th century that the castle passed to the Cecil family through marriage.

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Thomas Cecil, the fourth and last Lord Latimer, Second Lord Burghley and afterwards the 1st Earl of Exeter, inherited the lordship and proceeded to rebuild the castle into the quadrangular structure still standing. Yet, many are unaware that it played host to one of the most significant rebellions in Tudor history: the Pilgrimage of Grace.

In October 1536, John Neville, 3rd Baron Latimer, and his third (and final) wife, Katherine Parr, were dwelling at their principal residence at Snape when an angry mob of rebellious Catholics appeared and dragged away Latimer. Conflicting stories as to which side Latimer was truly on (the old ‘Catholic’ faith or new Protestantism) had reached the King Henry VIII in London, and word of his betrayal had infuriated the Yorkshire mob. 

Between October 1536 and April 1537, Katherine lived alone in fear with her two stepchildren. Terror struck in January 1537, when, believing that Latimer was about to betray them to the King, an armed mob stormed the castle before seizing Katherine and her stepchildren as hostages. If Latimer did not immediately return north, the rebels would kill his family and torch his house to the ground. Latimer flew back to Yorkshire and persuaded the rebels to leave he and his family alone. In 1543, Latimer died. Parr became the sixth and final wife of Henry VIII only a few months later.

Don’t miss the fifteenth-century chapel, with the (much in need of restoration) painted ceiling by Italian artist Antonio Verrio, and stained glass by London firm Clayton & Bell. It is now a chapel of ease for the nearby church of St Michael at Well.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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