Algernon Swinburne ( April 5, 1837- April 10, 1909 ) raised at Capheaton Hall.
Marches of North England refers to a system which was more contrived than organized, of invasions and counter-invasion between the Scots/English borders. It was a type of policing by well-known families (Dacres, Percies, Nevilles, Ogles, etc. on the English side ) which had limited success. It was, in fact, "a perpetual theatre of national revenge." Because raiding made farming hazardous, unpredictable and made poverty commonplace, commodities we take for granted- grain, butter, etc. had to be imported from other counties sometimes as far away as Suffolk!
The entire border area was divided into three marches, East, Middle and West. These existed on the Scots side as well as the English side. The East March covered a good portion of northeast Northumberland and was bordered on the south by the Aln River. The Middle March covered the rest of Northumberland which included Tynedale (now divided by north and south), Redesdale and Belingtonshire in the Palatinate. The West March was primarily Cumberland which had garrisons at Carlisle Castle, Askerton, Bewcastle and Rockcliffe.
The former East March of today includes quiet beaches along the north coast. I have included new photos of Spittal Beach which is typical of the entire east coastline of Northumberland broken only by the occasional ancient castles, which I’ve already mentioned. There are a few more along these areas and further inland which I haven’t covered thus far which deserve mentioning.
Neighbors to Dunstanburgh, Alnwick, Warkworth and Newcastle Castle include Preston Tower, the Vicar’s Pele tower at Embleton, Howick Hall, Craster Tower, Edlingham Castle, Cragside House and Cartington Castle. Tosson Tower, Hirst Castle, Ogle Castle, Cockle Park Tower, Capheaton Hall, Meldon Park and Mitford Castle cluster around Morpeth Castle which is a genuine castle hotel. I will also be covering Seaton Delavel Hall which is very close to Newcastle at Seaton Sluice facing away from Whitley Bay. This whole area is not only teeming with castles and castle ruins but the scenic expansive beaches of Beadnell and Embleton Bay along with the cliff tops and pretty fishing villages further south will fill you with awe. Further south the modern marina of Amble near Warkworth and the rare birdlife at Newbiggin and Druridge Bay will keep you enchanted. It’s not often one gets to combine history with beautiful beaches to enjoy. Northumberland truly has it all.
Dunstanburgh is surrounded by quite a few pele towers. Preston Tower is a restored pele tower which contains furnishings depicting life during the 16th century. The seven feet thick walls were built by Robert Harbottle in 1392 with four towers only two of which remain. This is one of seventy eight pele towers which had been erected along the northern border by the 15th century. It is located a mile east of the A1 and is seven miles north of Alnwick Castle. A short distance south of there on the B1240, Embleton Tower was built during the same period but is a vicar’s pele and has three storeys which is typical for such edifices and was also crenellated. The photo I have included of it is shrouded with surrounding forest and foliage. Craster Tower appears to be a restored pele tower which was given additions. The original pele was built in the 15th century and the extensions sometime around the 18th century. Most likely the tower was restored at that time. This is still used as a private residence and is not open to the public.
Happily, this is not the case with another restored early 14th century tower, Howick Hall. This magnificent former tower house which is six miles northeast of Alnwick Castle, was owned by the Grey family ( of Earls Grey and Earl Grey tea fame ) from 1319 to 1963. Although the original tower house has long been demolished it was described in a 1715 survey as "a most magnificent freestone edifice in a square figure, flat-roofed and embattled with a handsome court and gateway on the front". The Georgian Hall was originated by a Newcastle architect, William Newton in 1782. In 1809 George Wyatt was hired to make an expansion involving a change to the front entrance which had him moving it from the south side to the north, building a terrace there in its place and linking the front hall with the east and west wings on each side.
Even this was taken out by a devastating fire in 1926 involving the central portion along with the furnishings and placements of the top two floors. It was rebuilt in 1928 by Sir Herbert Baker who made major alterations which were unorthodox by any standards. He changed the north façade by placing a portico above the front hall trying to make the appearance smaller with an open well in the center and a rotunda links the front and back ground floors.
In 1973 the grandson of the 5th Earl Grey, who had been the last of the Earl Grey line, Charles Baring converted the west wing into living quarters for his family and are current residents. The 5th Earl (who also was Charles) miraculously paid off his ancestors’ debts before his grandson took possession and together with his wife Mabel transformed the gardens at Howick Hall into the splendor that is currently on display.
Edlingham Castle is situated southwest of Alnwick in a remote and picturesque setting beside an old railway viaduct. It began to be built in the 13th century and building continued into the 14th century. Thereafter no restoration has taken place from its inception. It had a rectangular hall with a gatehouse to which a small tower keep was added with curtain walls finishing it. From the mid-17th century it has been abandoned and much of the stone has been carried off. Even so, if you visit the site, what remains is magnificent and a great place for a picnic.
Cartington Castle joins Cragside Manor near the Rothbury Forest further southwest. While Cragside boasts of prodigious modernizations along with marvelously eclectic Victorian Gothic architecture, Cartington, which is two miles northwest of Rothbury, is very decayed overall but retains portions which many castle enthusiasts will want to see.
Cartington is now in ruins but there was a large complex of buildings associated with the castle at one time. The 14th century tower still stands at forty feet and it had a great hall. It was a Royalist edifice so it was dismantled after the Civil War, however, it was partially rebuilt in the 19th century. It sits on private land but it can be viewed from a short distance.
Cragside, on the other hand, was built in the late 19th century for the first Lord Armstrong, gun-maker and innovator. This house has been referred to as "The Palace of a Modern Magician", and it shows everywhere inside, outside and on the beautifully landscaped grounds this estate contains. The architect Richard Norman Shaw, of the Arts and Crafts school, combined so many styles that it looks completely different from various angles and makes this house almost unidentifiable to the casual onlooker. Certainly the effect would be one of the blind men describing the elephant. From the front view it appears mostly timber Tudor in style with the opposite view being one of various Victorian architectural styles combined. Another view taken from the Debden Burn below, makes it appear almost Palladian with its beautiful placement of windows and only the Tudor rooftops make it appear otherwise !
This eclectic palace also has the distinction of being the first house in the 1880s to have hot and cold running water, central heating, fire alarms, telephones, a passenger lift and the entire house supported with hydro-electricity which was installed in 1870. It was built in 1863 to be a modest, two-storey country lodge but Mr. Shaw extended it in what is called the Free Tudor style. It was once equipped with astronomical and scientific apparatuses in a special observatory. The forest surrounding it is, at 1000 acres, one of Europe’s largest rock gardens, complete with coniferous trees, a formal garden, the tallest tree in England (59 m tall ) which is a Douglas-Fir, lakes and an Adventure Play Area for children which was opened in 2001 ! There are over thirty miles of footpaths on the wooded estate and an interior tour reveals all the original furnishings and beautiful interior stylings !
T- (01669) 620150
Tosson Tower is about twenty miles northwest of Morpeth and is another of the Pele towers where the brick has been carried off. Not much of it remains. When one gets closer to Morpeth the architecture becomes more interesting but definitely ruinous. Hirst is a medieval tower house which had better days in the late 14th or early 15th century and Cockle Park Tower is a three-storey 15th century tower house which features machicolated corners with embellishments on one side and bartizans with machicolations at the wallhead. The residential building extended and completed the tower. This is now owned by Newcastle University and is private.
Now Mitford is one of the few early motte castles which still exist, in some form, in Northumbria, very close to Morpeth Castle Hotel and sits near the River Wansbeck. It’s very ruinous but you can still see quite a bit of indication that it had a unique five-sided keep ( the second build ) and much of the curtain walls which were built in the mid 12th century are in evidence. It has good reason to be in its present state. This was the seat of the Barons of Mitford and it was burned down by King John in 1215 and confiscated by Henry III. In 1318 this was also attacked by the formidable Black Douglas clan on behalf of Robert the Bruce. The second structure of Mitford was finished off during the Civil War. Medieval castle enthusiasts will enjoy the chance to see it.
The Manor of Mitford was held from ancient times by the Mitford family. The old Manor House previously stood, adjacent to the old church of St. Mary Magdalene, on the eastern side of the River Wansbeck. The substantial ruins now standing on the site represent the remains of a 16th century house and of a pele tower built in about 1637. The original house was completely demolished and then rebuilt in 1810. This was then abandoned by the Mitfords when they built the new Georgian mansion, Mitford Hall and Park on the opposite bank of the river in 1828 from designs drawn up by John Dobson. All Mitford lands were owned by the Mitford- Bertram family up until the 1990s ! The current owner of Mitford Hall, the Shepherd family, in partnership with English Heritage have been in the process of restoring the Mitford Castle ruins since 1993. Camellia House, the former east wing of the Hall was refurbished by detaching it from the house and eliminating the northeast wing. I have several photos of this Hall and of Camellia House for you to view in the Northumberland album.
Seven miles west of Morpeth, close by Mitford, Meldon Park is one of the glorious works of John Dobson and the site was hand-picked by him for Issac Cookson III. On the strength of John Dobson’s recommendation Issac Cookson bought the land in April of 1832 from Greenwich Hospital and the first stone was laid in October of that same year. It is occupied by the Cookson family to this very day and the property now encompasses farmland, 2,070 acres of land which includes 171 acres of plantation and woods, a corn mill, a river filled with fish and formal gardens. Its palladian façade also includes an ionic porch entrance with two rows of columns, an unusual feature for such a structure. In the early 1900s Lutyens was employed to decorate the interior and he added mahogany balustrades in the main hall along with other 18th century interior decorations such as marble fireplaces. Today the estate, thanks to all its tenant farmers, produces a voluminous amount of produce which keeps the Meldon Park community quite healthy. Accomodation exists on the property at Dyke Neuk Inn.
T- 01670 772661 General Dyke Neuk Inn 01670 772433
Capheaton Hall has the distinction of being the boyhood home of Algernon Swinburne and was in fact a seat of the Swinburne Baronets, counted among the principal gentry seats of Northumberland. Algernon was born in London on the 5th of April 1837, raised on the Isle of Wight and later at Capheaton Hall which is seated near Wallington, nearby to Wallington Hall. The house was actually built for Sir John Swinburne in 1667-68 by Robert Trollope of Newcastle who was an architectural genius. This provincial baroque "country house" was built from local stone and sports giant pilasters supported with tall bases in the main front with an entablature creating a central bay with flanking bays. It has a sloping roof with vernacular flat-roofed dormer windows. The north front was rebuilt in 1789-90 by a local architect, William Newton. The village of Capheaton was planned and built up west of Capheaton Hall on a ridge in the late 18th century.
T- 01830 530253
( A typical Ogle Manor House.)
Wallington Hall and Ogle Castle are at opposite ends of the time lines for inclusion although you may not know it upon first examination. What remains of the original courtyard towerhouse of Ogle, two miles to the south of Whalton, are no more and in its place a splendid manor estate with perhaps a few remaining medieval structures. The remains of the castle are in earthworks and an outer moat to the west of the present estate which is an L-shaped block with a tower. From the 14th century the Ogles owned the Ogle estate along with Bothal Castle (which I already covered in the Part One entry) up to 1597 when it passed by marriage to the Cavendish family and later to Hollis. I have a current photo of the estate but this link will give you a vague idea of what was actually referred to circa 1660 as Ogle Castle in the midst of battle.
Wallington Hall, originally an ancient pele, was completely rebuilt in Palladian style by Daniel Garret, around the tower in 1688. The emphasis on the interiors is evident, along with collections of ceramics art and William Bell-Scott’s famous paintings of Northumbrian history! It has the distinction of being the house where Thomas Babington Macauley wrote his History of England. It sits close to Cambo, only six miles from the Belsay estates with the beauty of the garden landscaping emphasized since this is still a private residence of the Trevelyan family who have been in possession of this 100 acre estate since 1777.
An interesting 18th century medieval castle folly is visible from Wallington and is called Rothley Castle. There had once been a Rothley Tower on the site from medieval times which had most likely become very ruinous. Sir Walter Blackett, the owner of Wallington back in 1755 also hired Mr. Garrett to design the new castle folly. Today both Wallington Hall and Rothley Castle are under the protection of the National Trust.
Seaton Delavel Hall is a half mile from Seaton Sluice near Whitley Bay. This Palladian architectural marvel built by Vanbrugh for Admiral George Delaval vies in beauty with his other masterpieces which I’ve covered- namely Castle Howard and Blenheim Palace and it is considered his finest work and is also the last country estate he designed! It took ten years to erect- from 1718 to 1728 and consists of a high turreted corps de logis ( with corner chimneys) which contained the state and principal rooms with complimentary arcaded and pedimented wings forming a huge forecourt. The east wing contained the stables while the west wing served as secondary and service accommodation. Between the two wings the open courtyard spans 180 feet and 152 feet broad !
This estate had been owned by the Delaval family since the days of the Norman conquest. Admiral Delaval had made his fortune from bounty while he served in the Navy and he purchased this estate from an impoverished family member. Later coal mines from the estate continued to build his wealth. The admiral, himself and also Vanbrugh never were able to see the house in its finished state as both passed on before its completion. George’s nephew Francis was the first heir to the estate. From 1728 on it has only been lived in for brief periods of time as it passed into the hands of many heirs.
A fire in 1822 gutted the centre block but it went through restorations in 1862, 1959- 1962 and most recently 1999-2000 ! It was finally taken on as a residence in the 1980s by a direct heir, Edward Delaval Henry Astley, 22nd Baron Hastings, and moved into the west wing which he had occupied up until 2007- at his decease. Even with all the restorations many of the state rooms show evidence of the fire.
The interior tour is a delight with the remaining staircases and two rooms which contain family paintings and photographs and royal memorabilia. The garden estate tour is an extra added delight.
T- 0191 237 1493 or 0191 237 0786
Who keeps you sheltered from the storm?
The Castle Lady of course !
I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know. The only ones among you who will be truly happy
are those who have sought and found how to serve. – Albert Schweitzer
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