In Domesday Book (1086) the great Honour of Pickering was recorded as a royal possession. The king's castle was sited at a strategic point where an east-west route along the Vale of Pickering met a north-south route linking Whitby, on the coast, with York.
Initially the castle was of the motte and bailey type. The motte 13.1 m (43 feet) high still survives in the centre of the castle site with a bailey to the north and south. The ditch of the north bailey (or inner ward) can be seen on its south and east side. This enclosure was walled in the 1180s. At the entrance stands the Coleman Tower which also provided access to a wall walk leading to the keep. Structures in the inner ward included the Old Hall. At the west end, where it abuts the outer wall, there is a recess for the seat of honour with an arch bearing zig-zag decoration.
The present keep, replacing a Norman structure, is 13th century. The south bailey may have existed in Norman times, but was not walled until the 14th century.
Butler, L., 1993. Pickering Castle (English Heritage)
Pevsner, N., 1966. The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: the North Riding (London, Penguin), 284-5