Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Northumbrian Castles

Northumbria, in the north east corner of England, has many castles, most built originally to protect England's northern border against Scottish invaders. I've picked out four of my favourite castles for you today.

There has been a castle at Bamburgh since the 6th century (Anglo-Saxon times), but the present castle dates from Norman times. During the Middle Ages it was an important Crown stronghold against any invading Scots. Henry VI chose it as the capital of Northumbria, but it fell to the Yorkists in 1464. In the 17th century it was given to the Forster family, and then in the 19th century sold to Lord Armstrong who initiated an extensive reconstruction. It still belongs to the Armstrong family who live in private apartments at the castle.
I loved Warkworth. It is probably one of England’s most impressive fortified residence. First built in the 12th century, it was added to in successive centuries. In 1332 it was granted to the Percy family (earls of  Northumberland) but when the third Earl, Henry Percy, was killed commanding the Lancastrian army at Towton in 1461, Warkworth was granted to John Neville (brother of Warwick the Kingmaker) who made the castle his base for campaigns against the Lancastrians in the 1460s. When he died fighting alongside his brother at the battle of Barnet in 1471l the castle was returned to the Percies, but later reverted to the Crown
In its magnificent and dramatic setting on a coastal headland, the castle was built by the Earl of Lancaster in the 14th century, and later added to by John of Gaunt who had become Duke of Lancaster following his marriage to the Lancastrian heiress Blanche. When his son became King Henry IV, the castle became a Crown property as well as a Lancastrian stronghold, and was besieged by the Yorkists in in 1462. After the Lancastrian army had been defeated at Hexham in 1464, it’s on record that Richard Neville (the Kingmaker) spent several days at the castle. In the 16th century, it fell into disrepair and was abandoned.
Alnwick’s most recent claim to fame is as the film location for Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter movies, but its history goes back to the 11th century when it was built to protect England’s northern border against Scottish invaders. At the beginning of the 14th century, the barony of Alnwick was purchased by the Percy family, who later became Earls and then Dukes of Northumberland. Alnwick changed hands several times during the Wars of the Roses but it has remained the property of the Dukes of Northumberland ever since, and the family still live in a part of the castle.



  1. There is no greater scene than driving at the coast and coming to your first view of Bamborough.

  2. I'm doing Northumberland tonight when I get round to it. the castles, and stately homes, are so imposing. I love learning about the social history.

  3. I went to Bodiam Castle with my family last time I was in England - nothing beats that feeling of history.

  4. I knew I recognized that courtyard from a Harry Potter movie!

  5. Bambrough's certainly spectacular, Margaret.

    Northumbria has so much history, L.

    Lizy,I've not been to Bodiam - yet!

    Yes, Alnwick has done well out of Harry Potter, with far more visitors now, of course!

  6. I thought you'd eventually get around to Hogwarts:))

  7. More magical castles and even the one used for Hogwart's. What fun, Paula!

    I enjoyed my visits to two castles, one in Devon and one in Kent when I was there in 2009. It's the thing to do when visiting England, for sure. You sure had to be in shape going up those winding steep staircases. Must have been hard in long gowns and wearing armor. Not at the same time of course. ;)

  8. Oooh Paula, I do love a fabulous and ancient castle. I'll raise you one of my misty atmospheric ones for one of your grand and stately ones...?

    Janice (North of the Border!) xx

  9. Talya, I'm sure some visitors to Alnwick probably believe it was built simply for the Harry Potter movies!

    Cathy - I'm intrigued about the castle in Devon, but I bet the one in Kent was Leeds Castle? And those medieval folk must have been hardier than us, living in those cold drafty castles!

    Actually, I prefer the misty atmospheric ones to the stately one, Janice.

  10. I love the setting of Warkworth. Beautiful front yard.


  11. I love castles and these look beautiful. They have now been added to my places to see. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love Castles. The town I lived in had a old Saracen castle; unforunatel it was set on fire in 1632 and then further destroyed by an earthquake in the 1700s. The last drop was when the citizens started taking the stones to use in building their own homes. This was stopped when a 19th century mayor called a halt for historic saving.

  13. Northumberland is one of our favourite areas as mother-in-law was from there. I've only seen two of those castles so far!

  14. I have never been to these castle but did Warwick castle that is impressive but I do worry it will become more theme park now the people that run madame tussauds jave taken it over