A FORTNIGHT ago, we showed an 1803 map which featured an expansive earthwork to the north of Northallerton which it referred to as Streetlam Castle. We thought that it was a “cartographer’s folly” – a deliberate mistake inserted by the map-maker so he could catch out anyone copying his work.

But, says Mike Rooney, there may have been some form of a castle at Streetlam, which is a hamlet near Danby Wiske. In his archaeological researches in the area, he has come across an entry in an old directory which reads: "On 11th May 1787, William purchased land at Streetlam Castle farm on the West Moor in Danby Wiske parish from William Wrightson, a gentleman of Morton Co. Durham. The farm had originally consisted of three closes but had recently been divided into seven closes and it consisted of arable meadow and pasture lands of about forty acres and was adjacent to the lane leading from Yafforth to Darlington."

Says Mike: “This does not directly reference an actual castle at Streetlam, but it may give us an indication that there was some form of fortified site in or near Streetlam. That would be a substantial house, possibly a tower house, which has now been lost. There are a few surviving examples locally, the best being South Cowton castle which is just up the road.”

South Cowton can only be a mile or so away, as the cyclist pedals, and is a wonderful, if muddy, part of the world. The farmhouse was fortified by Sir Richard Conyers in the late 15th Century – he was knighted for fighting with Richard III in Scotland, and turned his farmhouse into a stronghold to keep the Scots out.

He also rebuilt the old church that he could see from his castle windows, and built a stone causeway across the damp fields so he could reach it without getting his feet wet. It is also said that he evicted the handful of peasants who lived in hovels on the hillside so they didn’t spoil the view from his castle.

The castle was abandoned for 300 years before it was renovated in the 1920s, and it required more work in the early 1980s when a tower collapsed. It is now a private farmhouse. The isolated St Mary’s Church has, since 1988, been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, and is well worth a visit.

  • If you have anything to add to today’s column, please email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk