Bamburgh



Bamburgh is a most important site in the history of Britain.  Sadly the castle is only beginning to receive proper archaeological excavation.  The site of Bamburgh castle was fortified from an early date, even if it still is in use today and this fact of some 2 millennium of continuous usage has much disguised the early phases of the castle.  Limited excavation has shown that the rock was occupied continuously from the first century BC until the Renaissance.  After the arrival of the Romans it is thought the site may have been used for a beacon.  Later Bamburgh appears to have been the royal centre, Din Guyardi.  As such it was ‘the capital' of the royal dynasty of Northumberland which produced the religious hero, St Oswald (d.642).  His remains were said to have been preserved in the basilica of St Peter which stood upon the high point of Bamburgh rock.  According to much later reports the history of the site began in 547AD when King Ida of Northumbria during his 12 year reign:

built Bambrught, which was first enclosed with a fence and afterwards a wall...

The Winchester chronicle which mentions this is the earliest of the renditions of the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and probably dates to around 890.  The implication from this is that by the tenth century Bamburgh was seen as an ancient stone fortress that dated back generations.  Ida seems to have died in 559 or 560 and knowledge of Bamburgh disappears with him for some 200 years, although a little after 1116 it was recorded that King Oswald's hands were preserved undecayed in Bamburgh in 641.  Simeon Durham (d.1129+) states that these were held in a case within the church standing in Bamburgh castle.  He also stated that the castle was named after Queen Bebbab who was supposed to have been the wife of King Æthelfrith of Bernicia (d.616).  According to Bede, King Penda (d.655) twice unsuccessfully besieged Bamburgh, on one occasion trying to set fire to the town within the wall by setting a great fire at the base of the castle rock.

In 750 it was recorded that Bishop Ealdwulf (Eadberto) of Lindsey was captured by King Ceolwulf (d.764) and held captive in Bamburgh, presumably after the king had besieged the basilica of St Peter at Lindisfarne.  In 774 Bamburgh was described as being:

The well fortified city of Bebba, not very large, occupying the space of 2 or 3 fields, having one excavated entrance which was only reached by wonderfully lofty steps.  On the summit of the hill is a splendidly made church in which is a beautiful cabinet.  Within this lies the unspoiled right hand of King Oswald, as Bede the historian of this nation tells us.  There is to the west, at the top of the city, a wonderfully excavated well sweet to drink and pure to see.

In 926, King Aethelstan (924-39) expelled Aldred Fitz Eadulf from Bebbanbirig city, while in 993 the army of the Danes broke into Babbanburh and carried away with them all that was found within.  The castle was presumably otherwise undamaged and soon reoccupied as it was obviously still functional in 999 when Earl Waltheof of Northumbria (d.1006+) defied King Malcolm MacKenneth (995-1034) from behind its walls. 

The castle seems to have survived intact from the sixth century right up to the time of the Norman Conquest.  Probably in the 1050s the church seems to have been semi derelict when a monk from Peterborough abbey succeeded in stealing the arm of Oswald from its care.  Of this Reginald of Durham remarked:

The city formerly renowned for the magnificent splendour of her high estate, has in these latter days been burdened with tribute and reduced to the condition of a slave.  She who was once the mistress of the cities of Britain has exchanged the glories of her ancient Sabbaths for shame and desolation.  The crowds that flocked to her festivals are now represented by a few herdsmen.  The pleasures her dignity afforded us are past and gone.

In the meantime, war came again to Bamburgh.  The contemporary Symeon Durham (d.1129+), who was born around 1070, stated that after King William I (1066-87) had laid waste the North of England during the latter part of 1070:

Earl Gospatric, who had been made earl of Northumberland by King William, invaded Cumberland and depopulated it.  Having accomplished the slaughter and the burning, he returned with great booty and shut himself up with his allies in the most reliable fortification of Babbanburch, from which he often burst out, weakening the strength of the enemy, for Cumberland was at that time under the dominion of King Malcolm, not possessed by law, but subjugated by force.

Some 25 years later in 1095, the castle was obviously still defensible.  During the reign of William Rufus (1087-1100) a conspiracy was hatched against the king by Earl Robert Mowbray of Northumberland, William Eu, Stephen Aumale, the king's cousin, together with many others.  However the plot was frustrated by King William II forming the English army and besieging the rebels for 2 months in Newcastle at the mouth of the River Tyne.  The Durham chronicler notes:

Then he [Rufus] stormed the besieged castle and handed over the earl's brother, together with the knights who he found there, to custody.  After this he established a castle before Bamburgh, that is, the city of Queen Bebba, into which the earl had fled, and named it Bad Neighbour (Malveisin); and after placing soldiers therein, he returned to the south of the River Humber (Suthymbri).  After his departure, the guards of Newcastle promised Earl Robert that they would permit him to enter, if he should come in secret.  So he, having become joyful, went out one night with 30 soldiers to accomplish this.  When this was discovered, the knights who guarded the [siege] castle pursued him, communicating his departure by messengers to the keepers of Newcastle.  Which he [Robert], being unaware of, attempted to accomplish what he had begun on a Sunday.  But he could not do this, for he had been caught.

For this reason he fled to the monastery of St. Oswin, king and martyr [Tynemouth].  Were, on the sixth day of his siege, he was severely wounded in the leg while he was resisting his adversaries, many of whom were killed and wounded.  Of his own men some were wounded, but all were taken prisoner; but he fled into the church; from which he was extracted and placed into custody.

This succinctly sums up the events of Spring of 1095.  Robert Mowbray was the third and rather more successful Norman earl of Northumberland.  However, like his predecessors, he felt his distance from London gave him an independence from the rest of the Norman kingdom.  As such he plotted with other nobles to place Stephen Aumale (d.1135) on the throne in place of Rufus.  The king seemed aware of these plots and demanded that Robert come to court to answer a charge of piracy after Robert and his nephew Morel of Alnwick fame, had violently plundered 4 canard trading vessels from Norway.  The earl's refusal was taken as an act of rebellion, which allowed Rufus to act first against the rebels before they were ready.  The king rapidly marched on Newcastle where the earl's brother underwent a 2 month siege, while Earl Robert attempted to breath life into the rebellion.  However, on the fall of Newcastle, Robert was forced back with his wife, Matilda and Sheriff Morel of Northumberland, on Bamburgh castle.  The king found the fortress too strongly defended to storm so he built a castle to control Northumberland and Bamburgh.  It has been argued that this was a siege castle due to much later accounts of the siege.  However, such suggestions have always floundered on the fact that there are no visible castle remains within eyeshot of Bamburgh castle which would suit the designation siege castle.  It is therefore possible that the castle ‘before' Bamburgh was before in so far as it was between Newcastle and Bamburgh, therefore coming after leaving Newcastle, but before reaching Bamburgh.  In this case it is worth suggesting that Rufus used his large army to build a new fortress at Warkworth, which was 20 miles away as his castle ‘before' Bamburgh.  These thoughts will be amplified more after looking at other accounts of the war of 1095.

Another contemporary, Florence Worcester (d.1118), knew pretty much the same story as Symeon, although he also noted the storming of another fortress before Newcastle.  Possibly this was Morpeth some 30 miles south of Bamburgh and 14 miles north of Newcastle straight up the Roman road.  Florence wrote:

the king... assembled his army from all England and besieged the castle of Earl Robert [Mowbray of Northumberland], which was situated near the mouth of the River Tyne [Newcastle], for 2 months; and meanwhile having stormed a certain fortress [Morpeth], he made prisoners of nearly all the best soldiers of the earl and put them in confinement.  Then he took the besieged castle [Newcastle] and placed into safe custody the brother of the earl and the knights whom he found within.  After this he raised a castle before Bamburgh... into which the earl had fled and this he called Malveisin and having garrisoned it, he returned to the south of the Humber.  After his departure, the watchmen at Newcastle promised Earl Robert that they would allow him to enter if he would come secretly.  And he joyfully acceded and went out by night to accomplish this with 30 knights.  This becoming known, the knights who kept the castle [Malveisin] followed him and sent messengers to the guards of Newcastle to inform them of his departure; [Robert] being ignorant of this, on Sunday he made his attempt, which failed, for he was detected.  Wherefore he fled to the monastery of St Oswin, king and martyr [Tynemouth], where, on the sixth day of the siege, he was severely wounded in the leg... while resisting the enemy many of whom were killed and wounded... he himself taking refuge in a church from which he was brought forth and placed in confinement.

The monks of Peterborough compiled a new Anglo-Saxon chronicle for their house around 1121 after they had lost most of their possessions in a great fire during 1116.  This recorded that after Pentecost 1095 the king went against the earl of Northumberland:

and immediately he came there he conquered many and well nigh all the best men of the earl's court inside one fortress (faestene, ie. Morpeth) and put them in captivity; and then besieged Newcastle (castel aet Tine muthan besaet) until he conquered it and in there the earl's brother and all those who were with him.  Afterwards he travelled to Bamburgh and besieged the earl in there.  But then, when the king saw that he could not conquer it, he ordered a castle to be made before Bamburgh (he makian aenne castel to foran Bebbaburgh) and called it in his language Malveisin, that is in English ‘Evil neighbour' and set it strongly with his men and afterwards went southward.  Then immediately the king had gone south, the earl travelled out one night from Bamburgh towards Tynemouth (Tine muthan), but those who were in the new castle became aware of it and went after him and fought against him and wounded him and afterwards captured him and of those who were with him, some they killed and some they took alive.

Writing some 20-30 years after the event Orderic Vitalis (d.1142) stated:

They laid siege to the most secure castle which is called Bamburgh.  And since that fortification was impregnable, because it seemed inaccessible on account of the marshes and waters, and certain other obstacles across the routes by which it was surrounded, the king built a new fortification for the defence of the province and the confinement of the enemy, and filled it with soldiers, arms and supplies.  Those who were part of the conspiracy [to kill the king] fearing detection observed silence...  The king... urged forward the works of the new fortifications... while Robert, in deep tribulation, saw from his battlements the works which were being carried on against him, called loudly to his accomplices by name, publically recommending them to adhere faithfully to their traitorous league to which they had sworn... 

After the king departed:

Robert Mowbray... attempting to pass from one castle to another fell into the enemy's hands... and lived 30 years in confinement....

At the present day, at any rate, waters and marshes do not constitute the principal defences of Bamburgh, but the drainage where the town and cricket field now stand might once have been more wet and certainly the sea came right up to the rock under the barbican to the west at Elmund's Well.  Yet it is possible that Orderic was simply guessing about the reasons for the strength of the castle upon Bamburgh rock and invented the marshes.  Regardless, it is quite clear from these near contemporary accounts that there is no evidence as to what form or even where this ‘siege castle' was built to control Northumberland and keep Earl Robert bottled up.  Warkworth therefore still seems a good possibility, especially when there are no traces of royal sized earthworks anywhere near Bamburgh.  However, Orderic's account, if it can be trusted, does seem to suggest that Bamburgh and the siege castle were intervisible in 1095.

Roger Wendover (d.1235), writing many years later, is the first to
describe the ‘siege castle' as a wooden fortress.

Since Earl Robert of Northumberland in his pride refused to go to the king's court [King William Rufus] therefore advanced an army into Northumberland against Robert, where he captured all the most powerful of the earl's household at Newcastle and bound them in chains; from there he proceeded to Tynemouth castle in which he captured Earl Robert's brother and then on to Bamburgh castle where he besieged Earl Robert; but when he saw that the castle was impregnable, he built another wooden castle in front of that castle, which he called Bad Neighbour (Malveisin), leaving a part of his army in it, he withdrew from thence.

And when one night the earl secretly withdrew from it [Bamburgh castle], the king's army followed him to Tynemouth; where, when he attempted to defend himself, he was captured without a wound, and imprisoned at Windsor.  Bamburgh castle was therefore surrendered to the king and all the earl's supporters were badly treated; for William Eu was deprived of his eyes and Earl Eudes of Champagne (Odo of Campania, d.1115+) and many others disinherited.

The blunders of this history are manifold.  Tynemouth was a priory and not a castle at this point in history.  Earl Robert's brother was captured at Newcastle, not Tynemouth.  Earl Robert's household was probably captured at Morpeth, not Newcaslte and he was wounded in the leg during his capture.  How could the earl be defending Tynemouth which had already fallen to Rufus in Wendover's story?  Finally, Wendover has it that Earl Robert was imprisoned at Windsor, rather than being taken directly to Bamburgh to make the garrison to surrender.  Considering all of this and that no early source mentions a wooden castle being built ‘in front of' Bamburgh, it is possible that this ‘fact' too belongs to the realm of Wendoverian fantasy. 

One final possibility should be examined and that is that Orderic was right in his history and that Earl Robert ‘saw from his battlements the works which were being carried on against him' and shouted to those in the newly rising defences.  If this were the case then it opens up the possibility that the siege castle was actually built upon the Whinsill itself and that its ‘motte' lies under the mid eighteenth century windmill.  The mound of his lies some 250' from the Smith Gate curtain and nearly 500' from the keep battlements.  Such would be well within shouting range.  Further, the 2 mottes surrounding Wigmore castle may well date to the siege of 1155 and offer similarities in position and style to the Bamburgh windmill mound.  This said, there is no reason why Malveisin could not have been the windmill mound at Bamburgh, while Rufus also built Warkworth castle to help control Northumberland.

At this time a probably genuine charter of Edgar, claiming to be king of Scots, was made to the bishop and monks of Durham.  A supplement to this stated that it had been confirmed in the churchyard of Norham on 29 August 1095 ‘in the year in which King William the son of King William Senior, built a new castle near Bamburgh against Earl Robert of Northumberland'.  This is often translated as the simple ‘at Bamburgh'.  However, the word used in the original is ‘apud' which means at, by, near, among or before.  Considering the circumstances near or before seems a better translation.  This shows that an Anglo-Scottish army had reached as far as Norham, which they no doubt secured for Rufus, while Earl Robert was still resisting at Bamburgh.

According to Geoffrey Gaimar, who was writing before 1155, Earl Robert was penned up in Bamburgh when:

The king with his host went thither.
The new castle he then built.
Then he took Morpeth, a strong castle,
Which stood on a hill.
Above Wansbeck it stood.
William Morlay held it.
And when he [Rufus] had taken this castle
He advanced into the country.
At Bamburgh upon the sea
He made all his host stay.
Robert Mowbray was there...

According to Gaimar, Rufus pressed the siege hard and suffered many assaults in return, but the castle began to run short of supplies, so the earl fled by sea through the postern gate, having one man steering the vessel which took Robert and a few folk to Tynemouth where the king took him and imprisoned him.  This is the only account of Robert going by sea to Tynemouth and if the Windmill mound was Rufus' siege castle, then it is doubtful if Robert could have got past them to the port which seems to have been at Elmund's Well postern.  That said the idea of travelling by sea to Newcastle and Tynemouth might have been quicker by sea than by land as well as being more surreptitious. 

With the revolt of 1095 over, Rufus took over Bamburgh as a royal castle.  His brother and successor, Henry I (1100-35), made Eustace Fitz John of Alnwick constable of the castle.  The vill was certainly in royal hands around 1119 when King Henry granted the churches of St Oswald and St Aidan of Bamburgh to Nostell priory.  The first was probably in the castle and the second in the town.  That the vill and therefore the castle were still under royal control is confirmed in the Spring of 1121, when King Henry informed the barons of Northumberland that he had given to Eustace Fitz John (d.1157) the land of the crossbowman (Arbaristarii) which the king held in demesne at Bamburgh, viz the land of Spindleston and the mill of Warnet [Waren Mill in Spindleston] which used to render 60s annually, as well as the land of Budle which used to render 40s; to be held as Eustace holds his other lands from the king.  This was witnessed by various local dignitaries, namely, William Aubigny, Nigel Aubigny, Walter Espec [Helmsley], Robert Bruce [Lochmaben and Skelton] and Forne [Fitz Sigulf].  The implication of all this is that the castle remained a royal stronghold.  The lands granted to Eustace were probably those still held by William Vescy in 1168 and worth 25s 4d.  As a royal castle of Northumberland it was recorded in September 1130, that Osbert the mason of Bamburgh had been allocated 35s directly from royal revenues and a further 7d for repairing the castle gate.  That Osbert was a mason would strongly suggest that Bamburgh castle was a stone fortress needing maintenance.  The castle gate at this time was probably the Tower Gate, just north-east of the keep, although Smith Gate might be meant.

Five years later King Henry I died and chaos came to his former domains.  The story of the conquest of Northumberland by King David of Scotland (1124-54) is told under Alnwick castle, but events concerning Bamburgh will be recapped here.  In early 1136, King David captured Alnwick castle.  According to various chroniclers the Scottish king, cynically remembering his oath to King Henry I (d.1135), invaded the kingdom of England swiftly taking various garrisons in Cumberland and Northumberland and advancing on Durham, while bypassing the royal castle of Bamburgh held by Eustace Fitz John (d.1157), as this was too strong for him to assault.  On hearing of the fall of Carlisle and Newcastle, King Stephen marched north in the winter of 1136.  He reached Durham where he made a treaty with King David.  By this the Scottish king kept Carlisle and Cumberland, but restored Alnwick, Newcastle, Norham and Wark to English control.

Despite Eustace Fitz John's successful defence of Bamburgh in 1136, when his own castle of Alnwick and the rest of Northumberland fell to the Scots, the king subsequently moved against him, fearing treachery.  In February 1138, King Stephen forced Eustace to ‘resign his fortress of Bamburgh into the king's hand'.  Due to this:

Eustace Fitz John, one of the great nobles of England, a good friend of the late King Henry as well as a man of great prudence and a good councillor in secular affairs, joined him [David] and was present in his army.  King Henry had committed a castle to him [Bamburgh] which he was compelled [by Stephen] to return; being offended by this, in order that he might avenge the injury that had been inflicted on him, he turned to his [the king's] enemies.

The predictable result of stripping Eustace of his great charge, was that at the first possible opportunity he joined the Scots and then attacked Bamburgh castle, doing it great damage.  The royalist Gesta Stephani thought that Eustace was an old and loyal friend of King Henry I and therefore to gain justice and favour as it seemed to him and several others like him, he took the opportunity of supporting the Empress.  Symeon Durham gave another take on the same story.  According to him King Stephen advanced during Lent to Wark castle before planning to continue to Roxburgh, where King David was preparing a night ambush for him.  At this point King Stephen became aware of a plot within his army to turn him over to his Scottish enemies.

But the plot was made known to King Stephen, who, preparing to return [south] in anger, forced Eustace to resign the fortification of Bamburgh (Bahanburch) into his own hands, and he hastily returned to England.

Whether the plot was real or imaginary did not really matter, for Eustace lost control of Bamburgh which he had successfully defended against King David in 1136.  The actual events were thought so important some 150 years later that they were recorded for King Edward I on 20 May 1291.  According to chronicles held at Carlisle cathedral:

In 1138 King David wasted and occupied almost all Northumbria and seized Carlisle, Newcastle and other towns excepting Bamburgh, when Stephen compelled him to return to his own land and followed him to Roxburgh...

In the autumn of 1138 King David again advanced over the border, this time marching on Yorkshire while he left 2 of his barons to besiege Wark castle.  As he marched south Eustace Fitz John, ‘from whom King Stephen had taken Bambrugh' abandoned his fealty to the English king and united his forces to David's troops, rather than opposing them.

So they set out past Bamburgh.  There the young men of that same place, recklessly boasting about the fortifications in the valley which they had built in front of the castle, roused the Scots as they passed by.  They applied themselves at once to the destruction of the rampart, the Scots' spirits excited, so they hastened inside and killed as many as they caught.

Despite the success in taking the defences ‘in the valley', the Scots and their ally failed to take Bamburgh castle itself.  These valley defences were quite possibly the barbican including Elmund's Well.  After the battle of the Standard on 22 August 1138, another treaty was negotiated in April 1139 between David and Stephen.  This granted both Northumberland and Cumberland to Scottish control, although the castles of Newcastle and Bamburgh were exempted.  This exception obviously didn't last long and by 1147 Bamburgh was in the hands of Earl Henry when he made a charter to Tynemouth priory at Bamburgh exempting them from castle works on Newcastle or other fortresses in the earldom.  With him at this time in Bamburgh were Bishop Ethelwald of Carlisle, Hugh Morville (d.1162), Earl Gospatrick of Dunbar (d.1166), Gervase Ridel, Gilbert Umfraville, William Somerville (d.1162) and Sheriff Ada.  It is possible that the 5 fees in Earl Henry's earldom of Huntingdon were granted to Eustace Fitz John (d.1157) around this time and that they were related to his constableship of Bamburgh castle.

King David's death in 1153 at Carlisle was followed a year later by that of King Stephen at Dover.  At David's death Northumberland, presumably with Bamburgh castle, was turned over to David's younger grandson, William the Lion (d.1214).  In England King Stephen's successor, Henry Fitz Empress (d.1189), wished to turn the clock back to 1135 when his grandfather died.  He therefore required back from the Scottish king, David's elder grandson, Malcolm IV (d.1165), the northern counties of England.  Consequently in July 1157, King Malcolm surrendered to the king Cumberland and Northumberland with the castles of Carlisle, Bamburgh and Newcastle as well as the county of Lothian.  This occurred when the 2 kings met at Peak castle.  Henceforward Northumberland appeared in the pipe rolls as a royal county and in 1159 it was recorded that 60s 10d had been paid to John Fitz Canute, the hereditary porter of Bamburgh castle.  The clock had been successfully turned back to 1135 in the North.

It seems likely that King Henry II (1154-89) received a fully functional masonry castle in 1157, for during the next 90 years next to nothing was spent on the fortress.  In 1164 the king authorised the spending of just £4 on work on the keep.  Later in 1168, 1170 and 1171 a grand total of £112 3s 3d was spent on undefined castle works, while in 1183, £19 6s 8d was spent on repairs to the castle and its gate (porte).  Considering the inner ward of Dover castle including the great keep cost over £6,000 to build between 1180 and 1188, it can be seen that this sum, if this were all that was spent, amounted to mere tinkering with the defences of Bamburgh castle.  By volume Bamburgh keep is 43% the size of Dover's keep.  As Dover keep, admittedly the grandest of its type in England, cost over £3,000 to build, it would be expected that expenditure at Bamburgh would have exceeded £1,000 if Henry II built this keep.  By comparison the entire castle of Orford seems to have cost over £1,600 to build, although nothing was recorded as being spent there on the keep.

The pipe roll evidence considered above suggests that something large, like a tower, was built at the castle during the period 1168 to 1171.  Firstly £112 3s 3d would build quite a sizeable structure, either a tower or a hall, while whatever was built was finished in wood at a cost of £4 15s in 1171.  This suggests the structure took some 4 years to build.  It is possible that the building work was more extensive than the expenditure suggests as one Crown tenant, William Fitz Waltheof, was fined 5m (£3 6s 8d) in 1170 for refusing to help in the works at the castle.  Possibly others gave their assistance for free and therefore these expenses were not recorded in the pipe roll.  After these works were apparently completed, King William the Lion (1165-1214) in 1174 sent a force of knights from his siege camp at Wark towards Bamburgh, but the sun having risen before they reached their objective, they abandoned any attack.  Nine years later repairs to the castle and its gate cost £19 6s 8d.

In the next reign, King Richard I (1189-99) spent just £3 1s 3d on amending the king's houses in the castle during 1195 and 1197, while in 1198 just 10s was spent on amending the castle gates.  King John (1199-1216) was rather more interested in the fortress spending £110 13s 9d on repairs and amendments between 1200 and 1209, an average of some £15 a year on the 7 years that repairs were accounted for.  On the first occasion £5 was noted as being spent on repairing the houses within Bamburgh castle and a similar amount on Newcastle.  This is a similar amount to that apparently spent yearly on Carlisle castle.  Perhaps most northern castles usually had this sum nominally spent upon them as the figure of £5 for amending the king's houses in Bamburgh castle appears again in 1229.  Against this, in 1202 it was recorded that £3 12s 6d was spent on amending the king's houses in Bamburgh and Newcastle combined.  The next year, 1203, amendments to whole fortress cost a much more substantial £60 2s 5d.  Similarly in 1204, £12 was spent on repairing the castle while a further 17s 7d was spent on amending the king's houses within it.  The same year 3 crossbowmen were paid £24 16s 4d for staying in the castle for 36 weeks and 2 days at a rate of 7½d per day.  In 1206, 26s was split between amendments to the houses in Newcastle and Bamburgh castles.  In 1208 merely 25s 4d was spent upon the same, but the next year 59s 8d was spent on repairing the king's houses in Bamburgh alone.  Quite obviously King John was interested in keeping the accommodation within this fortress in good condition and having troops within them.  It should be noted that virtually nothing was spent upon the actual defences after 1157, unless this was done by expenditure outside that recorded in the pipe rolls.

The castle history during the reigns of the first 3 Plantagenet kings seems quite peaceful, with King John staying at the fortress between 13 and 15 February 1201.  Around 1212 it was recorded that the office of porter of the main gate at Bamburgh had been held by the descendants of a certain Canute since the time of King William I (1066-1087).  On 20 August 1212, Robert Fitz Roger (d.1214) of Warkworth was ordered to deliver the castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle to Earl William Warenne (d.1240), Archdeacon Aimeric of Durham (d.1217/18) and Philip Oldcoats (d.1221).  The king stayed again on 28 January 1213, while he was engaged in ravaging the lands of his enemies in the North.  In 1216 Philip Oldcoats seized a merchant at Bamburgh, but was ordered on 23 August to release both him and his ship.

Oldcoats was obviously still constable when he died early in 1221.  As a result Hubert Burgh (d.1243) and the young King Henry III(1216-72) came to Bamburgh castle with Brito the crossbowman and his 18 followers on 21 March.  Hubert's first act there was to order the sheriff of Northumberland to pay Constable John Wascelin, as well as John Carpenter and Robert the porter, their proper salaries as well as to build a grange, 150' long by 34' wide.  The king also ordered that Roger Hodesac should be reimbursed his expenses of 60s for providing the castle with knights and serjeants on the death of Philip Oldcoats and maintaining them until John Wascelin could take over as constable.  The minor amount of 10s 8d was then spent in building a stone wall around the barn in the bailey, while the building of the grange itself had cost £46 18s by 1222.  During 1221 and 1222 Hubert Burgh had also authorised £5 to be spent on the castle.  Also, on 1 May 1221, the castle of Nafferton was ordered to be demolished and the woodwork from it taken for the works at Bamburgh castle.  Further, the constable of Newcastle was ordered to send 3 horn crossbows and 3 well strung wooden ones with the crossbow of William Statton together with 4,000 quarrels to Bamburgh.  Soon afterwards the mounted crossbowmen Boniface and Roger Quatremares arrived at the castle with a foot crossbowman, Roger Bosco.  These men were then paid for the next 8 years with the mounted men receiving 7½d per day and the footman 3d.  Further work on the castle included repairing the turning bridge before the great gate for £5 2s 2d.  The only drawbridge certainly at the castle was the one before the twin towered gatehouse at the new eastern entrance to the castle.

In 1223 work was carried out on the floor planks (planchicii) of the great tower of Bamburgh castle as well as on the keep guttering, other turrets, the hall and other houses within the castle for £14 13s 4d by the view of Adam Docsford and Nigel Cordwainer.  Carpentry was continuing at the castle during 1225 with their wages costing £10 8d.  At this time the castle seems to have had a fee of 100m (£66 13s 4d) per annum attached to it to maintain the building and a garrison there.  In 1226 this went up to 120m (£80) and then in 1239 to 200m (£133 6s 8d).  Repairs at the fortress were going on again on 28 November 1227, when Roger Hodesac, the king's serjeant of Bamburgh, was ordered to let Constable John Wascelin have 106s in recompense for the money he had spent having timber that belonged to the bishop of Durham brought to the castle for its maintenance.  The next year on 16 May 1228, Serjeant Roger Hodesac was ordered to have the breach repaired in Bamburgh castle and to have a carpenter do the king's works there at fixed wages, namely 6m (£4) per year, the amount that his predecessor used to receive. Three years later in 1231, £26 1s 11½d was spent on repairing the castle bridge, a stable within the castle and work on a new chamber.  In 1230, 1231 and 1238 £10 was recorded as shared with Newcastle on repairing the king's houses within the castle.  This was followed on 2 March 1233, by the sheriff of Northumberland being ordered to have the castle gate repaired without delay.  The repairs were done by September 1234 when an account for works at the castle included £10 being spent on amending the king's houses of Bamburgh and Newcastle castles, £4 for the wages of John the carpenter and £78 9s 11d for repairing the gate of Bamburgh by the testimony of Henry Sunderland and Peter Estreit.  Additionally provisioning the garrisons of both Bamburgh and Newcastle cost £100.  This large sum suggests that more than mere repairs to the gate were carried out, some £80 would have been sufficient to build a small tower.  Perhaps this saw the construction of the rectangular chamber on the east side of the great twin towered gatehouse.

On 12 May 1236, Hugh Bolbec (d.1262) was appointed custodian of Northumberland with the castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle.  He soon wrote to the king that his salary was both insufficient for the job and in arrears, so it was impossible for him to have the buildings and turrets of Bamburgh castle repaired, the wall raised in one place, a new turret built in another, the one that was half completed finished and the great grange repaired so that it did not collapse.  All these works had been urged on him by royal letters and 2 household knights, Richard Fitz Hugh and Simon Brumtoft.  However, it was estimated that these works would cost over £200 and the money simply was not available.

In September 1237, it was recorded, without cost, that the rock next to Bamburgh castle barbican had been excavated (concavanda), a grange and bakery built and the castle bridge repaired.  This seems to have been in response to a command to repair the grange and bakehouse of the castle on 16 May 1237.  These works were caused by the simmering tension between Henry III and Scotland.  This mistrust was brought to an end that September and on 28 September 1237 the king wrote to his constables of Bamburgh and Newcastle that a firm peace had been made with the king of Scots so that the king ‘is not now in fear of his castles as before' and so Hugh Bolbec was ordered ‘to spend as little as he can on these castles'.  Regardless of this, in November or December 1237 Sheriff Bolbec wrote again to Henry III (1216-72) that he had received the king's command to carry out repairs to Bamburgh and Newcastle, but that the county did not supply sufficient funds for this and that he had not been paid the 200m (£133 6s 8d) which he should have been for keeping the county and the castles for a year since Michaelmas last.  Despite this he had paid the crossbowmen at Bamburgh and repaired 2 bridges at the castle.  Two years later at Michaelmas 1239, the sheriff recorded that he had spent £18 4s 9½d ‘in repairing the king's mill at Bamburgh and the king's chamber of the king's old hall and the king's old kitchen to the same hall pertaining to Newcastle' (in repatione molendino regis de Bamburc et cameo regis vetris aule regis et vetris coquine regis ad eandem aulam p'tin in Novo Castro supra Tynam).  He also spent a further £3 9s 4d on amending the king's houses in Bamburgh castle.  In 1240 he further amended the king's houses of Bamburgh and Newcastle for £8 3s 9½d and in 1242 he did the same for £3 11s 11d.  In 1243 it was recorded that £9 13s 9½d had been spent on amending the king's houses in Bamburgh and Newcastle, while a mill had been thrown down by the wind at Bamburgh and had had to be repaired for £12 13s 9½d.  The mill had been blown down by a storm before 27 April 1243.  Whether this was the windmill in the castle west ward or not is another matter, but the king's mills of Bamburgh were ordered repaired again on 9 May 1250, which was done by September 1252 at a cost of £33 15s 9d.  The next year on 10 August 1244, the sheriff was ordered to let Gerard the Engineer have what he needed while he repaired the king's castle crossbows at Bamburgh and Newcastle.  These crossbows needed further maintenance by 25 October 1249.  Once more in 1245, £9 5s 2d was spent on amending the king's houses in Bamburgh and Newcastle.

On 29 July 1249, the sheriff was ordered to spend up to 40m (£26 13s 4d) on repairing and improving the king's castle of Bamburgh.  In 1250, £17 9s 8d was spent in repairing the tower of Elmund's Well in the castle and the barbican before the gate of St Oswald.  This was in reply to the sheriff being ordered to repair this tower and barbican on 20 April 1250.  The next year on 17 October 1251, he was also ordered to carry out any necessary repairs on Bamburgh castle hall.  This was done by September 1252 when it was recorded that £15 8s 9d had been spent on repairing the king's houses in the castle over the past 4 years as well as £33 15s 9d on repairing the king's mill this year.

On 31 May 1253, the sheriff was ordered to mend and repair where necessary the great tower, the 3 gates within the castle with their doors, locks and fastenings as well as the great swing bridge outside the great gate to the south.  On 13 November 1255, the sheriff was ordered to repair the king's buildings of Bamburgh castle ‘where absolutely necessary and at the least cost possible'.  This resulted in an expenditure of £39 14s 5d on repairing the houses of the castle as well as repairing 2 turrets in the fortress with lead at a cost of £8 2s 4d, while other repairs had cost 40m (£26 13s 4d) by September 1256 and £3 1s 7d had been spent by September 1258 on repairing the hall.  In the summer of 1263, the king, finding many of his barons unfaithful, ordered the castle prepared for defence when it was learned that the kings of Denmark and Norway were prowling the outer islands of Scotland with a great fleet.  Presumably this was the fleet eventually destroyed at the battle of Largs by King Alexander III (1249-86).

From 3 May 1266, the cost of maintaining the garrison of Bamburgh castle for 1 year was £1,231 9½d.  It also seems that Bamburgh was one of the few castles to remain constantly under the control of the royalists during the Barons' War.  It is to be wondered if some of this immense cost was not simply exploitation of a weak and incompetent king.  When Edward I (1272-1307) arrived back from Crusade in 1274 he immediately carried out an inquest on fiscal abuses that had gone on during the end of his father's reign.  This discovered that William Heron [made constable in 1248] had purloined some £5 when he had charged the Crown £9 for building a granary at the castle which should have cost no more than £4.  Worse still, the current constable, Robert Neville [of Raby, d.1282] had charged the exchequer 1,200m (£800) for works at the castle that could have been done for 200m (£133 6s 8d).  As a consequence of this Robert was relieved of his constableship on 7 June 1276.

The castle played an important part in history in 1296 when King Edward summoned King John Balliol to meet him at Bamburgh to avoid war.  After his victory over Balliol, Edward halted at the castle on his triumphant return from Scotland on 20 September.  On 12 December 1299 and 1 January 1300, King Edward was again at Bamburgh.  During the 9 years he was constable (1295-1304), Earl John Warenne expended £570 on the munitioning of the fortress and the repair of the castle houses.  The bulk of this was still owed to his executors several years later.

On 23 November 1307, Edward II (1307-27) granted to Isabel Beaumont, the widow of John Vescy of Alnwick, the custody of Bamburgh castle with the truncage due to it and the rent of Wearmouth town for her life.  This was all for a rent of £110 annually and the condition that she repaired at her own cost the houses, gates, bridges and walls of the castle as well as sustained the gatekeepers and watchmen of the place.  Then on 6 November 1307, King Edward II ordered her to release, at her own request out of piety, 8 Scottish prisoners held in Bamburgh castle.  They were also to have their wages paid as well.  All of these had been taken prisoner during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).  On 19 December 1307 and 6 April 1308, the king ordered the fortifying and guarding of many castles throughout England.  This of course included Bamburgh.  On 12 March 1310, the king further conceded to Isabel in consideration of her expenses in remaining in the company of the queen of her payment of £110 yearly for Bamburgh as long as she undertook the maintenance of the houses, gates, bridges and walls of the castle and also the payment of the watchmen.  The king engaged to find victuals and other necessities in case of war and further took on the expenditure of having the great and lesser towers as well as the great outer ward maintained at his own expense.

The 1307 grant of Bamburgh to Isabel Vescy had gone against statute, but the king's position was strong at the beginning of the reign.  This royal strength was frittered away as time passed, but the grant of Bamburgh assured him of Isabel's loyalty and King Edward II stayed at the castle on 26 July 1311 during his Scottish campaign.  Afterwards:

The king, fearing the envy and hatred of the great of the kingdom of England for Piers Gaveston, placed him in Bamburgh castle for his security, asserting that he had placed him there to please his prelates, earls, barons and great men.

Therefore, in order to preserve him [Gaveston] from the intrigues of the magnates, the king shut him up in Bamburgh castle, asserting that he had done this to appease the hearts of his friends.  But this did not appear to be enough to them, so that even this worst king suffered not a few insults because of it.
Therefore in the year 1311 about 24 June [more likely 26 July 1311], he [Gaveston] was recalled from Bamburgh and entrusted to the custody of Earl Aymer Valance of Pembroke (d.1324), whom he [Gaveston] had previously compelled to swear by the sacred sacrament, standing in his presence, that he would defend him, as far as he could unscathed, against all his enemies, until the time came when he proposed to reconcile him to the rest of the nobles by charter.

This of course did not happen and Gaveston went into exile after the Autumn parliament on 3 November 1311.  King Edward was furious, but initially powerless.  On 27 September 1311, he had assented to the Ordinances being enacted, one of which stated that the Lady Vescy should be banished from court for obtaining grants of land for her brother, Henry Beaumont, and others to the disherison of the Crown and that Bamburgh castle should be taken from her and not let out again unless at the king's pleasure.  Consequently on 18 December, Isabel Vescy was ordered to hand Bamburgh castle over to Henry Percy.  Before things could settle down, around Christmas 1311, the king suddenly recalled Gaveston to him at York, the friends probably meeting at Knaresborough on 13 January 1312.  A fortnight later on 28 January 1312, the king wrote to Isabel Vescy as keeper of Bamburgh castle, stating that he wished her to retain possession of the fortress, as he was ‘unwilling that Henry Percy, to whom he had granted it, should have custody thereof'.  After this there was some minor campaigning in Yorkshire which set in motion events that led to Gaveston's death on 19 June 1312 as related under Scarborough.

In the meantime on 16 May 1312, about a week after Gaveston's capitulation at Scarborough, Isabel Vescy was commanded to yield Bamburgh to John Eslington and he was ordered on 29 May 1312, to victual the castle with 100 quarters (6,400 gallons) of wheat, 200 quarters (12,800 gallons) of malt and 300 quarters (19,200 gallons) of oats.  The resumption of the castle ended Isabel's association with Bamburgh, although on 25 November 1313, it was recorded that Isabella, the king's kinswoman and widow of John Vescy, had lately surrendered Bamburgh castle, granted to her for life, to the king.  The king wishes to know if she has also surrendered the armour, victuals and other things in the castle.

John Eslington remained constable until his capture at Bannockburn on 25 June 1314.  Three days later Roger Horsley was appointed by the king's word of mouth to fill the now vacant position.  Eslington had proved a powerful constable which caused the locals of Bamburgh to complain to the king that he refused to let them pay £270 to the earl of Moray for a local truce unless they paid the constable the same amount.  Further, he charged them exorbitant fees for permission to store their smaller goods in his castle and that his porters and serjeants extorted money from them for merely entering or leaving the fortress.  They therefore found themselves reduced to the bitterest of states trapped as they were between the Scots on the one side and the constable on the other.  Further, John the Irishman and his fellows of the castle seized their provisions without any intention of paying for them.  The constable also seemed to practising piracy against any who came near the castle by sea. 

During 1315 a garrison of 20 men at arms and 30 hobelars were kept at the castle under Constable Horsley at the king's expense while Roger le Attallour was there improving the crossbows, bows and other instruments.  On 7 February 1316, Horsley was ordered to give custody of the castle to William Felton, but was back in command by 1319 when he had a permanent garrison there of 15 men at arms and 30 foot, while the king was supplying a further 15 men at arms there under David Langeton and Thomas Hedon.  These latter 2 men had led the garrisons of Bamburgh, Alnwick and Warkworth on a raid that took the peles of Bolton and Whittingham (Wytingham) in 1318.  A Scottish raiding army came near in 1322 as the king wrote on 18 September stating his displeasure ‘with some men in Bamburgh castle who held a colloquy with the Scots near the castle and made a fine to save their houses and goods'.  The king also complained to Constable Roger Horsley of Bamburgh castle that he had allowed a small force of Scots in ‘infest the area near him, doing mischief and, what is worse, taking ransoms and hostages from his subjects' and let them get away without challenge or damage from the garrisons, to the constable's dishonour and shame as he had a much stronger force that the king had spent so much in strengthening.  Consequently as they only amounted to 100 men at arms and 100 hobelars the king was astonished that there were no proper scouts to even harass or delay the enemy.

Around the same time Robert Horncliff was appointed constable.  In 1329 he reported that the munition of Bamburgh castle consisted of 4 casks of wine and a pipe of Greek wine that had gone bad, 1 and a part jars of honey, 7 targes - broken and unrepaired, an aketon of no value, 5 bassinets of no value, 7 crossbows with screws, one of whalebone and with a case of new work, a dozen 1 foot crossbows, 4 buckets full of quarrels, a bow and 5 sheaves of arrows, 7 baskets for bows, 12 baskets for 1 foot crossbows of which 4 were of no value, 2 baskets for screw crossbows, 10 one foot crossbows of no value, a teler without a nut for a screw crossbow, 35 bolts for a springal of new work, 28 unfeathered bolts for a springal - 4 without heads, 46 wax torches in a chest, 15 baldrics 4 of which had no fastenings, 360 leaves of whalebone, an old brass pot containing 5 flagons, 10 pairs of fetters, a copper and a mashvat in the brewery, a copper in the kitchen furnace, 2 tables with 4 pairs of trestles, a fixed table, 4 vats, a tun, a boulting tub, a jar for putting bread in, 2 barrels, 2 sail yards, 2 windlasses and 4 ship's cables.  Further, of this stock, 4 screw crossbows, 4 one foot crossbows, a bucketful of bolts, the bow and 5 sheaves of arrows, had been used up in the defence of the castle from Scottish assaults from October to December 1328.   As a result Horncliff allocated £25 15s 3d on the most pressing repairs and reported that it would take another £300 to put the castle in order with work needed on the keep and all the other towers, hall, chambers, grange and all the other houses and gates that were so roofless and decayed.  Otherwise the whole place would collapse into ruin.  On 8 Sept 1330 he reported that he had found that the lead covering the keep was so old and decayed that rain had caused the main beams to rot, threatening the tower with ruin.  The stone roof of Davies Tower (Davytoure) had been carried away in a storm as had that of the Bell Tower (Belletoure) with the result that its timbers were rotten; the hall, great kitchen, great grange and the towers called Vale Tipping, Dead House? (Dedehuse) and Colelfte along with the granary, horse mill and great stable were in equal decay.  This was the result of previous constables not making any allowance for repairs in their accounts to the Exchequer.  Apparently nothing was done to alleviate this state of decay.

In 1333 when Edward III (1327-77) was besieging Berwick, the Scots, under Archibald Douglas (d.1333), trying to relieve the pressure on the town, assaulted Bamburgh castle which was held at the time by Queen Philippa (d.1369).  The attack failed and Berwickfell immediately after the battle of Halidon Hill in which Douglas himself was killed on 19 July.  After the war, from 1333 to 1335, some £80 were spent on repairs according to the pipe rolls.  In the latter year, on 29 August 1335, the king gave the castle to the custody of Ralph Neville (d.1367) of Raby without any proviso for the maintenance of the castle, other than the paying of its officers.  The consequence of such a grant should be obvious.  Possibly it was made at the time when Edward thought the conquest of Scotland was a foregone conclusion and therefore a large royal castle on an ex frontier was no longer a necessiry.

Bamburgh castle was involved in the next great Anglo-Scottish war too, when, after the battle of Neville's Cross on 17 October 1346, King David II (d.1371) was brought to Bamburgh castle where 2 barber surgeons from York extracted an arrow from him and healed him, receiving £6 for their work.  It was only on 7 March 1347 that David was moved from Bamburgh to the Tower of London.  Some 10 years later, on 20 January 1356, King Edward Balliol (d.1364), completed the final surrender of the Scottish Crown to Edward III.  Afterwards, King Edward spent 10 days at the castle in February 1357.  The castle then remained under royal custodians as a bit of a backwater during the rest of Edward's reign.

On 14 June 1372, a commission declared that the executers of the will of Constable Ralph Neville of Raby (d.1367) had done all the repairs that they could be charged with and that over and above these they had been compelled by certain unknown members of the king's lieges, to build and repair a wall, a tower [Clock Tower?] and a turret [the elongated D shaped tower north of the Clock Tower?] and Waltheof's Well (Waldehavewell) within Bamburgh castle and also a postern [by the Clock Tower?] and great walls there.  The executors had further been forced to repair the [inner bailey] wall stretching from Davies Tower (Davyestour) to the west gate of the castle [Tower Gate], a postern at the Gaitwell [Elmund's Well] and a great wall between the Smith Gate (Smetheyet) and Ravens Hall (Ravenshaugh, the hall by St Oswald's Gate?) and another long wall between the Smith Gate (Smetheyet) and the Vale Tipping (Vallam de Typpyng).  This extra expenditure was valued at £266 13s 4d.  Some of this work was entrusted to the ubiquitous Durham mason, John Lewyn, who was also responsible for work at Carlisle and other castles in the North.  However in this case it was claimed, on 9 March 1375, that he had received monies, but did not do any work.

After all this hard work, further problems at the castle were reported on 21 August 1373, when it was found that Constable Richard Pembridge [who had taken over the castle in 1367 and died in 1375] had allowed the well in the keep to become choked up with offal so that it would take 40s to purify it, while its rope and bucket had gone to the king's loss of 13s 4d.  Meanwhile, William Scra, Pembridge's steward, had taken away beds, chairs, tables, trestles, saddles, horseshoes, bows, plates, dishes, leaden vessels and other things to the value of 10m (£6 13s 4d).  Further John Fenwick, who had been subconstable under Pembridge, had stolen various things from the castle including, after Sheriff Umfraville had taken possession of the castle, the principal table and trestles from the great hall as well as 7 stones of lead and the ironwork for a mangonel from which he had already stolen the wooden parts.  An inquiry held 2 days later found that 2 iron chains, an iron bolt, a lock and a small door at the postern as well as an iron bolt for 2 barriers had decayed since the time of Constable Neville (d.1367) while under Pembridge (d.1375) a bridge within the castle had decayed which would cost 13s 4d to replace.  They also found that Thomas Heddon held lands called Porterland within the demesne of the castle and had 2d daily paid to him by the constable for his finding a porter at the gate at all times and a watchman within the castle all night as well as his maintaining the Porterhouse within the castle near the Vale Tipping.  However, the Porterhouse had been reduced to ruins during the time of his predecessor, William Heddon and now could not be repaired for less than £3.  Also, during Pembridge's time, the roofs of the 4 chambers within the 4 turrets on the north side of the castle had become so decayed that 12s would scarcely mend them.  Further, Pembridge had allowed 3 stables and the slaughterhouse to decay to the extent of 20s and a boarding (bordour) over the Tower Gate (Tourgate), valued at 12d, had decayed.  Consequently, 40m (£26 13s 4d) would hardly cover the neglect while a further 10s would be required to carry out the repairs necessary since the castle was in the king's hands.

In 1384 another Scottish raiding party visited the area with the result that in November 1384 the castle constable, John Neville (d.1389), undertook to repair the castle for 1,300m (£866 13s 4d).  His works included a new hall 66' long and 34' wide internally, with 3 windows on one side and 4 on the other as well as a vaulted porch at the entrance.  At one end of this was to be a vaulted chamber and at the other a pantry, buttery, kitchen and other offices.  Such a layout was visible until the rebuilding of the hall block by Lord Armstrong in the early 1900s.  This work was probably completed by the time of Neville's death in 1389, but was said to have cost 200m (£133 6s 8d) more than the budgeted price.

Despite this work, on 26 October 1392, Constable Richard Pembridge of Bamburgh, complained that there were many defects in the castle and its great tower, as in houses, turrets, walls, buildings etc and in mills, houses, buildings, ponds and the likes... which happened when Ralph Neville (d.1367) was keeper and constable and these were not repaired by him.  The king therefore commanded his executors to repair them as Ralph had had the issues and was supposed to repair them.  Repairs had since been done, but the costs misapplied to the previous constable.  In 1399 Henry Hotspur Percy of Alnwick was granted the constableship of the castle.  When he was killed in rebellion at the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 the castle was passed to Earl Ralph Neville of Westmorland (d.1425).  His constable, John Coppyll, reported on 13 January 1404 from Bamburgh that the castle and its lordship were safe in his hands, but the castles of Berwick, Alnwick and Warkworth were strongly held by William Clifford, Henry and Thomas Percy.  These were eventually taken and Bamburgh held securely for King Henry, although the fighting continued in Northumberland until 1408.

In 1419 war between England and Scotland resumed with the Scots knowing that Bamburgh castle was under garrisoned.  Therefore Constable William Elmeden hired 6 men at arms on 8 September at 1s per day and 12 bowmen at 6d at his own costs for 2 years until peace was restored.  Further, he spent £66 8s 8d in repairing the castle, especially the north wall next to the gatetower as well as the bridge and well there, 2 ovens in the baker's house, 2 lead coppers in the brewery, the north wall next to the postern, Neville's chamber, the hoardings (rakkys, racks) for defending the walls and the walls of the Vale Tipping, as well as the Reed and Maiden towers, which were found to be in no condition to repel enemy attacks.  With this the castle slipped back into obscurity.

Bamburgh proved a pivotal position in the opening stages of the Wars of the Roses.  In the summer of 1461, after the Lancastrian defeat at the battle of Towton, Bamburgh castle must have surrendered to the Yorkists, possibly around the time William Hastings (d.1483) took Alnwick castle that September.  The fortress remained in Yorkist hands until October 1462 when Queen Margaret (d.1482) returned from France with 6,000 French soldiers.  She first took Bamburgh castle and then, leaving Ralph Percy (d.1464) to defend Bamburgh, besieged and took Alnwick in November.  On 1 November 1462, John Paston Junior wrote from Holt castle to his father stating that he had heard that William Tunstall was taken with the garrison of Bamburgh castle and that William was likely to be beheaded at this will of Richard Tunstall, his own brother.  The result was that in December 1462, Edward IV (d.1483) in person marched on the 3 rebel castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh and placed them under siege on 10 December. 

King Henry VI (d.1471) and Queen Margaret (d.1482), had fled from Bamburgh castle by sea in November 1462.  This left Duke Henry of Somerset (d.1464), Earl Jasper Tudor of Pembroke and Ralph Percy (d.1464) within.  They were soon besieged by lords Montagu (d.1471) and Robert Ogle (d.1469), with the earls of Worcester and Arundel appearing later.  Warwick supervised operations from his base at Warkworth castle, riding to all 3 sieges each day, while Norfolk was in charge of bringing supplies up from Newcastle to Warkworth, with the king waiting for a Scottish invasion from his base at Durham.  On Christmas Eve 1462, both Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles surrendered on the garrisons being granted their lives and members and the condition that Ralph Percy (d.1464) should be restored to Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles as soon as he paid homage to King Edward IV.  The Bamburgh garrison consisted of Duke Henry of Somerset, Earl Jasper Tudor of Pembroke, Lord Roos and Ralph Percy together with some 300 men.  The surprisingly lenient terms were partially due to the news that a Scottish relief army was heading into Northumberland.

The peace proved short and early in 1463 Ralph Percy (d.1464) changes sides again, taking Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles with him.  At this point Warwick marched north and sent a Scottish besieging force at Norham castle scampering back across the border.  Despite this, the 3 major Northumberland castles were left under Lancastrian control.  A year later in the March of 1464, Somerset with Ralph Percy attacked and took the castles of Bywell, Hexham, Langley, Norham and Prudhoe.  However, Montagu twice defeated the rebels and Somerset and William Tailboys were finally executed after the Lancastrian defeat at Hexham on 15 May 1464.  King Henry VI, probably in the company of Ralph Grey who had quit the field of Hexham before the battle began, fled back to Bamburgh castle where on 31 May a small band of lords ‘adhered unto Henry of late called king'.  Henry himself was captured, at Waddington Hall in Lancashire on 13 July 1464 within a month or 2 of having left Bamburgh castle from where he had been ruling those places still loyal to him in the North during the last year.  During this summer the earl of Warwick had moved against the remaining rebel castles.  First Alnwick and Dunstanburgh surrendered on 23 June 1464 without a fight, allowing Warwick to move on to Bamburgh castle which he called on to surrender on 25 June offering pardon to all but the commanders, Grey and Humphrey Neville.  Grey replied that he had ‘clearly determined within himself to live or die within the castle'.  The herald replied that his lords had announced that the king wanted this ‘jewel' to be whole and unbroken with its ordinance, as it stood so near to his Scottish enemies, but if he had to fire upon it, it would cost the leader his head and for every other shot fired upon it a member of the garrison would be beheaded until none remained if needs be.  With that Warwick ordered the bombardment to begin.  The great iron guns Newcastle and London hit the castle so that ‘the stones of the walls flew into the sea'.  Meanwhile Dysyon, a brazen gun, repeatedly smashed through Grey's chamber.  After 2 days the castle was surrendered and the wounded Ralph Grey was taken before Edward IV at Doncaster, charged with withstanding the king's majesty ‘as appears by the strokes of the great guns in the king's walls of his castle of Bamburgh'. Humphrey Neville, who had surrendered the castle rather than the wounded Grey, was pardoned, but the turncoat Grey was executed that July.  With this Bamburgh was patched up as a Yorkist fortress once more.

In 1480 Edward IV went to war against James III of Scotland (1460-89).  This resulted in Earl Archibald Douglas of Angus (d.1514) leading a punitive expedition into Northumberland that summer which reached as far as and supposedly burned Bamburgh castle.  The castle was apparently not in a good condition by the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.  Parts of this war are described under Bolton castle.  Consequently, after the rising had been put down, on 13 April 1537, orders were given to repair and furnish the border fortresses of Alnwick, Bamburgh, Berwick, Bewcastle, Carlisle, Harbottle, Newcastle on Tyne, Scarborough and Wark or some other fortress in Tynedale.  Barnard Castle, Knaresborough, Middleham, Pontefract, Sandal and Sheriff Hutton were to be repaired to receive the king in person, while Cockermouth, Conisborough, Dunstanburgh, Penrith, Pickering, Prudhoe, Richmond, Tickhill, Warkworth, Wilton and Wrestle were to be repaired .  One result of this was that on 22 February 1538, a view as taken of Bambrugh castle by Richard Bellysys, Robert Collyngwod, and John Horslye.  They found that:

Bawmborgh is of 3 great wards and in great ruin and decay, albeit the situation and standing of the castle is of the strongest and impregnable.  These things are the most needful to be done.  First, the drawbridge at the entrance of the east ward must be made anew and that will cost 40s.  Also there must be a new gate of wood with seym and royve for the gatehouse at the entrance of the said drawbridge of 4½ yards height and 3½ yards breadth, which will cost by estimation £5.  Also the walls of the 2 outer wards are very much in ruin and decay albeit that the ground and situation of them is marvellously strong so that if there were but £40 spent in diverse places of the walls where most needed it would do much good.  Further there must be an iron gate made for the inner ward 4¼ yards in height and 3¼ yards in breadth which will take 2 tons of iron £10.  Also for the smith making the iron gate £6.
There is a great chamber within the inner ward that will serve very well for the hall where the leads of the roof must be new cast and a fother of lead more towards the mending of the leads and the casting and the laying and the workmanship £3.  There must be for the hall 2 doors and 2 windows which will cost 20s.  Half a rood of skirting board for the hall 6s.
There is another fair chamber joining the north side of the great hall which must have a new baulk of 6½ yards long which baulk must be had from Chopwell wood... and which must be carried by water, all charges thereof 12s.  There must be for this chamber half a rood of skirting board 6s.  The leads of the roof must be new cast and a fother of new lead more towards mending it.  And for gutters, spouts and fillets and the casting and laying 48s.
There is a fair vault under the hall and chambers convenient for a buttery, cellar and storehouse which must have new doors 20s.
There must be a new roof made for a house at the east end of the hall which must serve for the kitchen and larders.  Under the house is a fair vault which will serve for the stable of 24 horses.  And for making the roof there must be 6 baulks of 8 yards and for various wallplates, spars and other timber for the roof 16 tons of timber... carrying and making £7.  For covering the roof 5 rood of slates with lattes, broddes and lime will cost £6.  For the kitchen and larder for windows, doors and partitions 53s 4d.  There must be for the stable above for 24 horses, bays, mangers, racks and a door... for carriage and workmanship £4.
There is a narrow tower [Muniment Tower] of a convenient length at the east side of the kitchen which will be 2 chambers for lodgings and must have 12 geystes of 3½ yards long and a rood of skirting board for 40s.  The roof of the house must be new theykyd with lead and must have 2½ fothers of lead more than there is of it.  For the casting and laying 24s.
There is a little tower at the south end of the kitchen whereof the leads of the tower must be new cast and half a fother of lead... 12s.  For the same tower a rood of skirting board 12s.  For the floors of the tower a rood of flooring boards 14s.  For the tower doors and windows, locks and bands for doors 20s.
There are 2 fair chambers well walled joining both together standing at the east end of the old walls called the king's hall and under the 2 chambers there are 4 fair vaults and the 2 chambers must have new roofs of 5 baulks of 8 yards long for either of the 2 chambers.  And the rest of all manner of timber for the roofs of both chambers will be 30 ton of timber... to be carried by water... £14.  For covering the 2 roofs 10 rood of slates which will cost with lime, lattes, broides and other necessities £13.... doors, windows, locks and keys etc £4.  There must be half a fodder of lead for a gutter, plumbers' wages 3s.
There is a brewhouse and bakehouse both under 1 roof which is decayed... a new roof of baulks 6 yards long and for all other timber appertaining to the roofs 14 tons of timber... by estimation £6.  For covering the house with slates 4 rood which will cost with lime etc £5.  For doors, windows, partitions and locks for the houses 20s.  For making ovens, ranges, furnaces and brewing vessels for the brewhouse, £8.  There must be 1½ fothers of lead for making the brewing leads.  There must be a horse mill £10. 
There are 2 draw wells, one in the donjon with donjon roof is all decayed and the well of a marvellous great depth.  The other well [Elmund's Well] is in the west end of the west ward and the wall that encloses the well to the castle must be amended for the mending and cleaning of the well £4.
 For repairing and mending both of divers fair towers and for the walls of the inner ward that is to say for battlements and for putting in of archelare stones and for pinning (pynynge) with stone where the walls are rent and rough casting of the said walls with lime some £40.
There are 4 towers within the inner ward whereof the walls are very good and the timber of the roofs fresh and the lead of the 4 roofs must be new cast and there must be 3 fodder of lead more for mending the roofs... and for gutters, spouts and fyllettes, £4.
Divers of these houses must be dyght and cleaned for there is a great substance and quantity of sand within them which has filled many of the said houses.  And for labour and carrying it out £4.  Sum total £210 10s 4d and over and above that sum there must be 10 fother of lead.

It would seem likely that little or nothing came of this, for on 24 October 1575 another survey was carried out of Bamburgh castle.  This was after a border skirmish at Redeswire Fray on 7 July 1575.  The survey found:

Bamburgh castle is in utter ruin and decay, the drawbridge and gates are so broken that there is no usual entry on the forepart save at a breach in the wall that has been well walled and yet has walls much decayed standing and is of 3 wards in the 2 outer wards whereof nothing is but walls much decayed.  In the innermost ward is one tower 25 yards square by estimation standing upon the top of the rock and in the same a well of fresh water.  The walls thereof are upright but much ruined and decayed with weather.  The roof whereof which has been timber and some time covered with lead as it seems is utterly decayed and gone.  Within the ward have been the principal lodgings of the house and as yet may appear all the offices belonging thereunto which for the more part as it seems have been long in decay and the ruinous walls do in the most part stand.  And yet in one part of the same lodgings has been of late a lodging for the captain, the parts whereof called the hall and great chamber have been covered with lead and yet have some lead upon them and in some parts revin and the lead taken away.  The hall in the captain's lodging contains in length 11 yards, in breadth 7 yards, has lead upon it yet.... fothers.  The great chamber containing in length 10 yards and in breadth 5 yards has lead yet remaining... the rest of the lead of both houses decayed and taken away.  The timber of both houses is perished and much decayed.  Within the ward of late a chapel and other little turrets covered, all which be now utterly decayed saving the .... walls of the most part thereof, much worn with weather, stands.....
To the castle also belongs a certain piece of ground which it seems has been enclosed, because there remains yet about it the me'cye [messee for mess?] where the ditch has been...
For the decay of the castle..... in the time of Sir John Horseley late captain of the castle and at his death there was in the castle a hall, a great chamber and one other chamber on the east side of the hall, all covered with lead and furnished in other reparations at that time convenient, to be dwelled in and that there was at that time 2 other chambers in the castle likewise covered with lead and in like reparations.  And there was in the castle a kitchen covered with flag and a chapel covered with slate and that under the said hall and great chamber were cellars for offices with doors and all such other furniture as was convenient....
Which lodgings are now in utter decay, the chapel timber and stones clean taken away and all the other buildings before mentioned, save only the hall and great chamber which have yet some lead upon them... the timber by reason of the lead taken away, is much perished but by whom the same spoil was done they know not.
The decay of the castle is before declared and what the repair thereof will cost they know not, but if it shall be to any purpose, to restore the former strength and beauty thereof, the charges will be great.  And they say that to their knowledge the queen's majesty is to repair and maintain the same, because it is the ancient inheritance of the Crown.

In 1584 John Forster (d.1602), who also spoiled Alnwick and Warkworth, was charged with having lain waste Bamburgh castle.  John had been granted the possessions of the cell of Austin canons at Bamburgh in 1545.  His grandson held the fortress in 1704 when he sold the ruins to Lord Crewe.  It was from 1757 made habitable after his death by Dr. Sharpe, the trustee of the charitable trust endowed by his will.  The donjon was repaired by 1766 when Sharpe entertained the bishop of Durham to dinner in the keep court room.  In 1769 Pennant recorded that Dr Sharpe had:

repaired and rendered habitable the great Norman square tower; the part reserved for himself and his family, is a large hall and a few smaller apartments; but the rest of the spacious edifice is allotted for a purpose which makes the heart glow with joy....  The upper part is an ample granary from whence corn is dispensed to the poor without distinction, even in the dearest time...  Other apartments are fitted up for shipwrecked sailors and bedding is provided for 30, should such a number happen to be cast ashore at the same time.

In the early 1800s the outer wall towards the sea was rebuilt, followed by the conversion of the great hall and kitchen into school buildings in 1810.  In 1817 strong westerly winds stripped the sand away uncovering a graveyard some 300 yards south-east of the great gate.  Before 1825 the unfinished chapel was taken down and the wall that stretched from it towards the keep with its 2 rectangular flanking towers were ‘completely repaired'.  Soon after the trustees made plans for improving the mean appearance of the great gate and erecting a Gothic lodge near the postern at Elmund's Well when the restoration of the castle was suddenly abandoned.  Finally, Lord Armstrong carried out an extensive restoration and rebuilding between 1894 and 1904.

 

Description
The remains of Bamburgh castle stand upon a long volcanic outcrop and overlie earlier prehistoric and Roman phases.  Bamburgh differs from the other main castles of Northumbria as it stands upon an ancient crag upon the sea coast, rather than controlling a river crossing, like a later Norman castle, viz. Alnwick, Mitford, Morpeth, Newcastle, Wark or Warkworth.  It was a huge castle, about a quarter of a mile long and consisting of 3 main wards and 2 unusual entrance barbicans.  The highest point of the outcrop is to the south-east at some 150' above sea level.  This is where the basilica once stood.  From here the top of the outcrop slopes gently to the north-west to Oswald's Gate and Elmund's Well.  The site is still dominated by the great keep which stands about a third of the way down the slope from the basilica site to St Elmund's Well.  The fact the keep is not occupying the highest point of the ridge in itself points to the fact that the basilica may still have been standing, or at least considered holy, when the keep was constructed.


The Keep

The rectangular donjon stands some 70' north to south by 60' across and is made of sandstone ashlar of relatively even blocks which tend towards being square.  This seems a form of masonry in the district with some dozen castles showing this feature of small, square, poorly fitting ashlar work.  That said the tower has been much modified in modern times and it is possible that much of the facing, like all the plinth bar some of the south-west side, is modern work.  The tower has clasping pilaster buttresses rising into 12' square corner turrets.  The smaller north and south keep faces have single, off centre pilaster buttresses, while the longer faces have 2 each.  These decrease with height via offsets until they die away before the battlements.  The base of the tower has an impressive, but remade moulded plinth, while the tower is inset on each floor.  The battlements are modern.

At the north end of the east wall is a projection partially set over the corner buttress.  This contains the current entrance to the keep with 2 Romanesque windows above.  The Romanesque archway of 2 orders appears old, but the 4 supporting pillars and the interior doorway itself, like the 2 windows above, are undoubtedly modern or at least recut.  This entrance structure, with the 2 windows, appears on Buck's mid eighteenth century print.  There is a similar ground floor entrance with a similar mural stair to be seen at Carlisle keep.  Within there is straight mural passage containing the steps up to the floor above, but neither this nor the passage through the wall show any signs of antiquity, although the mural stair existed from the sixteenth century.  The interior of the keep is much rebuilt and modified and little appears to be original or untouched.  In 1776 Grose stated that there were no windows in the keep, merely loops 6" wide with windows on the floor above only 1' wide with one single window 3' square.  His comments are well worth repeating.

The stones the keep... is built of are, some lintels excepted, remarkably small and were taken from a quarry at Sunderland [next the Sea], 3 miles distant....  The walls to the front are 11' thick, but the 3 other sides are only 9'.  They appear to have been built with regular scaffolding to the first storey; and so high the fillings in the inside are mixed with whinstone, which was probably what came off the rock in levelling the foundations, but there are no whinstone fillings higher up, the walls above having been carried up without scaffolding, in a manner called by the masons overhand work; the consequence of which is that they all overhang a little, each side of the tower being a few inches broader at the top than at the bottom.
The original roof was placed no higher than the top of the second storey....  The tower was afterwards covered to the very top.  There were no chimneys.  The only fireplace in it was a grate in the middle of a large room, supposed to have been the guard room where some stones in the middle of the floor are burned red.  This floor was also stone, supported by arches.... [and] had a window near the top, 3' square... all the other rooms were lighted by slits or chinks in the walls 6" broad, except in the gables of the roof, each of which had a window 1' broad.  The rock on which this tower stands rises about 150' above low water mark.
The outworks are built of a very different stone from the keep, being a coarse freestone of an inferior quality, ill abiding the injuries of the weather.  The stone was taken from the rock itself, a large seam of it lying immediately under the whinstone.
In all the principal rooms in the outworks there are large chimneys, particularly the kitchen which measures 40' by 30', where there are 3 very large ones and 4 windows.  Over each window is a stone funnel, like a chimney, open at the top...
In a narrow passage, near the top of the keep were found upwards of 50 iron arrow heads, rusted together in a mass, the longest of them being 7½"...
In 1770, in sinking the floor of the cellar, a curious draw well was found 145' deep, cut through the solid rock, of which 75' is a hard whinstone.
In 1778, on throwing over the bank a prodigious quantity of sand, the remains of the chapel was discovered, in length 100'.  The chancel is now quite cleared.  It is 36' long and 20' broad; the east end... semicircular.  The altar... did not stand close to the east end, but in the centre of the semicircle, with a walk about it 3' broad...  The richly carved font also remains.

In the north corner of the keep was a vice whose stairs gave access to all floors and the battlements.  On the first floor an apparent Romanesque doorway gave access to either a forebuilding, of which there is no trace, or the south curtain opposite.  The internal mural passageways may well be eighteenth century as the windows most likely are, although there are some similarities with other such keeps, viz. Dover, Hedingham, Newcastle, Rochester and the Tower of London.  There also used to be the V shaped crease of an early roof at this level.  Similarly to several other larger keeps there are also 2 spiral stairs in the upper floors leading to the battlements, in Bamburgh's case through the east buttress.  This is somewhat similar to the layout in Appleby, Castle Rising, Colchester, Dover, Norwich and Rochester keeps, while Canterbury has a second stair in a central buttress and the Tower of London expands to a full 3 vices, in all the corners except for the chapel turret.


Inner Ward
The inner ward occupied the height of the igneous intrusion that made up the crag of Bamburgh castle and surrounds the site of the early basilica.  To the south the inner enceinte ran along the edge of the sill while to the north it occupied the top of a short cliff.  This made an elongated D shaped ward stretching from the keep in the west to the Davies Tower in the east, with the convex side facing roughly south.  East of the keep lay the destroyed rectangular Tower Gate.  This needed a gate some 13' high and nearly 10' wide in 1538.  The gatetower was apparently about 50' long by 30' deep and had clasping pilaster buttresses on its northern face.  It may have been the gate repaired in 1130.

From this a wall ran eastwards along the small cliff, enclosing the chapel which replaced the basilica on the summit of the rock.  This face of the ward had 2 projecting rectangular towers, about 20' long by 12' deep, which were heavily rebuilt around 1800.  The foundations of the wall and towers still appear to be original.  Such rectangular towers appear nowhere else on site and are therefore likely to belong to a different building phase to the rest of the site, probably being younger than the Muniment Tower and its companion to the south.

The eastern end of the ward makes an uneven curve around to the south side of the sill which begins just before the D shaped Davies Tower.  This section of the wall appears early in style and sports several pilaster buttresses similar to those found in the inner wards at Carlisle, Middleham and Mitford.  The masonry is also ashlar and appears somewhat similar to that of the keep.

The D shaped Davies Tower, about 25' in diameter, is made of a fine ashlar and is a typical 1160-1230 tower similar to those found at Berkhamsted, Beeston, Chepstow, Grosmont, Manorbrier, Pembroke, Pevensey gatehouse, Richards Castle, Skenfrith and White Castle.  Currently only 2 floors remain of this.  The basement has 3 loops, 1 forward and 2 covering the wall to either side.  The next floor has 2 loops covering the 2 areas not covered by the loops below, while the top storey is a repeat of the basement.  The loops have fine fishtails, although some have obviously been restored and the upper floor has little more than the oillets left.  Just east of the tower a crosswall runs down the scarp to the twin towered gatehouse now called the great gate.

The curtain wall runs from the Davies Tower to the Muniment Tower in 2 sweeps and is made of roughly coursed sandstone rubble blocks.  Its upper sections have been heavily rebuilt and used to have offices behind it.  The Muniment Tower is about 25' square and as such could pass as an early keep, like the tower by Carlisle castle outer gate, Clun, Goodrich, Loughor, Manorbier, Talgarth, Wattlesborough or West Malling ‘keeps' or the converted gatehouses at Barnard Castle and Hay on Wye.  It is currently 5 storeys high and set on a rebuilt plinth.  Facing south the 3 lowest levels have single large Romanesque windows, similar to those over the keep entrance.  Similar windows also occur to the east.  There is an offset at first and third floor level, while the fourth floor has trefoil windows and the top floor is obviously a modern addition.  To the west there are no loops, but an inserted window at third floor level and a garderobe turret serving the second floor.  The tower is ashlar built.

After the Muniment Tower the rubble curtain continues to a smaller rectangular tower, about 18' square.  Behind the curtain lay the kitchen, buttery and other service rooms whose 3 doors into the hall survive under the modern hodge-podge of nineteenth century styles, Norman, Early English, Perpendicular, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts.  The medieval pantry and buttery have high, pointed tunnel vaults, while 3 large segmental arched fireplaces and 4 pointed doorways, 2 of which have been blocked, remain.

The small, rectangular turret is 5 storeys high, but has a blind basement storey.  On its south front, the uppermost 3 storeys have small rectangular windows, with the highest level again being an obvious addition.  To the east and west are further small rectangular windows.  The Medieval part of the tower is not as well built as its neighbour, having well coursed, possibly reused rubble rather than ashlar.  From the turret the rubble curtain continued on round to another boldly projecting D shaped tower similar to the Davies Tower.  The curtain here has been used as a retaining wall for the nineteenth century building within which is the encased original great hall, while a rectangular modern tower rises from the base of the D shaped tower.  This D shaped tower, about 28' in diameter, has been heavily rebuilt, but still sports 3 long fishtailed crossbow loops in its lowest surviving level.

From the D shaped tower a projecting building formed the curtain wall.  In the 1790s
Mr King thought this a withdrawing room from the hall with projecting anteroom to the north.  It could have been the great chamber of the Middle Ages and again was rubble built and ended with a slight set back before the main curtain continued alongside the south wall of the keep.  This was set some 15' back from it and on the edge of the crag.  This heavily rebuilt wall runs to a pair of even more rebuilt D shaped towers of which the westernmost one does not even appear on old plans of the castle, so may be entirely of nineteenth century provenance, even if the masonry does look distressed as if ancient in places.  This much rebuilt section of wall probably marks the end of the inner ward, leaving the west face of the keep forming the west enceinte of the inner defences.
   
East ward
The east ward runs from the new/rebuilt D shaped tower and the south-west end of the keep in a straight line, some 230' long to the 30' diameter Clock Tower.  Modern stables have been built along this front which probably projects further down the rock than the line of the original curtain, although traces of the original wall may be seen next to the D shaped tower.  At the corner of the ward lies the circular Clock Tower.  This is named after the clock set in the modern upper storey on its south face, overlooking the town.  The tower is massively rebuilt, but some original facing appears to remain next to the south curtain.  This contains 2 plain crossbow loops, the lower one having a ball oillet.  The other loops, windows and plinth are all modern.

From the Clock Tower the east ward takes a right angle and runs directly across the sill on a 10' high crag.  Most of this wall to the other rock face has been heavily rebuilt, but some of the original wall remains between the Clock Tower and a totally rebuilt projecting D shaped tower, just over a third of the way along this front.  Possibly this and the Clock Tower were the tower and turret mentioned at Waltheof's Well (Waldehavewell) in 1372.  Set in the old portion of wall, only some 15' north of the Clock Tower, is a tall postern, covered by a single loop close to its north side.  Its arch has clearly been rebuilt, although apparently before the modern polygonal ‘tower' next to the Clock Tower was added.

Some 20' from the North enceinte of the castle stood the rectangular gatetower called Smith Gate.  Possibly this was associated with the Geoffrey Smith and his ancestors who in 1212 held half a carucate of land in chief from the king in Bamburgh borough for the serjeanty of making iron work for the castle carts.  The gatetower barely projects through the curtain and had 2 boldly projecting buttresses forward, rather like the gate to the inner ward at Carlisle castle.  The upper half and rear of this structure have been totally rebuilt, but the wall from it to the north is Medieval at the base.  Just north of the Smith Gate there are what appear to be buried foundations of what may have been a rectangular corner tower.

From here the north curtain wove its way back along the top of the sill towards the later east entrance to the castle.  Most of this wall, much thinner than its counterpart facing away from the sea, is reduced to foundations upon which have been built a modern rampart, occasionally lined with eighteenth century cannon.  At the end of this lies a great rectangular gatetower which was probably the Vale Tipping Tower of 1330.  This again is massively rebuilt.  The gate passageway is currently semi-Romanesque in style, but much of it, including the irregular arch is obviously rebuilt.

This gatehouse at Vale Tipping is shown in a sixteenth century plan as a rectangle with a vice on the south side of the gate passageway.  The gateway has been ‘Normanised', but a portion of slightly pointed rubble vaulting remains.  Within the passageway are remnants of a plain chamfered string course.  On the north side of the passageway was a porter's lodge which was used as a barracks in the Napoleonic era.  It was some 20' long and 9' wide with a vault reaching 14' high.  It retains a single original buttress towards the east end of its north face, next to a Napoleonic gun casement.  The cutting in the rock here was probably that excavated in 1237.

From the gatehouse a wall dog-legs around the line of the inner ward towards the south.  On the southwards running section of wall are remnants of a series of offices.  These end at a much mutilated, small twin towered gatehouse which appears to have been built before 1222 when ‘the great gate' was recorded as having its turning bridge repaired.  This had D shaped towers only some 12' in diameter set astride an originally slightly pointed gate passageway.  This was later ‘converted' to a Romanesque vault which was inserted just under it, complete with a fake portcullis.  Each turret had 2 loops in the basement and a single forward firing loop on the level of the destroyed constable's chamber.  In the gate passageway there appears to have been 2 crossbow loops, but the whole has been massively rejigged, so it is hard to tell what might be original and what fantasy.  A later rectangular building was built on the east face of the gatehouse, possibly as further accommodation for the porter or guard.  Maybe this structure was built during the £80 refurbishment of the gatehouse in 1233/34.

The wall running up the scarp between the barbican and the Davies Tower is probably that repaired by Ralph Neville's executors around 1370 and was probably the breach in the wall that allowed access to the castle under Queen Elizabeth.  The foundations of a barbican from the twin towered gatehouse used to be visible and contained the drawbridge.

Outer or West Ward
The outer ward lies at the lowest, western end of the sill.  It is roughly triangular in shape, being some 250' deep north to south by 420' long to its north-western tip.  This was set up to 30' below the east ward and once contained a windmill on a mound.  Mutilated fragments of its south-western curtain remain built up in more modern, but rough work, while to the north mere indications of the old wall remain under the modern retaining wall.  One singular fragment of this stands near the north-west corner of the enceinte.  Standing over 20 courses high the piece is made of high quality, rectangular ashlar sandstone blocks.  Its lone survival, facing the sea, appears rather odd.

Just south-west of this fragment of masonry, in the opposite curtain wall, stand the remains of a postern, set in a thick portion of wall.  This was partially refaced in the nineteenth century but appears to have its original, Romanesque arch.  Through this steps led down to a small enclosure at the base of the rock which contained Elmund's Well.  These would appear to be the lofty steps mentioned by Symeon Durham (d.1129+).  Within the tip of the west ward between the gate and the finger of masonry stood a variety of buildings recently excavated.  First there was a timber hall, some 40' by 23'.  This was thought by the excavators to be seventh century and was later replaced by a smaller masonry building, thought to be ninth century and which may have been the Ravens Hall of 1372.  That they were aligned to the steps down to the postern suggest that this was the original entrance to the royal city as mentioned by Bede in the sixth century.  As late as 1870 the high tide still reached the base of the Whinsill rock here.

Elmund's Well
The postern led down onto the plane via a set of stone cut steps.  Up to the north of this ran a chamfered off wall with another Romanesque arch in it.  Behind this was a rectangular enclosure with Elmund's Well in the north-west corner.  The base of this wall is built with squarish sandstone ashlar blocks, while the blocks above are more rectangular.  This was possibly the part repaired in 1250 when the barbican was built before the gate of St Oswald.  This seems to be the most likely candidate for the outwork built in 1138 which fell to the Scots that year.  It is also possible that this well was known as the Gaitwell at the postern in 1372.  It would seem also to have been ‘the sweet and pure well' of Symeon Durham (d.1129+) that lay at the west end of the city.



 

Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry