Many castles in Northumberland fit the first definition of castle according to the experts from which it has been indicated that they must be medieval. I’ve covered quite a few of those this month although certainly not all of them. Castle purists won’t agree with the inclusions of some of those I have written about in this account because, point by point, they don’t fit their criteria of what a castle should be and I agree that medieval castles belong in their own class. However, I don’t make it my business to tell someone whether they have a right to call the historical building in question a castle or not. I would also quite agree that the English have built truly marvelous edifices throughout the centuries- medieval, gothic, renaissance or other. Folks, I just report the facts ! I’ll leave it to my readers to decide whether the building is a castle, manor house, palace, mansion, hall or mere rubble.
–The Castle Lady
updated May 22, 2008 with Horton Castle info
The Northumberland castles I have covered in my three previous entries for this month are surrounded by varied and also truly beautiful architecture a few of which are in the northeast corner. All the border castles seem to cluster relatively close together in that corner which isn’t far from Berwick. Meanwhile, the Cheviot Hills which form a natural border between English soil and Scotland is rather barren for moorland and castles. Walkers will love it though, especially since the Pennine Way (which begins in Derbyshire- you remember!) goes right through it and into Scotland at Kirk Yetholm. Apparently, the English are hardy walkers!
Closer to Wooler is the Kidland Forest and the Northumberland National Park covers a large area within the center of the county. Kielder Water, which is a man-made lake, lies within its range at Yarrow Moor along with Kielder Castle. This castle was the hunting lodge of the Duke of Northumberland at one time. It contains an exhibition, gift shop and café/tearoom. For more info e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or T- +44 01434 250209
Back in the northeast corner Norham has a lot of company in no less than twelve castles! These are Wark, Twizel, Etal, Duddo, Ford, Coupland, Barmoor, Haggerston, Belford, Fenham Tower, Ancroft Vicar’s Pele, and Ros Castle. Of those, the closest to the border which are Wark, Twizel, Duddo and Etal, not much is left of these once valiant edifices. These are all just within a few miles of each other.
Duddo has the distinction of occupying some 1600 acres once owned by the Stryveling family. It is situated, prominently on the south end of Duddo Village. Some of the remains consist of an ancient pele tower which was destroyed by the Scots in 1496. The 16th century tower house was a rebuild by the Clavering family and was occupied by their youngest counterparts until it was abandoned by them in the 17th century. In 1788 it was sold by a John Clavering who then owned Callaly Castle to Sir Francis Blake and then sold by the Blakes to Thomas Fryer in 1823 for L 45,000 ! I’m assuming that there must have been something substantial still standing to merit that kind of an exchange. When you look at the photo you may rethink actually making a visit unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool medieval castle enthusiast. Bring your imagination with you!
The same goes for Wark Castle although it looks curious enough that it might be of interest to anyone wanting to see what can eventually happen to such a structure despite several restorations. Unfortunately, there is no access to this 16th century monument so it can only be viewed from a distance. The photos in the album show what is referred to as The Ring, a part of an artillery platform. It was a motte and bailey begun by Walter Espec on Henry II’s part in 1157 rebuilt in stone by 1161 and had an octagonal shell keep with an inner bailey. Most of stone left is buried and not visible.
Etal and Twizel show a little more and have interesting features. The first was a three-storey tower house which was given grant to be fortified in 1341 by Robert Manners. He created a standard courtyard with curtain walls, a tower house and large gatehouse diametrically opposed to each other with two more towers at the opposite corners. The original tower house was given the additions of crenellations and an additional storey. By the 16th century the Manners left and gave the care of the castle to a constable. It was attacked by the Scots in 1513 by James IV’s army and is near the Battle of Flodden, a short distance southwest where the Scots king was killed. It became a ward to the Crown by 1549 which did little to save it from deterioration. By 1603 it had no further military purpose. Etal is protected by English Heritage and they have an award-winning exhibition on the site. T- 01890 820332
Twizel’s ruins are curiously not the original castle of which it is supposed was built further along the River Till closer to Twizel Bridge. It is also supposed that the first castle was destroyed during the Flodden skirmish of 1513. The structure that you will see in the photos are ruins of a later castle built some time during the 18th century. The cellar photos are amazing and almost appear like they belong to another building. A plaque which is displayed and looks quite modern proclaims the 1312 date but then mentions the nearby castle hotel Tillmouth Park which claims that stone from Twizel was used in its making ! (More on that in my Castle Hotel Nirvana entry coming up soon! )
Now Ford Castle was once an extensively fortified four-cornered castle built sometime in the 13th century by Odenel de Forde and crenellated in 1338. It was captured by James IV in 1549. Ongoing skirmishes resulted in the castle being dismantled by the Scots by 1385. What you will see presently was built in the early 16th century and added to until by the 17th century it was more of a crenellated mansion. Despite that, three of the original towers survive and the architecture is fantastic. Today it is owned by Lord Joicey and used as a county educational and cultural centre. On the castle grounds a 13th century church, St Michael’s, received a 19th century restoration and is also worth a visit.
In the village, which is beautifully picturesque, you’ll find structures like the village smithy’s place, of which I’ve included a photo. The marchioness, Lady Louisa Waterford, is largely responsible for the way the village appears at present. You can see her beautiful artwork in the halls of what was a local school, commissioned in 1860, and is a thorough depiction of all the major Bible stories. T-01890 820524
Northeast of Duddo you’ll find 13th century Ancroft Vicar’s Pele tower and Haggerston Castle within a short distance of each other. Ancroft is a short five miles southwest and was once part of a Norman nave of the church of St. Anne, hence the name, and it literally blocked the doorway of the 12th century church. In those times it could only be accessed by a spiral stairway from the church and then only to the upper floors. It was definitely used as a defensive residence for the Parson. All of three storeys, it was restored well in the 19th century in the Romanesque style and visitors are often shown the tunnel vaulted ground floor. Because Ancroft was placed in the care of the Bishops of Durham this portion of Northumberland was once considered part of Durham.
Three miles southeast is Haggerston Castle which is now an L-plan tower situated in the middle of what the English call a holiday park. This tower that remains is not the original. It started as a 13th century fortified manor house built by John de Hagardestun. By 1345 license to crenellate and fortify was given to Robert de Hagerston and he built a stone castle by adding a strong square tower. In 1618 it was largely destroyed by a fire but the tower was incorporated in the rebuilding of it in the 18th century. After it was completely demolished in the 20th century, the very tall narrow tower which remains today was built in the 19th century~ all that is left of what was once a very handsome stone mansion.
Belford Castle is eight miles southeast of Haggerston and is now a marvelous 19th century Gothic farmhouse which had its beginnings as a motte and bailey fortress. A stone tower was added by 1415 and the low oval motte now supports some earlier foundations. An old bailey to the south shows indications of a surrounding moat. It is located in the village center of Belford just off the B6349. It can be viewed from a public footpath which is situated west of the farm.
Coupland Castle is neighbor to nearby Wooler Castle and Akeld Bastle (both derelict ), about six miles northwest, and was built sometime after 1584 as an L-plan tower house originally and then added to over the years until it underwent a thorough restoration in the 19th century. It is an unusual structure with three storeys, an attic with a projecting tower on the south wall and a spiral staircase leading up to the upper floors. The entrance door, however, leads into a barrel-vaulted first floor room which is divided in two parts. Its appearance is very much in the Scots tradition.
From Millfield Village, if you head back northward just east of Ford Castle, you’ll find Barmoor Castle. It was started as a tower by the Muschamp family as the Barons of Wooler. A town grew up around the original tower and they were visited by all the King Edwards and were given a license to crenellate ( and most likely fortify ) by Edward III on the 17th of May in 1341. The first border menace by the Scots was met by Henry V in 1417 with an army of 100,000 men at Barmoor and this routed the onslaught quickly when the Scots chose to retreat.
Barmoor did not escape attack entirely, however, it being so close to the border and to the Battle of Flodden. By 1541 it was among the fortresses considered to be destroyed by the Scottish raids. Defenses were not rebuilt and garrisons for it dwindled down to a mere seven men by 1548 ! By 1649 Lady Muschamp handed over the estate to Watts and Blackborrow (creditors) and was eventually conveyed to William Carr Esq. of Gray’s Inn. It went through the hands of heirs for many decades until Francis Sitwell II gained possession in 1793. He set to transform it into a livable residence and hired the architect John Patterson of Edinburgh. The design he made, which is a mixture of Regency and Gothic revival (making it into an elegant renaissance castle), is magnificent.
I want to mention here that castles like Barmoor are the reason why I became so intensely interested in castle architecture. The black and white photo I will include in the photo album shows prodigious application of eclectic architectural styles. Viewing the façade alone is worth the visit, but the interior will amaze you. The grandmother of the present owner, Isabel Codrington (1873-1943), left behind a legacy of paintings which fills and completes this architectural marvel!
The former Ros Castle is now Ros hill and even though there is only motte remains of its former magnificence, the summit provides unbeatable views of Chillingham Castle and I have included some new photos taken of it from this view. One which was taken with a zoom lens looks dark but is still a great shot.
Horton Castle , also close at Chatton, was first mentioned in a list of castles which dated from 1415. By 1542 the description inferred that it was a great tower. It became the possession of Chillingham’s Henry Grey when it was bequeathed to him after he won a battle in France by storming a Norman castle. By 1715 it was in ruins but went through some repairs from 1568-1674. By 1740 it came to be used as a residence continually until 1808. It was finally demolished in the early part of the 19th century and only a few fragments of “worked” stone can be seen today. The prospect of the castle I have included in the album was a drawing of the southeast view dating from 1728 made by Sam and Nath Buck and depicts high walls with several square turrets which enclosed a garden with a barmkin (same as a bailey, which is the yard surrounded by outer defensive walls).After 1808 it was demolished and the stone was used to build West Horton Farm which stands at the base of the motte which Horton Castle occupied.
A license to crenellate Chillingham in 1344, which was drawn up by William Wakefield, Edward III’s secretary, is still on display at the castle for visitors to ogle. What isn’t well known about Chillingham is that it started as a single tower built only a hundred years before the document was drawn up. Restoration of Chillingham has been constant over the centuries and it shows. Something I didn’t mention back in my March 16th 2006 entry is the museum it houses which is a collection of artifacts from all over the world. It is also reputed to be the most haunted castle in England but you know how I feel about all that. The same family has owned this house for 800 years. It’s beginning to get a little crowded I would think!
Qui t’aime’ pour toujours? Le Chateau Demoiselle, bien sur!
Because of the large volume of castles of Northumberland there are still several entries coming in the month of May. You have many more to read about yet and I wouldn’t dare not cover most of them! Therefore, I have Parts Five, Six and Seven coming soon then we’ll head south. Promise!
The Castle Lady
Proverbe du Jour:
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an
understanding of ourselves.
– Carl Jung