D. Clitheroe Castles Norman founding Father: Ralph the Red

Of strategic importance


        View of the Ribble Valley from the Castle that gave the Normans  a commanding view of the valley.

With respect to the etymology I am inclined to accept the word (Clitheroe) as pure Danish from Klezzun “cautes”, and hop “mons”, the rocky hill.- History of Craven

Ralph the Red was the first documented Norman at Clitheroe……”Mitton (manor) was included in the first alienation made by the de Lacy family after their acquirement of the fee of Clitheroe”The History of Craven

But with the coming of the Norman masters the last Clitheroe thane, Orm the Englishman was evicted from the rock and instead of the wooden palisades there arose the limestone walls of the castle keep and its outer defenses“.                        Arthur Langshaw- Clitheroe`s Thousand Year

The manor of Clitheroe was in existence by 1102, when it was granted by Robert de Lacy to Ralph le Rous. It comprised two oxgangs, including the lands of Orm le Engles inside and outside the Bailey (Farrer and Brownbill 1911,1934). The manor house had been taken generally to have been in the Alleys, which stood outside the north end of the borough (Whitaker 1876, 79) -The Lancashire Historic Town Survey Programme-2001-2006

The castle “keep” at Clitheroe was probably built in the time of Ralph of Red who according to Langshaw replaced the Englishman Orme on lands “in and about the Castle rock” at that time.

Robert de Lacy (1) built the Lacy Castle at Clitheroe near the Western end of their Pontefract domain“. -The Legacy of the Lacy, Lacey, Lacy Family 1066-1994; Gerard Lacey, Mashue Printing Midland, Mi. 48440

Whittaker says “certain messuages in Clitheroe are conveyed, formally the property of Orme le Engleis or Orme the Saxon ie. the ancient proprietor within the baillie and below.-The History of Craven


“Outside the borough, on the north side, was the Alleys, thought to have been the manor house of the manor of Salthill (Whitaker 1876, 79). The manor may have comprised the two oxgangs of land granted in 1102 to Ralph the Red, as the Heriz family, who owned the Alleys, held a Clitheroe estate of that size in 1255” (Langshaw 1955, 6).



This castle became the administrative center of the de Lacy family’s large estates from which Ralph the Red was the first Norman documented at Clitheroe Nov. 23rd,1102.

The castle keep having been attributed to Robert de Lacy II, but most likely it was the first Robert de Lacy who initiated a much more substantial defensive edifice. More practically it may have been immediately fortified by Ralph the Red out of necessity after his arrival in 1102 . This was a rough neighborhood during the first 100 years after the conquest and subsequent harrying of the north. Ralph the Red became the first enfeoffed Clitheroe manor lord beginning 1102 under Robert de Lacy, the 2nd. Lord of Bowland. Ralph as Roberts illegitimate son may have been designated by Robert to secure the immediate Bowland area lands around Clitheroe from the banished Roger de Poitou or help to secure this area from further Saxon uprising as well as Scots incursions.


This probably included the Clitheroe fortification mentioned in the 1102 charter. It was made more secure and Ralph may have been instrumental in that effort himself. The de Lacy’s resided at Pontefract castle and not at Clitheroe. Later Henry de Lacy l granted the burgess of Clitheroe the right to a market town sometime in the middle of the 12th. century. This would not have come about without the area being made secure by that time.

Others suggest that some type of fortification was in place at least as far back as to Roger de Poitou`s tenure. However;

Their is no real evidence for the suggestion that Roger of Poitou built it“-          The Lacy Family in England and Normandy 1066-1194, W.E. Wightman-1966.

And it was from this rock that they gradually brought more and more land into cultivation within the four square miles that formed their township, and which is the Clitheroe of to-day.` Arthur Langshaw- Clitheroe`s Thousand Years

From Clitheroe Historic Town Survey (2004)

`The manor of Clitheroe was in existence by 1102,when it was granted by Robert de Lacy to Ralph le Rous (1). It comprised two oxgangs, including the lands of Orm le Engleis inside and outside the bailey (Farrer and Brownbill 1911, 364-5). The descent of the manor is uncertain, but it appears to have descended to the Heriz family by 1255, a who were known to  own the manor of Salthill. The manor house had been taken generally to have been the Alleys, which stood outside the north end of the borough (Whitaker 1876, 79). It had passed to the Radcliffe family by the mid-fifteenth century, but was held by a number of families before being sold to the Oddie family in 1672, who held it until the late nineteenth century.` (Farrer and Brownbill 1911, 364-5)

Ralph’s front yard today.

Note: Ralph’s half brother Ilbert (2) disappears after the battle of Lincoln in 1141 and his younger brother, Henry*, inherits the Bowland barony and the Honor of Clitheroe. It is this Henry de Lacy that grants the 1st charter for a market at Clitheroe circa 1147. The first charter was confirmed by the 2nd Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln circa 1275 with a restated charter referencing the original grant by his “ancestor” the first *Henry de Lacy of the  conquest family and the half brother of “Ralph the Red”. It is this early charter that formally established Clitheroe as a market trading town and it became an administrative center for the de Lacy barony. Henry l died 1173 and was succeeded by his son Robert (3rd.de Lacy Robert), the last of the direct male bloodline de Lacy Lords of Bowland and the Hounor of Clitheroe.

What happened after Ralph and Henry

DSC_0958Clitheroe today looking up towards the library from the castle

*The first Norman born de Lacy male bloodline ended with Henry’s son Robert de Lacy (3rd. Robert de Lacy) who died in 1192. The second line than began with Roger Fitz Eustace who took the name de Lacy after he inherited the de Lacy landholdings from his grandmother Albreda de Lizours. She was a first cousin of Robert de Lacy who had died without issue. His holdings going to Albreda initially as the closest living bloodline descendant to have first received lands from the Conquerer, her great grandfather Ilbert of the 1066 conquest. She then passed them on to her grandson (as women did not have the same hereditary rights to hold lands or baronies).

Roger Fitz Eustace (aka. after 1193 ) as Roger de Lacy was the first of the second line of de Lacy’s was also known as “Hell” from his siege of Acre,1192. He had became the constable of Chester upon his fathers death. He died 1211. His son and heir John became constable of Chester as well as the first Earl of Lincoln in 1232. John was a signatory of the magna carta and one of it`s sureties. His son and successor was Edmund de Lacy, Constable of Chester who died in 1258.

The last de Lacy Barron was the 2nd. named Henry of the de Lacy family referred to above who made the restatement of the original market charter to the Clitheroe burgesses. That 2nd. Henry de Lacy was the baron of Hulton, constable of Chester, Lord of Blackburnshire and Pontefract, Lord of Bowland and by right the hounor of Clitheroe.

He was also the 3rd. Earl of Lincoln and Edward Plantagenet (Edward l) made him “Lord Protector of the realm” or regent to Edwards son the first Prince of Whales, later Edward ll when the 1st Edward (aka) “Longshanks” was battling the Scots. This last of the great de Lacy barons died Feb. 5, 1311 and was buried inside St. Paul’s, London. His death with out male heirs coincides with the initial eschets of the de Lacy baronies. This including the successor de Mittons being replaced as feudal manor lords in the Bowland barony due to the death of Henry de Lacy without a male issue. The de Lacy baronys went to Thomas Plantagent husband of Henrys only surviving daughter Ann, married to Thomas Plantagent, the Earl of Lancaster. Later to the Crown after 1350.