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A view of Raby Castle, County Durham (Spring 2009)

Raby Castle (grid reference NZ12912177) is a medieval castle located near Staindrop in County Durham, England, among 200 acres (810,000 m2) of deer park.[1] It was built by John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, between approximately 1367 and 1390. Cecily Neville, the mother of the Kings Edward IV and Richard III, was born here. After Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westmorland, led the failed Rising of the North in favour of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1569 Raby Castle was taken into royal custody. Sir Henry Vane the Elder purchased Raby Castle in 1626 and neighbouring Barnard Castle from the Crown, and the Earls of Darlington and Dukes of Cleveland added a Gothic-style entrance hall and octagonal drawing room.[2] From 1833 to 1891 they were the Dukes of Cleveland and they retain the title of Lord Barnard. Extensive alterations were carried out in the 17th and 18th centuries.[3] It is famed for both its size and its art, including works by old masters and portraits.[4] After 1733 it was frequented from his young age of eleven by the poet Christopher Smart, who eloped briefly at the age of thirteen with Anne Vane, daughter of Henry Vane, who succeeded to the Barnard title. It is a Grade I listed building and open to the public on a seasonal basis.

The castle is still a private home and remains the seat of the Vane family, the Barons Barnard.[5] The 11th Baron carried out an extensive programme of renovation and restoration after inheriting the barony in 1964.[6]


The south front of Raby Castle

The house of Neville held the manor of Raby from the 13th century,[7] and although the family had no formal title, from 1295 they were summoned to Parliament as Barons of Raby;[8]

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.[9] Raby was the family's seat of power, and there may have been a fortified house on the site of the present building from around 1300.[7] 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.[10] 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.[8]

In 1378 Thomas Hatfield Bishop of Durham granted John de Neville a licence to fortify his property at Raby.[11] John died in 1388 and was succeeded by his son, Ralph.[8] 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".[7]

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.[8] However his family's traditional association with the Earls of Lancaster meant that when Henry Bolingbroke 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.[8]

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 Northumberland 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.[12]

An 1817 J. M. W. Turner painting of Raby Castle and its landscape.[13] The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

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.[14] 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.[4] 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.[15] The present family is responsible for the great collection of art in the castle.[3]

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.[16]

In 1890 the former 4th Duke of Cleveland died, leaving the line of succession to the castle and its vast estates unclear.[3] The case was decided in 1891 when the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords deemed his relative, Henry 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.[17]


A panorama of the castle showing the towers and defences from the north east
A plan of the castle from J. D. Mackenzie's The Castles of England: their story and structure[18]

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.[15] Access to the gatehouse was via a drawbridge, since replaced by a flagged causeway.[4] The gatehouse originally contained three portcullises, as is shown by the still-visible grooves used to work them.[14] Two smaller towers beside the gatehouse have no defensive function and were added during the renovations of Henry Vane, 2nd Earl of Darlington.[4]

Access to the gatehouse is via a door through the curtain wall,[2] which rose to a height of thirty feet from the waters of the moat. It is strengthened periodically by buttress towers[15] and formed the second line of defence, the moat being the first.[19] The passage along the parapet was the ancient chemin de ronde (allure) on which guards were posted.[2] 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.[15][20]


In 1988, Raby Castle doubled for various royal houses during the production of the 1998 film Elizabeth.[21] The famed Raby Lake stood in for the River Thames during the filming of a night-time party scene.

In 2023, American television drama series Billions used the castle as the home of Bobby Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis,[22] as shown in Season 7, Episode 2: "Original Sin".[23]


The castle is famous for its works of art, mostly collected by the Vane Family, including old masters and family portraits. Noted artists whose work is in the castle's collection include Giordano, Van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Small Drawing Room has a fine collection of sporting paintings, reflecting the interests of the family, including works by Ben Marshall, Henry Bernard Chalon and Sir Alfred Munnings, among others.[24]

There are some fine paintings in the library, including two architectural capriccios, one by Marco and Sebastiano Ricci and the other by Antonio Joli. A number of portraits include two paintings by Sir Peter Lely of Lady Mary Sackville and Louise de Kerouaille, a portrait of William Bankes by Pompeo Batoni and others of the family, including Sir Henry Vane the Elder and Sir Henry Vane the Younger, the latter at one time Governor of Massachusetts.[24]

The pictures in the ante-library are chiefly of the Dutch and Flemish schools of painting and include works by Pieter de Hooch and David Teniers the Younger. The dining room contains some of the castle's most impressive paintings, including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony van Dyck. The paintings in this room are mostly portraits of members of the family or associates.[24]

Artist or medium Title or description of subject[25]
Sir Godfrey Kneller Alexander Pope in his 28th year
J.S.C. Schaak Joseph Interpreting the Dream of Pharaoh's Chief Baker
William Hoare of Bath William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield
Circle of Charles Jervas An unknown Gentleman, possibly one of the sons of Gilbert Vane, 2nd Baron Barnard
Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt Sir Henry Vane the Elder
Circle of Joris Van Son A Composition of Fruit and Lobsters
Claude-Joseph Vernet A rocky coastal Scene
Sir Peter Lely Sir Henry Vane the Younger
Francesco da Ponte Bassano A Vegetable and Fruit Market
Robert Walker Oliver Cromwell
Aert van der Neer River Scene at Midnight
Cornelis de Vos A Gentleman and his Wife, believed to be either Jakob Jordans and his wife or Syders and his wife
Circle of Van Dyck James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton
Sir Anthony van Dyck Sir John Finch, Lord Finch of Fordwich
Sir Joshua Reynolds P.R.A.[26] Lady Katherine Margaret Powlett
Attributed to William Hoare of Bath William Pulteney, 1st Earl of Bath
Luca Giordano Marcus Curtius leaping into the Gulf
Jacopo Amigoni Frederick, Prince of Wales
Thomas Barker The Woodman Returning
Hiram Powers The Greek Slave


  1. ^ "Deer Park". Raby Castle. Retrieved 19 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Hodgson, J.F. English Medieval Architects; J.F. Hodgson, 'Raby in Three Chapters' 1880 to 1895. Durham, UK: Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland. pp. Vols II and IV 1 et seq.
  3. ^ a b c Hammond, Peter W. (1998). The Complete Peerage or a History of the House of Lords and All Its Members from the Earliest Times, Vol. XIV. UK: Sutton Publishing. pp. 30–32. ISBN 978-0-7509-0154-3.
  4. ^ a b c d Scott, Owen Stanley (1906). Raby: Its Castle and Its Lords. Barnard Castle (UK): A & E Ward, Printers. pp. 1, et seq.
  5. ^ "Discover History". Raby Castle. Retrieved 27 September 2022. Today, Raby is the seat of Lord and Lady Barnard and the Vane family.
  6. ^ "Obituary: Lord Barnard". The Daily Telegraph. 4 May 2016. Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  7. ^ a b c Emery, Anthony (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500, Volume I: Northern England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-521-49723-7.
  8. ^ a b c d e Tuck, Anthony (2004), "Neville, Ralph, first earl of Westmorland", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.), Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19951 (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  9. ^ McNiven, Peter (2004), "Neville [de Neville] family", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.), Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/54532 (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. ^ Emery, Anthony (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500, Volume I: Northern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-521-49723-7.
  11. ^ Raby Castle licence to crenellate, The Gatehouse, retrieved 18 December 2011
  12. ^ McDermott, Roger (2004), "Neville, Charles, sixth earl of Westmorland", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.), Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19924 (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  13. ^ "Raby Castle, the Seat of the Earls of Darlington". The Walters Art Museum.
  14. ^ a b Surtees, Robert (1820). The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham: volume 2 – Describes the 21 parishes and chapelries of Chester ward in the north of the county, including Gateshead, Jarrow and other parts of present-day urban Tyneside. London, UK: Institute of Historical Research. p. 220.
  15. ^ a b c d English Heritage. "Raby Castle". The Listed Building Register. English Heritage. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  16. ^ Dik van der Meulen, William III Biography, 2013
  17. ^ The Official Gazette of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Durham 1908 to 1919. Durham Freemasons. 1919. p. 172.
  18. ^ Mackenzie, J. D. (1897). The Castles of England: their story and structure. New York: Macmillan. p. 400.
  19. ^ Thornton, George (2010). The Rising in the North: The Rising of the Northern Earls. Unknown: Ergo Press. pp. 24–26. ISBN 978-0-9557510-8-0.
  20. ^ Bibliography of sources relating to Raby Castle,; accessed 8 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Filming Locations for Elizabeth (1997), around the UK". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  22. ^ Gingersnap (4 December 2023). "Billions Season 7 Location Guide". Damian Lewis. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  23. ^ Collins, Sean T. (18 August 2023). "'Billions' Season 7, Episode 2 Recap: The Hard Sell". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  24. ^ a b c Raby Castle official site,; accessed 8 November 2014.
  25. ^ Raby Castle Guidebook 2012
  26. ^ Engraved by J.R. Smith

External links

54°35′27″N 1°48′7″W / 54.59083°N 1.80194°W / 54.59083; -1.80194

1 Annotation

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

County Durham is a long way from London, but there are people spying on their neighbors who get paid to report odd behavior wherever and whenever seen:

Jan.2. 1668
H. W. to Sir Philip Musgrave, 2nd Bart., MP for Westmorland.

Henry Blackett, a dangerous Anabaptist of Bithburn, has been preaching at Raby Castle. He holds meetings at his house.
The two sent by Tillam from Germany, [John] Foxey and [Chris.] Pooley, have been here.
Cocks, in his discourse, spoke much against the ministry, as no better than Roman Catholic in teaching traditions, and exhorted to perseverance in the truth and to constancy. Thos Atkins, of Bowron, says there are 140 men well horsed and armed, some of whom were in the late plot.
Could discover more if he had wherewith to go amongst them. [S.P. Dom., Car. II. 232, No. 10.]…

Why Sir Philip Musgrave?
Philip Musgrave succeeding at aged 8 to ‘a very entangled and disordered estate’, and further handicapped by ‘a melancholy disposition and a weak body’, Musgrave became a lifelong Cavalier, whose devotion to King Charles was only exceeded by his devotion to the Roman Catholic Church.

On the news of Chancellor Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon’s dismissal, Col. Philip Musgrave, 2nd Bart., MP for Westmorland, who did not ‘covet the knowledge of state mysteries’, asked Charles II to dispense with his attendance at the next session of Parliament in view of his age [60] and infirmity, and the difficulty of the journey to Westminster from Westmorland and Cumberland.

But Musgrave had taken his seat by 9 Nov. 1667, when he was one of the delegation sent to ask James, Duke of York about the fortification of Sheerness,

Sir Philip continued to serve on all committees aimed at nonconformists. He pointed out that Queen Elizabeth had punished them in the same way, and said:
“The dregs of schism are so deeply settled in men that indulgence will never purge them out. It is to be wished that all profaneness and debauchery were restrained and duly punished to avoid the scandal and objections of the dissenters.”


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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Jan