The Ampleforth Country by A Group of Boys of Ampleforth College - 1958 - Page 46-48


UNLIKE Brandsby, Crayke is a compact village. It has a remarkable site on an isolated hill, and can be seen from long distances. The village climbs up the eastern side of the hill to where, beyond the church, the castle stands on the summit, commanding a large extent of the Plain of York, with a distant view of the Minster. The view southwards from the castle in historic times would have been of a large expanse of forest; the Forest of Galtres, which stretched from the Howardian Hills to the walls of York.

The Anglo-Saxon word crec, meaning crag, gave this village its name. It was singled out as a good defensive site from the earliest times, being a Roman fort on the road from York to Teesmouth. The history of Crayke lies in the history of the castle.


It was built at the end of the twelfth century by Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham. It was here in 1195 that the good bishop partook of more food than was good for his elderly digestion and he scarcely reached Havden before he died. There were many other visitors to Crayke Castle:

King John in 1209, 1210-11, Henry III in December, 1227, Edward I in August, 1292, Edward II in October, 1316, and Edward III in April, 1333.

A cannon ball found at the bottom of the hill suggests that the castle was involved in the Wars of the Roses in the fifteenth century or in the Civil War. But in 1646 and in 1647, the House of Commons ordered that the castle should be rendered untenable and with no garrison maintained in it. The castle then became a semi-ruin until in the last century the great chamber was repaired and made fit to live in.

The castle was one of those slightly fortified houses constructed by the medieval bishops which present few of the features of the ordinary castle. It consists of two distinct and self-contained buildings. The great hall was built first, and later the great chamber was built south of it. The first buildings had five storeys; a peculiarity of the second was that the whole ground floor was one room. But it has since been changed. In 1441 a kitchen was built by Bishop Nevill.

This kitchen served a dual purpose, for it was also a passage between the hall and the chamber. Late in the fifteenth century, the new tower was erected. This building was L-shaped, one slope corresponding to the hall, the other to the parlour. All that remains of the building are the ruins of the hall and porch and the basement.


The church, dedicated to St. Cuthbert, was rebuilt in 1436 through the goodness of a certain John Falman, who left a sum of money for the purpose. It consists of a nave, chancel and porch, and in the nineteenth century the aisle was added. The wooden roof is of the fifteenth century, as is also the rood screen, which, however, is not a formidable example of fifteenth century woodwork. The pulpit is a Jacobean piece and the remnant of a three-decker: it has the date 1637 on it. The font is plain and of the sixteenth century. There are five stone effigies in the church. Of special interest is an altar stone hung on the wall at the east end of the aisle. It lacks two corners, and therefore only three of the usual five crosses remain. The stone was found in the basement of the New Tower and transferred to the church in 1927.


Crayke Manor, formerly Wyndham Hall, lies at some distance from the village and is a fine example of a Jacobean manor house in this part of Yorkshire. As it stands, the house has been almost doubled in size; the newer part is in keeping with the old. The hall panelling is not original, but there is a fine staircase and gallery. The manor is believed to have sheltered a priest during Penal times, and its attic was found to hold panels painted with religious subjects.


The story of Crayke is, however, interwoven with the story of one of the most lovable of Northumbrian Saints, St. Cuthbert, monk of Melrose and Ripon, Bishop of Lindisfarne and hermit. Crayke was given to St. Cuthbert by the contemporary Saxon king, to found a monastery and to use as a resting place on his travels. In the eighth and ninth centuries, during the wild times after his death, when the Danish marauders stalked the land, his body was taken from Lindisfarne for safety by the fleeing monks, and in 882 rested for months at Crayke. St. Cuthbert was finally buried in the Cathedral of Durham. During the Reformation, the body was secretly reburied in the Cathedral and the place where his body lies was, and still is, a secret, always in the keeping of three monks, one of whom, at the present day, is the Abbot of Ampleforth. It is said that wherever St. Cuthbert’s body rested on its restless flight from the Danes, those places became part of the County of Durham, and true enough, Crayke for a thousand years was in all maps given as belonging, not to Yorkshire, but to Durham. And to this day, the inn at Crayke is called the Durham Ox.