Tynemouth has a long, if not particularly eventful history.  The site was certainly a priory, but one that always seems to have had a defensive aspect.  This is due to the fact that it stands upon a cliff of Magnesian Limestone that projects boldly into the North Sea and guards the northern side of the Tyne estuary.  The rock it stands upon has precipitous falls to east and north, but a less abrupt slope to the south that leads, via a now destroyed cliff, to a small harbour.  To the west, sand and soil appear to have accumulated to mask the precipitous approach to the castle rock on this front.  The summit of the rock was duly fortified and within these defences a monastery was also constructed, forming three distinctive features of the site, priory, castle and parish church.  These 3 elements are so entwined it is impossible to tell the full story of one without delving into the history of the others.  Briefly, excavation has proved that a prehistoric settlement stood on the site with 2 roundhouses having been uncovered, one being pre-Roman the other from the second century AD.

It has been suggested that a Roman fortlet stood here to complement Arbeia on the southern bank of the Tyne.  The only evidence for this is a Roman altar, possibly reused as a foundation block.  This was found 6' below the ground surface north of the priory church in 1782.  However, the altar appears to have originated from Segedunum judging by its inscription.  The next year, near the same place, a slab was found bearing an inscription suggesting that it came from a temple.  Possibly such a structure stood on the site - a Roman tile inscribed Leg VI v having been found in a trench before the castle in 1856 as well as coins of Constantius II (337-61) and Magnentius (350-53), but again no solid remains have ever been discovered.  It should also be remembered that various projections into the North Sea have held Roman fortlets, the most well known being Scarborough.  Otherwise the site has been very tentatively linked to the Roman station of Tunnocellum and the hermitage of Tunnacester, the latter being mentioned by Bede.

Whatever early works stood at Tynemouth they were superceded by the seventh century church.  Whether the fortress was always under the control of the monks or not is open to question, but by the Norman era this seems to have been true.  Certainly the ‘castle' withstood a 6 day siege in 1095 before the garrison was forced back into the church.  During the Edwardian troubles with Scotland the castle was refortified and again towards the end of the fourteenth century when raiding this far into England was still a problem.  With the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47), the nave of the priory became the parish church and remained so until the Civil War of 1642 to 1649.  The rock girt site, however, remained active militarily right up to its abandonment in 1960.

It can therefore be seen that the history of Tynemouth is complex.  There was once an early Medieval chronicle of Tynemouth, seen by Leland in the 1540s.  This might have expounded much of the castle and church history, but sadly is now lost.  However, Leland did make a few jottings from the text which recorded that it was written by an anonymous monk from St Albans (Albanensi).  As his few lines are all that has survived of the text it is worth translating and publishing here.

The author of the chronicle was a St Albans monk, but his name is uncertain.
Oswin king and martyr was buried at Tynemouth.
Edwin king of the Deiras was buried there.
Henry the hermit of Coquet Island was buried there.
King Malcolm of the Scots was slain at Alnwick by Earl Mowbray and was buried there in the chapter house.
King Edwin of the Northumberlanders erected Tynemouth chapel from wood, in which Rosella his daughter afterwards received the veil.
St Oswald made the monastery of wood and stone.
Tynemouth monastery was twice destroyed, once by Ivar and Hubba (Anger and Hubon) and again by the Danes in the time of King Æthelstan.
The Danes used Tynemouth as a stronghold and even a shelter when crossing from Denmark and Norway into England.
On the island of Coquet is the convent of the monks of Tynemouth...
Next to Tynemouth was a city destroyed by the Danes called Arbeia (Urfa on the other side of the Tyne), where King Oswin was born.
The place where the convent of Tynemouth now stands was anciently called Benebalcrag by the Saxons.  Penabalcrag is the correct form, meaning The Head of the Valley on the Rock; for near this place was the end of the Severian Wall.

Judging from the above, the Tynemouth chronicle was possibly late eleventh or twelfth century in composition, but probably utilised older works or folk memory for the Saxon era.  If correct, Leland's notes on the chronicle would suggest an early seventh century date for the founding of the religious establishment.  To support this contention, fragments of Anglo-Saxon crosses have been excavated both in and just outside the priory church.  Further, excavations in 1963 and 1980 uncovered the postholes of 5 rectangular timber buildings.  These have been interpreted as part of undefined wooden buildings of the early monastery.  Sadly no datable finds were recovered and, possibly significantly, no certain trace of the early monastery.  This may suggest that the masonry is in fact much older than twelfth century as the chronicle fragment indicates.

Of great importance to the later Tynemouth, King Oswin was murdered on 20 August 651, and is then supposed to have been buried at Tynemouth.  King Edwin of Deira, the claimed founder of Tynemouth and uncle of King Oswin, reigned from about 616 until his death at the battle of Hatfield Chase on 12 October 633.  That he was buried at Tynemouth and that his daughter is alleged to have taken the veil here, again suggests the close link with his family and their likely foundation of this house.  It should also be noted that Edwin was the first Christian monarch of the district, being converted in 627.  Presumably the wooden Tynemouth was built soon after this to be replaced by Oswald, the eventual Christian successor to Edwin, with a building of stone and wood.  Quite what this meant, stone walls and wooden infrastructure, or even wattle and daub construction, cannot now be ascertained.  Oswald ruled from 633 until 5 August 641/2. 

Against the tradition recorded above, Lindisfarne monastery, some 50 miles to the north, is only alleged to have been founded in 634 at the request of King Oswald, while between 651 and 661, a timber church is said to have been built there ‘suitable for a bishop's seat'.  This has often been taken as the first Christian church built in the north.  The Venerable Bede bemoaned the fact that the church was built of oak and thatched with reeds rather than being a proper stone building.  Abbot Eadbert is later said to have removed the thatch at Lindisfarne and covered the whole building, walls and roof, in lead!  The early foundation of Tynemouth is mitigated against by Bede himself who states that no church was ever built in Northumbria until King Oswald raised his cross at Heavenfield in 633.  If this is correct, it seems most likely that Tynemouth was founded by King Oswald (633-41), perhaps initially as a stone church.  Bede later writes of Herebald (d.745) as abbot of the monastery at the mouth of Tyne. This of course would mean that the Oswin and Edwin stories were later inventions.  In 792 King Osred, returning to Northumbria, was waylaid and murdered, being buried at Tynemouth on 14 September.  Quite obviously it is impossible to tell which of these stories were true and which later invention.

In the eighth century Viking attacks began on the coasts of England.  Even what happened here is problematical.  Two attacks are said to have been made on Tynemouth in the chronicle.  The text, as copied by Leland, apparently missed at least one attack on the monastery which, according to Matthew Paris (d.1259), happened in 800.

The army of the heathen cruelly plundered the churches of Hackness (Hertenes) and Tinemutha, and returned with the spoils to the ships.

Possibly the church was sacked then, if any attack took place.  A coin of Ethelred II of Northumbria (841-844) was excavated from the hilltop in the 1963, which suggests that the site continued in occupation.  Other than this, the first recorded destruction of the monastery in its chronicle can be reliably dated.  It must have happened after 865, when the 2 brothers mentioned appeared in East Anglia and 870 when Ivar left Northumbria for Ireland.  Ivar died in Ireland in 873, while Ubba died in 878.  The Durham chronicle records under the year 867 that the Great Pagan Army followed the Humber from York laying waste everything to Tinemutham.  Again it is only Matthew Paris (d.1259) who notes the destruction of Tynemouth and the other monasteries in 870 after Ubba's Scottish campaign.  As this campaign only occurred in 874/75 and is linked to the brutal evangelism of Abbess Ebba of Coldingham, like the early foundation of Tynemouth, it is probably a fabrication.

Before this second alleged sacking, there are modern claims that the monastery was able to defend itself against a Viking attack in 832.  Where this information has come from originally is hard to judge, but there seems to be no substance to the contentions.

According to the Tynemouth chronicle a second destruction of Tynemouth monastery occurred during the reign of King Æthelstan (925-39).  This implies that the church was rebuilt or at least still operational during the 50 odd years since 870.  It is also plain from the chronicle that it was thought that the place was fortified by the Danes after they occupied the site, presumably as a base above the harbour.  Possibly then, the Vikings were the first to fortify the site.  Against this is the possibility that a Roman fortlet stood upon the site which had earlier been a hillfort of sorts.  Again this parallels what seems to have gone on at Scarborough.

Tynemouth church must have been repaired after the alleged Viking destruction, but only had a single custodian until the ‘discovery' of the body of St Oswin on 11 March 1065.  Two stories exist about this event.  One twelfth century account states that it was found in a Tynemouth oratory after a standard miraculous dream and allegedly at the urging of Countess Judith (d.1094), the wife of Earl Tostig (d.1066).  This tale of the finding of the saint was compiled at St Albans in Hertfordshire after 1111 when the author himself, a former prior of Wymundham, was at Tynemouth recording the rather mundane miracles of St Oswin at his leisure.  In this account the body of Oswin was translated on 11 March 1065 at which time the church was obviously serviceable.  Further, the calamities that befell Earl Tostig (1055-65) on 3 October 1065, when he was ousted from power, were said to have been caused by his neglect to attend the translation of the saint.  Despite these claims, Simeon of Durham recorded how a semi-professional saint finder from his own monastery, their sacrist Alfred Westou, is said to have found the saint's remains under the church floor.  This is surely more likely.  Also, the fact that the church was still standing and functional in the reign of the Confessor (1042-66) helps give the lie to the idea that the Vikings destroyed all the churches of the North.  This seems to be a myth peddled by twelfth century chroniclers, but not recorded during the time of the Viking attacks and settlement.

Tynemouth church was definitely standing and made of stone in 1070.  In that year the Vita Oswini states that William I (1066-87) was camped at Monkchester - later to become Newcastle upon Tyne - when one of his foraging parties came to Tynemouth and seized the provisions there before burning the church.  Simeon notes that Tynemouth church had been roofless for 15 years in 1085.

At that time count [Waltheof] himself was at Tinemuthe, which place he entrusted to the monks [of Jarrow], themselves to be disposed of together with the aforesaid little one [church].

Between 1065 and 1085 the earldom Northumberland went through many vicissitudes and damaging military activity.  The monastery at Tynemouth is said to have been refounded by Earl Robert Mowbray of Northumberland.  According to Matthew Paris, the St Albans' historian writing midway through the reign of Henry III (1216-72):

Concerning the monks first introduced to Tynemouth
[Robert Mowbray], with the advice of his friends, Abbot Paul of the church of Saint Albans, summoned an assembly...  At whose request the aforesaid abbot, agreeing with them, appointed some of the monks of St Albans to that place; which the aforesaid earl, when he himself had sufficiently provided it with manors, churches, rents and fisheries, with mills and all things, which he confirmed with his charters all the aforesaid things, free from all secular service, and completely free; he gave the church of Tynemouth, with all its appurtenances, to the aforesaid Abbot Paul, his successors and the protomartyrs of the church of the blessed Alban of the English, for their own health and for that of all their ancestors or successors, to possess eternally; in such a way that the abbots of St Albans who were in that time, with the advice of the assembly of the same place, had free disposal of the priors and monks, such as to place them or to remove them from there, as they saw fit.

Although this statement by Paris may have contained a cornel of truth such charters by Earl Mowbray probably did not exist, or if they did they were destroyed in 1174 when Tynemouth surrendered their charters to bring an end to the hostility with Durham priory.  In any case in 1292 a monk from Tynemouth priory commented in the St Albans' register ‘God knows what has become of it'.  The falsification of non-existent charters was quite a boom industry in the twelfth century when literacy was becoming more important to landholders.

The early history of Tynemouth priory is therefore entwined with the career of Robert Mowbray.  He did not become earl of Northumberland until 1086, when Aubrey Coucy probably resigned control of the district to the king.  The most likely series of events is that Tynemouth was at this time thought of as a daughter house of Jarrow and that the latter and just possibly the former, had been refounded in the early 1070s.  A suspect copy of a single charter of Earl Waltheof (d.1076) survives about this, although there is a distinct possibility that this is a twelfth century forgery by the monks of Durham.  Certainly this only exists amongst the Durham priory charters and the Durham monks had a history of forgery to support their territorial and political claims.  That the text is not a true copy is confirmed by one of the witnesses being Earl Aeldred, a man who had died in 1038.  Further, the confirmations of Durham's lands by William I (1066-87), which precedes the Tynemouth confirmations mentioned above, are also reckoned forgeries.

If there is any truth in the Tynemouth charter, it was probably made soon after 1072 when Waltheof was appointed earl, and probably 2 years since the Conqueror's troops had burned the roof off Tynemouth church - a roof said to have been repaired by a monk from Jarrow, possibly at the bidding of the brethren of Durham during the Conqueror's reign.  The charter runs that Earl Waltheof of Northumberland (1071-75), in the presence of Bishop Walcher (1071-1080) and the entire synod of the bishopric of Durham, gave to Prior Aldwin (1073/4-83) and his brothers at Jarrow, the church of St Mary of Tynemouth, with the body of St Oswin resting in that church, with all places and lands etc which pertained to it, free and quit forever.  And with this he offered the boy, Morkar, to the church in the service of God.  There is then a long closing clause confirming this gift and then no less than 22 witnesses to it, about double those of any other charter.  Earl Waltheof is also said to have founded Durham castle in 1072, so attempting to repair the damage of the Harrying of the North may have been paramount in local minds.  At this time the religious reformers Aldwin, Elfwine and Remfry, were beginning their administrations in the North settling first at Monkchester and then at Jarrow whose church they repaired after being granted it by Bishop Walcher (1071-1080).  This again fits in quite well with a grant of Tynemouth to the newcomers at Jarrow between 1072 and 1074.  The gift is alleged to have been confirmed by Bishop William St Calais of Durham (1080-96) on 27 April 1085.  This instrument pretty much copied the same terms as the previous charter, but added the fact that his predecessor, Bishop Walcher (1071-81), had confirmed this gift in his synod and that Count Aubrey Coucy (1080-85/6) had also confirmed the same in Bishop William's presence.  This document was alleged to have been witnessed by Bishop William, with 7 men recorded as priests of various places, one man who should probably have been recorded as a priest and a single cleric.  The odd priest out in this list is Merwin who is described as the priest of Chester (Cestre).  Presumably he was in the entourage of Earl Hugh of Chester (1071-1101) who held lands in the North, but quite what Merwin was doing in the Durham chapter is another matter.  That this was another Durham forgery is likely. 

Similarly the abstract of charters from the lost Liber Ruber of Durham probably contained at least some forgeries although much of it appears based on solid history.  It is also interesting in that it states that the Conqueror burned down Jarrow, no doubt in the Harrying of the North and that King Malcolm III burned Monkwearmouth (Weremouth).  This tends to support the fate of Tynemouth church in 1070.  An abstract of this lost work also mentions the charter recording the gift of Tynemouth church to the Jarrow monks.

If the rather contradictory accounts of the state of Tynemouth recorded at Durham are ignored, it is suggested that the church was ruined when it was given as a daughter house to St Albans abbey by Earl Robert Mowbray (1086-95).  This gift is supposed to have led to the long and acrimonious dispute with the monks at Durham.  The first recorded act in this dispute occurred in 1093.

This Paulus [abbot of St Albans, d.1093] entered the church of Tynemouth, which they had possessed against the prohibition of the monks of Durham, through the violence of Count Robert, and being struck with sickness there, on his way back, he died in Setterington near York...

Soon after his death on 13 November 1093, the priory became the apparently brief resting place of yet another king, this one having been killed on the same day at Alnwick.

But the body of the king [Malcolm], when there was none of his people left to cover it with earth, two of the natives laid it in carts and buried it in Tynemouth.

Although Malcolm's body is said to have been later taken to Dunfermline abbey by King Alexander (1107-24), who also granted his protection to the church, his and the bones of Malcolm's son Edward, who died with him at Alnwick, are said to have been uncovered in the church during 1257.  It is also stated that Robert Mowbray (1086-95) had not only killed Malcolm when he invaded England, but that Robert had also built Tynemouth church.  The latter is certainly untrue.  Matthew Paris (d.1259) has this to say about the king's body going back to Scotland:

Concerning Robert Mowbray, the founder of Tynemouth.
Because of his royal excellence, he [Robert] caused the body of the slain king [Malcolm] to be honourably buried in the church of Tynemouth, which the same earl had constructed.
The Scots, however, later demanding the body of their king, were granted and given the body of a certain plebeian man from Seaton Delaval (Sethtune) and thus the impiety of the Scots was deceived.

Certainly in 1257 two coffins were uncovered, one containing the remains of a large man, the other of a smaller one.  Possibly these are the 2 well carved stone coffins still found in the modern room made in the eastern corner of the north aisle.  As ever such suppositions are unprovable.

During the rule of Earl Robert, the priory, or at least its precincts, were still defensible and indeed the writer of the Vita St Oswini explicitly states:

Here [Robert Mowbray] began the church of the holy king and martyr Oswin of exceptional devotion and in which his most holy body rested; because it was contained within the confines of his castle of Tynemouth, he enriched it with a great deal of lands and estates.

This was shown up in 1095 when, 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 - and many others.  However, the plot was frustrated by King William forming the English army and mounting a campaign in Northumberland which eventually involved Tynemouth castle.  The main events that involved Tynemouth have been related under Bamburgh and Newcastle, but for completeness the end of one account more concerned with Tynemouth is repeated here.  The Durham chronicler Simeon notes that after the siege of Bamburgh had reached a stalemate:

So he [Earl Robert], having become joyful, went out one night with 30 soldiers to accomplish this [retaking Newcastle].  When this was discovered, the knights who guarded the [siege] castle [of Bambrugh] 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], where, 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 quite clearly shows - if the recording is correct - that the earl and his men defended the perimeter of the rock and then fell back on the church when those defences were penetrated.  This implies that there were defences on the rock capable of being defended for 6 days.  Other accounts of the siege are printed under Bamburgh and do not need repeating here, though it should be noted that there has been much confusion over the 2 castles of Newcastle and Tynemouth.

There are several similar contemporary accounts of the action at Tynemouth which all tell the same story, but the Durham accounts are undoubtedly the best - even if they are patently biased in favour of the monks of Durham and their brethren at Jarrow.  There is a second Durham account which mentions the siege, but more importantly the events before the siege, namely the earl taking Tynemouth from Durham, giving it St Albans abbey and his alleged reasons for doing so.

Robert Mowbray, fierce in spirit and vigorous in arms, when the earl was in possession of the honour [of Northumberland], to the detriment of the honour, he was driven by hatred against Holy Church.  For in the first place he made as much effort as possible to oppress her with slanders and insults.  No matter how he tried to harass and destroy her rights; whatever he could do to his enemy he did and he threatened to do more than he could.  And therefore Tynemouth church, that was truly the right of the church of St Cuthbert, as the whole province knows, became the first victim of his violence.  Hence, in short, those who had long lived as monks, nay, among the monks, including the saint himself, were driven out with insults, and it was transferred to the possession of a certain Abbot Paul, who lived in a distant place.  However, that abbot, lest he should do injury to the purpose and rank of the church, the monks of Durham by letters of legation through themselves and by other religious men, warned, implored and forbade him from receiving such robbery, but they endeavoured to get him to disavow the grant in vain.  He was not swayed by the elegance of anyone, nor even by the venerable Confessor, nor by the respect for his order, which forbade him from undertaking robbery; true, but not with impunity.  As for the outcome of the matter stated, each of them, that is to say, the rapist and the possessor of the rapine, paid the penalty for their rashness to the avenger.  For the abbot, a long time ago came before the monks, where, once he had seen the church itself for the first time, was seized with a sudden illness, and he who had arrived safe and sound was brought home dead.  But the earl, in the intervening time was surrounded by the king's evil followers, so surrounded in every direction by the advance of the enemy, he could neither proceed nor retreat, so he entered Tynemouth as a stronghold.  For this place presented itself as inaccessible on the eastern side and on the northernmost cliff above the ocean and elsewhere is in a higher position which makes it an easy defence.  He, trusting to this protection and the proven hands of his soldiers, promised a far different end to what was to come to him and to his enemies.  For two days the siege continued, the enemy, with the intention of either conquering or falling in the attempt, fighting from above, attacked with sword and fire.  Nor do I mourn; for they took a difficult, but not too difficult position.  For they broke in without any loss to themselves, cut others down, weakened others by wounding them, then kidnapped them, dragged them, and forced the earl himself, wounded and already despairing of what was happening, into the church.  O righteous judgment of God!  Behold, as the scripture sings, "The sinner is caught in the throes of his acts."  And, "He opened the pit and dug him out."  And "He fell into the pit which he made."  It is certainly in the same church that the earl himself was now made a prey to his enemies, as we have said before in St. Cuthbert's presumption.  In the same way, I say, as the proud man had snatched away from the saint, now the pitiful man himself is snatched away, dragged, and led to the king, whose death he was trying to bring about; and to this day he is kept in the chains of custody.

Robert Mowbray was said to have lived for 30 years as a prisoner and then as a monk of St Albans, ie to about 1125, so presumably this account was written before that time.  Regardless, it does state that no attempt was made to defend the church, but all the fighting was done outside it, presumably along the rock defences, even though they only lasted 2 days in this account and not 6.  The account itself was recorded to justify the Durham monks reclaiming the church in the 1120s.  Again, what is given is a probably partisan account of events which advances no facts to support their claim to Tynemouth, merely rhetoric, other than the alleged grant by Earl Waltheof of Northumberland (1071-76).  The claim is expounded in a court case from 1121.

The monks of Durham brought a claim concerning the church which is in Tynemouth to the chapter of St Peter of York in the presence of the aforesaid bishops, Thurstan [of York, 1114-40], Ranulf of Durham (1099-1128), a man of Sancti Ebroini and many others; complaining that this was their right from the concession of Earl Waltheof, when he gave his cousin, that is his aunt's son, the little child called Morka, to be nursed by them and by God in the monastery of Jarrow.  He [Morka] was thus commended to them in the church of Tynemouth, the monks themselves taking him by boat to Jarrow, endeavoured to nurture him diligently and to educate him in the service of God.  From this, they say, at the time when our brothers, the monks of Jarrow, assumed the care of that place [Tynemouth], Edmund and then Eadred, their monks, served the church themselves, together with the priest Elwald, who had also been a canon of the church of Durham, from whence he was wont to go to Durham as often as his duty allowed, to celebrate mass for the week.  They also remembered Wulmarus, a monk of their congregation, and other brothers in their turn, who were sent to perform divine services there [in Tynemouth], being sent there from Jarrow.  The bones of St Oswin also, as it pleased them, their brethren carried from time to time to Jarrow, and brought them back to their former place when they pleased.  Finally, when Aubrey [Courcy, earl from 1080 to ?1086] had accepted the honour of the earldom, he also gave them the same place [Tynemouth] when they were transferred to Durham.  Wherefore soon, by the resolution of the whole chapter, their monk Turchill was sent thither, who, having renewed the church roof, dwelt there for a long time, until afterwards by Earl Robert Mowbray, because of the hatred which he had against Bishop William, he would be violently expelled by the earl's servants, Gumerum and Robert Taca.  Not long after that, Abbot Paul of St Albans monastery obtained the aforesaid church from the earl, whom he was going to see when he came to York.  Turgot, who then held the priory church of Durham, sent monks and clerics thither and in the presence of Archbishop Thomas the Elder, and many persons of great reverence, he forbade him by canonical authority from usurping the rightful place of the church of Durham, and thus made him the violator of the sacred canons and fraternal charity.  But he [Paul] unworthily answered that his forbidding was worth naught.  But when he arrived there, he was seized with sickness and while he was returning, he ended his life in Settrington, not far from York.  Thus [the Durham chapter] lost the church of Tynemouth [apart from in Wikipedialand where Turgot's speech was successful].
This complaint was made at York, about the middle of Lent and was repeated a little later in the week of Easter, the fourth of April, in Durham, before a great assembly of the principal men, who had then, perhaps on account of some business, flocked thither, namely, Robert Bruce, Alan Percy, Walter Espec, Forno Fitz Ligulf. Robert Whitwell, Sheriff Odard of Northumberland, with the elders of the same county and several others.  In the face of these multitudes, when the monks were pouring out their complaints, behold, Arnold Percy, a man known for his family and riches, and standing in the truth of what he asserted, rose up and affirmed in witness of the truth before all, and that he had heard and seen the earl repent of this injury which he had violently inflicted on St Cuthbert.  He said, "When the earl, being taken prisoner in the place which he had taken away from St Cuthbert, was brought to Durham on account of the wounds which had been inflicted on him, he begged that he might be allowed to enter the church oratory to pray."  When he was not permitted to by the barons, he broke down in tears, and looking towards the church with a groan, said, "Oh St Cuthbert, I justly suffer these calamities, because I have sinned against you and yours.  This is your revenge on the wickedness of my life.  I pray thee, saint of God, to have mercy on me."

Hearing this, they all said that an unjust act had been committed against the church of Durham; and although the matter could not be rectified at present, yet they prudently asserted that this slander could be put right at a future time when there would be many men in attendance to witness it.

The tale told above, full of sound and fury, but no real legal substance, also contains several contradictions.  If Turchill had renewed the church roof and dwelt there a long time, why was the church said to have been roofless for 15 years in 1085, ie. since 1070?  What were the real reasons for Earl Robert granting the church to St Albans?  The enmity claimed with William St Calais (1080-96) probably only really started with the 1095 campaign when the bishop led troops against Robert.  Before that Robert may have sold, possibly under royal pressure, his authority south of the Tyne and north of the Tees to Bishop William.  Quite certainly the monks of Durham wanted this story believed in the twelfth century and quite happily forged a number of charters alleging to concern the founding of the palatine county of Durham.  Quite possibly if the removal of Durham from the earldom of Northumberland did occur in this way, it may have led to Mowbray seizing Tynemouth from Durham as it lay north of the Tyne.  Some of the documentation concerning this is referred to in the lost Liber Rubus of Durham which recorded the concord made between Bishop William St Calais of Durham and Count Robert of the Northumberians by William the Conqueror (1066-87).  Further, that this charter of the transaction was likely forged, is proved by the fact that Bishop William is referred to as the first bishop of that name.  This suggests the charter's provenance no earlier than 1226 when a second William became bishop.  A forged charter was also seen and recorded by Rymer.  This records the peace made between Bishop William St Calais of Durham (1080-96) and Earl Robert of Northumberland (1086-1095).  This is jauntily signed by King William (1087-1100), Bishop William (d.1096) and Earl Robert in 1100, despite the fact that one of them was dead and the other imprisoned - indeed the king himself was killed on 2 August 1100.  Perhaps it is best to say that this charter might contain a later encapsulation of the original concord between bishop and earl, or with less charity, that it is simply another Durham forgery and not a very good one at that if the monks didn't even know the obit of their own bishop.  A further charter of this affair existed in the Durham archives on which Rymer's charter seems to have been based.  It certainly carries the same core material, but omits the erroneous dating clause.  In its place it has an impossible witness list, one of them being Bishop Walcher, who died 7 years before the charter could possibly have been made.  As such it seems probable that all these charters concerning the establishment of the principality of Durham are forgeries.  It therefore also seems inevitable that the events of 1121 as reported by the Durham chronicler are similarly biased.

Judging from the above it seems best to assume that the gift of Tynemouth to St Albans had only occurred shortly before the earl's discomfiture as the 2 events and St Cuthbert's vengeance seem so closely intertwined.  Certainly the earl retiring there when he failed to surprise Newcastle suggests that he was hopeful of a positive welcome and had some confidence in the place's defensive strength.  Such confidence would not have been likely to be placed in any Durham monks.  Certainly by the twelfth century they were obviously hostile to him and his memory, especially as they [or at least Simeon] claimed that the problems were ‘because of the hatred which he had against Bishop William' St Calais of Durham (1080-96).  In 1083 the bishop had transferred the reformed brethren of Jarrow and Monkwearmouth to Durham to make a new chapter after he expelled the married clergy from his cathedral.  Possibly this is when Earl Robert transferred the allegedly neglected Tynemouth priory to St Albans and when the Tyne was established as the border between the counties of Durham and Northumberland.  Simeon's account suggests that Robert's ministers, Gumer and Robert Taca, only expelled Turchil from Tynemouth due to his hatred of Bishop William, which would point towards the event happening near to 1095, but this woud make a nonsense of Abbot Paul arriving at Tynemouth in 1093 before Turchil had been expelled.  Probably the most likely time for the introduction of the St Albans' monks into Tynemouth is around 31 December 1091.  After King Malcolm III paid homage to King William Rufus, it is recorded in a St Albans' chronicle that:

At this end of this year and the beginning of the next, both being contiguous, the church of St Oswin of Tynemouth was established and formed by the monks according to the regular rule of Saint Benedict, under Abbot Paul of St Albans.

This is not contradicted by the more detailed account of the affair kept at St Albans, except in so far as they added the dead Archbishop Lanfranc into agreeing the gift as translated below.

Considering all these contradictions and downright forgeries, it is worth spending some time examining the career of Abbot Paul of St Albans (1077-93).  He was a kinsman and it was thought even the son of Archbishop Lanfranc (1070-89).  He first came to notice in 1077 when Lanfranc made him abbot of St Albans on 28 June, after the abbey's lands had been wasted by the king.  As abbot he undertook the rebuilding of the church and undertook the monastic reform demanded by Lanfranc.  This became the pattern for reform in all the Benedictine houses in England.  He also set St Albans apart by rebuilding the scriptorum and causing many books to be copied there by well supported scribes.  He also personally acquired some 23 fine vellum volumes as well as psalters and service books for the abbey library.  As a consequence of his works, his church received many gifts from admirers of his reform.  Further, Abbot Paul was known to be contemptuous of the English monks who he regarded as unworthy, lazy and ignorant.  He was also horrified that some were totally illiterate.

On some of the new lands granted him, Paul founded reformed cells as advised by Lanfranc.  These were ruled over by priors sent from St Albans.  Such places were founded at Belvoir in Lincolnshire, Binham in Norfolk, Hertford, Wallingford in Berkshire and of course, Tynemouth.  Sadly the record concerning Tynemouth is not very informative.

This Note Concerning the Cell of Tynemouth
At the same time [during the same abbacy, 1077-93], Robert Mowbray, an illustrious man, an earl, that is to say, of the Northumbrians, having been made certain of the religion of the church of St Albans by Abbot Paul, caused the monks of the church of St Albans to be placed in the church of St Mary of Tynemouth, in which the body of the Blessed Oswin, king and martyr, rests; and it, with all its appurtenances, was established by the benevolence of the king and Archbishop Lanfranc [1070-89] to be the cell of St Albans.

This adds little to the story, other than the fact that Earl Robert granted Tynemouth to St Albans for it to be reformed in the new manner - not out of hatred for Bishop William St Calais.  Further, the St Alan's work mentions nothing of the manner or place of Abbot Paul's death.  It would appear that the monks of Durham were not being totally honest in their entreaties, relying on bluster and forgeries, rather than honesty and facts.

Despite the Durham monks' protestations, Tynemouth priory remained with the monks of St Albans.  One of the major reasons for this were the actions of King William Rufus (1087-1100).  When he was besieging Newcastle upon Tyne in the Spring of 1095, the king passed 3 notifications in favour of Tynemouth and St Albans.  In the first he confirmed to St Mary and St Oswin and the monks of Tynemouth their court with sac and soc, toll and team and infangthief and wreck and with all the customs belonging to himself.  In the second he informed Bishop William St Calais of Durham, Robert Picot and all the barons of Northumberland of the same thing.  Finally and presumably at the same time as this document was witnessed by Eudo Dapifer (d.1120) who had witnessed the previous 2 notifications which were recorded as being made during the siege of Newcastle, he notified Archbishop Thomas of York and Bishop William of Durham that he had granted to St Albans the church of Tynemouth with its appurtenances both north and south of the Tyne, together with all the gifts made by Earl Robert of Northumberland and his men before the earl had incurred forfeiture.  This last document was also witnessed by Peter Valognes (d.1109+, Eudo's brother in law) and all 3 were copied into the chartulary of St Albans abbey.  Funnily enough they do not appear in the Durham account!

With the fall of Earl Robert in 1095, Northumberland had escheated to the Crown.  It was therefore either Rufus or more likely King Henry I (1100-35), who granted various Northern vills to Tynemouth.  These were recorded as being given to the priory during the time of Abbot Richard of St Albans (1097-1119) and consisted of Monkseaton (Settona), Whitley Bay (Witeleia), North Shields (Sehihala), Stanton (Stantona), Old Bewick (Bewik), Lulburn (Lilleburna), Eglingham (Egulvingham), North Charlton (Chertona), Earsdon (Ardesdona) and Coquet Island.  Around the same time it was decided that the revenue from Amble, Coquet Island and the churches of Bywel and Woodhorn should go directly to St Albans.  Of these lands, of which not all are mentioned in the St Albans' list above, Tynemouth, Preston, Amble and Hauxley seem to have been granted by Mowbray himself.  Queen Matilda (1100-18) granted Bewick, Lilburn, Harehope and Wooperton around 1105/06 and Henry I Whitley Bay, Monkseaton and Seghill in the period after that, but before 1116.  Possibly this royal grant took place in 1110 when St Oswin was translated from Jarrow to Tynemouth.  King Henry (1100-35) certainly confirmed Tynemouth to the abbot of St Albans with all its tithes in Northumberland which Earl Robert and his men had granted them, namely the tithes of Amble, Bothal, Callerton, Corbridge, Disington, Elswick, Newburn, Ovington, Rotherbury, Warkworth and Wooler.  The rest of the priory lands, Backworth, Bebside, Chirton, Cowpen, Denton, Earsdon, Flatworth, Murton, Welton, Westgate, West Hartford, Wolsington and Wylam were acquired from lesser men or from persons unknown, although some were men of the earldom like Guy Balliol (d.1112/30), Robert Bruce (d.1142) and Gospatric (d.1138).  There were also a variety of rents, some of which were lost to other institutions, namely St Albans, Durham and the archbishopric of York.

It was probably in the first half of the reign of Henry I (1100-35), that Abbot Richard Aubigny of St Albans (1097-1119), with the unanimous consent of his monks, decreed that Tynemouth priory should annually pay St Albans 30s and be free of all other demands, with the abbot keeping in his own hands Amble, Coquet Island and the churches of Bywell and Woodhorn.  Further the Tynemouth monks were to support him and up to 20 attendants when they came to the priory for 15 days, unless the visit were in support of the priory in which case Tynemouth was to pay his expenses.  At the end of September 1111, a workman fell twice while working on the roofs of the church and dormitory, once some 19', but the worst ill effects he suffered was a sprained ankle.  In 1121, when Geoffrey Gorron was abbot of St Albans (1119-46), the monks of Durham made an ineffectual attempt to regain the monastery, based mainly on the hearsay that Earl Mowbray had repented of his gift after his capture.  This has been commented upon above.

Northumberland passed under Scottish control in the late 1130s.  An initial attack by the Scots in 1136 was halted by King Stephen at Durham.  Around this time he may have issued a charter granting that Tynemouth and its lands were to be free of all castle works in Northumberland.  It was possibly also at this time that the king, from York, granted Prior Richard Tewyng of Tynemouth, for the reestablishment of his priory, which had been overthrown and wasted by the frequent attacks of the Scots, were to be able use their liberties to this effect.  Earl Henry of Northumberland (1138-51), later confirmed the grant of freedom from castle works.

In January 1138 William Fitz Duncan [Skipton] invaded Northumberland for King David (1124-53), who followed him soon after and forced Tynemouth priory to pay 27m (£18) for his protection.  During this time the value of the church increased significantly from the pilgrim trade as well as by revenue from the lands that appertained to the priory.  These included Benwell, Coquet Island (which may have been granted by Mowbray, ie before 1095), Earsdon, Monkseaton, North Shields, Whitley Bay, Woodhorn, Woolsington and Wylam, as well as tithes from Corbridge, Newburn, Rothbury, Warkworth and Wooler.

In 1147 Earl Henry of Northumberland (d.1152) exempted the monks of Tynemouth from contributing to castle works at Newcastle and all other castles in his earldom.  Then, in 1156, Northumberland was reclaimed from the Scots by King Henry II (1154-89).  That king subsequently made a charter to Tynemouth restoring and confirming the monastery lands which he had seized on account of the flight of Adgar into Scotland and the war against the king of Scots.  The lands held by Adgar were Eglingham, Bewick and Lilburn, all held by him from the priory and found by inquisition to be the prior's.  It is not certain if this refers to the reclamation of Northumberland in 1157 or the Young King's War of 1173-74.

Despite all of these disturbances, no attempt seems to have been made to reclaim Tynemouth by Durham until the 1170s.  The resulting case was heard before Bishop Bartholomew of Exeter (1161-85) during the pontificate of Pope Alexander III (1159-81).  Here the causes of the old case were repeated by the prior of Durham, backed by what he claimed were 2 authentic documents.  The first was the charter claimed to have been made by Earl Waltheof confirming Tynemouth to Durham ‘with everything which it possessed at the time when the confirmation was made or which it might possess hereafter'.  This was claimed to have been made in the presence of Bishop Walcher who ‘condemned by a perpetual anathema those person who, at any time whatsoever, should presume to alienate the church of Tynemouth from the church of Durham'.  The second document was the charter of Bishop William St Calais which was similar in outlook to the confirmation of Bishop Walcher.  It should be pointed out that both charters were just what the priory needed to substantiate its claim and how ‘lucky' it was to have just 2 such charters surviving.

The prior, claiming that these documents were sufficient to win him his case, then brought forward various ancient clerks and laymen who lay witness to Tynemouth having belonged to Durham before they were expelled violently by the lay power and the monks of St Albans' intruded into their church.  The prior also stated that as these men were very old and now infirm it would be difficult to make them come forth and repeat these claims a second time without risking their lives.  Considering that the church had been lost to Durham around 1091 and they were discussing events happening as early as the 1060s these men in the 1170s must have been very old indeed!

After the prior had presented his case, various monks and clerks from St Albans came forth and presented letters to the effect that their abbot was detained in the South by illness.  The prior spoke out against this and demanded justice as both sides had had 6 months to prepare.  The judges then decided to refer the case to the pope, which brought proceedings to an end.

The pope returned proceedings back to England where 3 judges, the prime of whom was Bishop Roger of Worcester (1164-79), determined the case on 12 November 1174.  There the case was brought to a conclusion by the application of a compromise.  Under this Bishop Hugh Pudsey of Durham (1153-97), his prior and the whole Durham convent confirmed Tynemouth with all its appurtenances to St Albans abbey.  In return the abbot of St Albans gave to them Bywell and Edlingham churches with all their appurtenances after the deaths of the serving religious there.  To confirm the exchange the monks of St Albans handed over their muniments for the 2 churches and the prior his for Tynemouth excepting those where the church of Tynemouth had been confirmed to Durham along with its other possessions which were not a party to the dispute.  With this the Durham monks' vexatious claim to Tynemouth was allowed to lapse.

It was probably in 1204 when the monks of Tynemouth paid 50m (£33 6s 8d) for a confirmation of their charter and for King John to confirm them in their possessions.  These now consisted of Amble, Backworth, Bebside, Bewick, Carlbury (Carleberry), Chirton, Cowpen (Copun), Denum, Dissington [n'r Dalton], Eglingham, Elswick, Darsdon (Erdesdon), Hauxley (Hawkeslaw), Henshaw? (Helleshaw), Lilburn (Lillburne), Millington, Morton in the bishoprick, Morton, Preston, Rayless (Royley), Seaton, Seghill, Ulsington, Whalton? (Weltedon), Whitley Bay and Wylam with the churches of Tynemouth, Bewick, Bolam (Bolum), Coniscliffe (Connyscliff), Eglingham, East Hartford (Hereford) on Blyth, Hartburn (Hertburne), Whalton and Woodhorn, together with the tithes of Corbridge, Hartlepool (Hertness), Middleton on Tees, Newburn, Rothbury, Warkworth and Wooler. 

Possibly during the late twelfth century an exile wrote back to St Albans about his enforced stay at the newly completed church of Tynemouth.  His letter, a copy of it found in a St Albans' formulary of the fifteenth century, is precised below:

Our house is confined to the top of a high rock, and is surrounded by the sea on every side but one.  Here is the approach to the monastery through a gate cut out of the rock, so narrow that a cart can hardly pass through.  Day and night the waves break and roar and undermine the cliff.  Thick sea-frets roll in, wrapping everything in gloom.  Dim eyes, hoarse voices, sore throats are the consequence.  Spring and summer never come here.  The north wind is always blowing, and brings with it cold and snow; or storms in which the wind tosses the salt sea foam in masses over our buildings and rains it down within the castle (in castrum).  Shipwrecks are frequent.  It is a great pity to see the numbed crew, whom no power on earth can save, whose vessel, mast swaying and timbers parted, rushes upon rock or reef.  No ring-dove or nightingale is here, only grey birds which nest in the rocks and greedily prey upon the drowned, whose screaming cry is a token of the coming storm.  The people who live by the sea-shore feed upon black malodorous sea-weed, called 'slauk', which they gather on the rocks.  The constant eating of it turns their complexions black.  Men, women and children are as dark as Africans or the swarthiest Jews.  In the spring the sea air blights the blossoms of the stunted fruit trees so that you will think yourself lucky to find a wizened apple, though it will set your teeth on edge should you try to eat it.  See to it, dear brother, that you do not come to so comfortless a place.
But the church is of wondrous beauty.  It has been lately completed.  Within it rests the body of the blessed martyr Oswin in a silver shrine, magnificently embellished with gold and jewels.  He protects the murderers, thieves, and seditious persons who fly to him, and commutes their punishment to exile.  He heals those whom no physician can cure.  The martyr's protection and the church's beauty furnish us with a bond of unity.  We are well off for food, thanks to the abundant supply of fish, of which we tire.

In 1248 the body of Earl Patrick of Dunbar, a descendant of Earl Gospatric of Northumberland (d.1074), was brought back from his place of death, Marseilles in France, and buried in the priory.  The castle doesn't seem to have seen action in the Baron's War, but it did offer refuge to skilled workers.  At some time towards the end of the war a canon of Hexham wrote to the cellarer of Tynemouth stating:

I am sending you Stephen Len, who is an honest workman and, as I have heard, is skilled in plumbing and in laying on water.  Do not think the worse of him for his shabby clothes.  He has 2 or 3 times lost his all in this war, which is hardly yet over.

On 13 December 1264, when Simon Montfort (d.1265) was running England, Abbot Norton of St Alban's made his visitation of Tynemouth.  He met 6 men who owed him military service and received their homage.  He then spent the rest of the month travelling the priory's domains and taking the fealty of those men who owed it to Tynemouth.  Sometime soon after the 4 August 1265 battle of Evesham, Sheriff John Halton, wrote to the prior of Tynemouth informing him that John Vescy (d.1289) had fled the battle and was planning to cross the Tyne from South Shields so the prior was to guard the ferry and stop Vescy crossing on pain of royal displeasure.  Whatever the prior did Vescy got through with his treasure, a foot of the recently killed Simon Montfort, to Alnwick castle

In 1292 there were disputes between the citizens of Newcastle and the prior, who had built a quay at North Shields, but was obliged by act of parliament to destroy it after the men of Newcastle had already laid it waste and beat the monks they found there.  The same year the king claimed the priory as a royal advowson against the abbot of St Albans.  The abbot, ‘knowing that he could not stand against the royal power of the plea' threw himself on the king's grace, which course of action caused the king, under peer pressure, to grant away his perceived right to the advowson to St Albans.  The story is taken up by the St Albans' chronicler.

In the fifth year of the abbacy of Abbot John (1290-1301), a rumour was brought to him that the prior of Tynemouth, who was then called Adam Tewing, was plotting a new and unusual thing there and, among other things, he was preparing to resist and rebel against his abbot.  The abbot, however, soon having the matter related as if he had discovered it, as it was easy for him to believe that he had, immediately, as secretly as he could, set out for Northumberland; and, arriving at Newcastle, arranged with the mayor of the said town to bring him to Tynemouth with a multitude of armed men, secretly and by night; lest the prior should be invulnerable during the said tumultuousness.
But this thing could not be accomplished, or at least not accomplished, without the connivance of a certain citizen of Newcastle, whose name was Henry Scotus.  He had been one of the prior's household and he was esteemed and accepted by all the familiars in the castle on account of the love between the prior and himself.  Henry, however, being moved by his conversation with the abbot, as soon as he learned that the abbot would reward him very richly if he betrayed the prior, his friend; he agreed to do the deed and, setting out with the abbot, he arrived in silence at the gates of Tynemouth castle; and having summoned the porter, asked for it to be opened for him.  He [the porter], however, suspecting nothing wrong with him [Henry], whom he believed to be his master's friend, opened the door without hesitation.
And lo! suddenly the abbot rushed in with the crowd which the mayor of Newcastle had gathered and seized the keys, handing them over to a certain squire who had come with him, entrusting the guard of the gate to him.  Then he [the abbot] went to the door of the prior's chamber and suddenly knocked, wanting to have it opened for him.  But the former [the prior] had just come from Matins and, having only put down his hood, was resting on the blanket on the bed.  When he heard the sound of knocking he inquired who was outside.  At once the answer was that it was the abbot; "Away", said he, "for what would the abbot be doing this way?"  And immediately they rushed into the chamber along with the abbot and put the said prior in custody, by order of the abbot; after which in a few days the abbot crossed the sea to the monastery and installed a new prior in the same cell [Tynemouth].  And he rewarded the said Henry Scotus lavishly as a reward for his treachery, giving to him and his heirs, who were legitimately begotten of him, many lands and liberties in the town of Elswick (Estwik), to the detriment of the said cell.
It was reported that the aforesaid Prior Adam of Tynemouth and John Throklow, with some others of the assembly there, had procured that plea which the king moved against the abbot on the advowson of Tynemouth priory; so that, when the abbot was excluded from the right of advocacy and the king was introduced, he could more freely make his complaints to the king, who had been their advocate against the abbot...  the sudden capture, and the removal of the said John Thorlow and his accomplices from the said cell, quite despicably; who, shackled and bound by the bonds of art, were sent to the monastery [of St Albans].

As it turned out, this was just a minor inconvenience compared to what was about to happen to Tynemouth.  In 1296 the Scots raided as far south as Hexham which was sacked before the battle of Dunbar brought the war pretty much to end on 27 April.  After the successful campaign the king, who had by then retired from a subjugated Scotland to Berwick on Tweed, granted the prior and convent of Tynemouth a royal licence to crenellate their priory on 5 September 1296.  The full text in the pipe roll reads:

For the prior and convent of Tynemouth.  The king sends greetings to all.  Know that we have granted for ourselves and our heirs, to our beloved in Christ prior and convent of Tynemouth that they themselves may strengthen and crenellate their aforesaid priory with a wall of rock and stone, and that they may hold it thus fortified and crenellated to themselves and their successors without risk or hindrance from us or our heirs or our justices, or our other bailiffs, or our ministers, or whomsoever.

The earlier descriptions of the site make no doubt that the site was already a castle before this grant was made.  Indeed, it is specifically mentioned as a stronghold or castle from 1095.  Formally fortified monasteries are rare, certainly compared to normal castles or religious houses, although churches were often put in a state of defence when necessary - usually in cases of the utmost necessity, viz. Wherwell abbey in 1140, Hereford cathedral in 1138.  The most obvious examples of fortified priories are to be found in frontier areas like Kells in Meath, Ireland, Ewenny in Glamorgan, Wales and Loarre in Castile, Spain.  Most ‘fortified churches' in the West hardly count as castles, especially when compared with the 3 places mentioned above.  Most claimed ‘fortified churches' are pretty pathetic as military structures, viz. in Ireland the churches of Clonmel, Tiperary; Hospital, Limerick; Newcastle, County Dublin; Taghmon, Westmeath.  In Portugal there are Coimbra, Guarda and Lisbon, with Flor de Rosa being a notable exception in being better fortified.  Along the Scottish border with England a few churches like Boltongate, Burgh by Sands, Great Salkeld and Newton Arlosh are described as defensive and the same has been claimed of Garway church in Herefordshire.  Mostly these are simply battlemented churches and the battlements probably are of no great antiquity.  Further the claimed thickness of the walls may have more to do with sustainability of the building, rather than defensive measures.

King Edward I (1272-1307) obviously liked Tynemouth, returning there and staying in early December 1298 and 1299 and finally for a week at the end of June 1301 when the king confirmed the charters of St Albans.  His new wife obviously liked the place too for she stayed there from June to October 1303.  The king's final visit was for nearly a fortnight in mid September 1304, when, with the queen's meditation, Tynemouth fair was restored to the priors for a full fortnight from his feast day.

Tynemouth's next foray into historical literature occurred during the ongoing war against the Scots.  Around Christmas 1311, the king's favourite, Piers Gaveston, had returned from exile into the North of England where he met Edward II (1307-27).  Gaveston's return had provoked a baronial uprising and on 4 May 1312, Gaveston and Edward II were surprised by baronial forces at Newcastle on Tyne, causing the pair to flee to Tynemouth.  There they left the queen and took ship in stormy seas, despite the queen's pleas not to be abandoned, to Scarborough.  The rebels had no interest in besieging the queen in Tynemouth, where in 1322 she claimed to have been left in mortal danger, and instead set off to Scarborough after the king and his hated favourite.  The story is succinctly told in a royal writ:

Memorandum that Edmund Malo Lacu, seneschal of the lord king's hospital..., before nine o'clock at Newcastle upon Tyne, on Thursday in the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, in the fifth year of the king's reign, brought with him the great royal seal, under the seal of the lords, Adam Osgodeby, Robert Bardelby & William Ayrmyun, to the king himself at Tynemouth.  On the same day, after midday, Earl Thomas Lancaster came to Newcastle town with Henry Percy, Robert Clifford and many others with horses and arms and their retinue; they entered the said town, and stayed there for 4 days.  And the lord the king, on the morrow of the said day of the Ascension, departed from Tynemouth, and went by boat to Scarborough.

Presumably the king felt the rebels had no intention to pursue the queen.  In this assumption the king proved correct.  This seems more likely than Lancaster baulking at the defences of Tynemouth castle.

It was soon after this that the castle was put to the test.  In November 1313 the government found it necessary to issue letters of protection to Prior Robert Norton of Tynemouth against the Scots.  Subsequent to the English defeat at Bannockburn in June 1314, King Robert Bruce (1306-29) attacked Tynemouth, but failed to take the castle, making the place one of the few safe places in the North. 

The Scots, meanwhile, engaged in slaughter and plunder throughout Northumbria and the western parts from Carlisle to York, without any hindrance, and ravaged everything that came in their way with sword and flame.  And it must be known that no place remained in those parts where the English could safely retreat, except for the city of Carlisle, and the town of Newcastle on Tyne and Tynemouth priory and the rest of the castles throughout Northumbria, which were guarded with tiresome labour and immense expense.

On 15 September the king issued from York another protection for Tynemouth priory as:
the king wishing to provide for their security, whose goods and chattels are frequently wasted by the inroads of the Scots in the county of Northumberland.  Nothing is to be taken of their corn, hay, victuals, carriages or other goods or chattels for the king's use against their will.

Prior Robert Norton died about this time and was replaced by Richard Tewing who:

well and nobly ruled the cell with a strong hand in a time of great distress, when for 4 years on end no serf dared plough and no sower dared sow for fear of the enemy.  Yet nonetheless did he keep the place and not only by his industry did he honourably maintain the monks, but during that time he kept within the priory 80 armed men to guard the place, not without great expense.

In 1317 a local revolt led by Gilbert Middleton, who was occupying Mitford castle, led to the fortress being used as a prison, until the rebel was subsequently caught and executed.

Of a certain treacherous soldier, Gilbert Middleton
Meanwhile it happened that the aforesaid Gilbert Middleton, after many insults and grievances had often been inflicted by him and his accomplices on his neighbours and also on the priory of Tynemouth, when he kept many of his convicted prisoners in the said castle until they paid a heavy ransom; some noblemen of the country, enduring these detentions with difficulty and fearing that a similar injury would be done to them, as if for the deliverance of their own they approached him under the promise of safety; and, after many words and taunts on both sides, having set a certain price for them, they then set some free and handed over some as hostages until the full payment of the money was made.

With Middleton's removal from the scene the king, with the consent of the abbot of St Albans, ordered Tyenmouth castle to be handed over to the custody of John Hausted, to hold at royal pleasure.

Concerning the commitment of the custody of Tynemouth priory.
The king, with the consent of the abbot of St Albans, entrusts to John Hausted to remain in charge of Tynemouth priory, which is the cell of the aforesaid abbey, to be held as long as it pleases the king, for the repulse of the Scots, the king's enemies and rebels, and for the more secure salvation of the king's people.

Around this time Earl Robert Umfraville of Angus (d.1325) threatened Prior Richard of Tynemouth with making an example of him as a truce breaker, unless he handed back 3 ‘poor Scottish boys' who had came ashore at Tynemouth and been arrested.

In 1321 Walter Selby surrendered at Mitford with William, the brother of the executed Gilbert Middleton.  Middleton then escaped from Newcastle prison and took refuge in Tynemouth liberty where a special mandate of the king was required to finally make the prior surrender him to royal authority on 5 July 1322.  The same year, in the aftermath of Edward II's abortive Scottish campaign, the king's illegitimate son, Adam Fitz Roy died on 18 September 1322.  He was subsequently buried at Tynemouth priory on 30 September with his father paying for a silk cloth with gold thread to be placed over his body.  Possibly he had been stationed there with his mother where the king ordered that she be supported by all the constables of all the castles in the East March while he himself raised troops  and troops were sent to her aid.  In the meantime the queen fortified Tynemouth castle and then sailed down the coast to safety.  Probably immediately after this on 18 October 1322, Earl David Strathbogie of Atholl (d.1326), acting for the king, demanded the prior surrender 41 of his armed men from Tynemouth at Newcastle.  Presumably the earl wished to use them to secure the county against the Scots.  The prior obviously refused this demand and wrote to the king who on 30 December replied:

To the prior of Tynemouth.  Order to cause a sufficient garrison of fencible men, both men-at-arms and footmen, to be retained in the priory for the protection thereof, not permitting the garrison to leave the priory or any of them to go outside the same, as the prior has the keeping of the priory at his peril.
To earl David Strathbogie of Athol (d.1326).  Order not to cause any of the garrison of the aforesaid priory to come before him outside the priory by reason of his appointment to array all the fencible horsemen and footmen in Northumberland between 16 and 60 years of age, and to permit the prior and others of the garrison to leave the priory to make provision of victuals and other necessaries and to return to the same without molestation, and to counsel and aid the prior in keeping the priory.
To the sheriff of Northumberland.  Order not to molest the prior and garrison aforesaid by virtue of the order of the said David to take the prior and others of the garrison and to arrest the prior's liberty and lands and goods and the lands and goods of the others, as the king learns from the prior that David has given the sheriff orders to this effect without expressing any reason for the same; taking from the prior and the others security to answer to the king if the said David or others will speak against them in the king's name for any disobedience in this behalf.

However, the truce made with the Scots did help matters, for now the prior's neighbours turned upon him and inflicted losses claimed at many hundreds of pounds.  Despite these problems the prior had the monks' dwellings slated over in 1320 and had a new Lady Chapel built by 1336.  The building works probably gives the lie to the prior's claim to the new King Edward III (1327-77), that he needed assistance in keeping his soldiers fed, and unless he received royal aid ‘he must abandon the defence'.  As a result of his plea on 28 September 1327, the government ordered its receiver of royal victuals at Newcastle to send to the prior ‘victuals to the value of £20 in aid of keeping the priory aforesaid against the attacks of the Scotch rebels as the king has granted this... for his costs and expenses about the custody of the priory'. 

In 1346 King David II of Scotland (1329-71), invaded Northumberland which caused Prior Thomas de la Mare of Tynemouth to garrison and supply his priory against attack.  The Scottish commander, William Douglas (d.1353), sent an arrogant and defiant note to Tynemouth demanding they be ready to get his supper in 2 days, but he was soon captured at the battle of Neville's Cross and brought a prisoner into Tynemouth.  There the prior served him his supper, much to his chagrin.  At this time Walsingham claimed that Ralph Neville (d.1367), the custodian of the Scottish March, was sending Scotsmen to Tynemouth castle on the grounds that it was a royal fortress and he needed it to contain his Scottish prisoners.  As a result Prior Thomas had to go to the royal court at Langley and prove that the castle was not a royal fortress and in so doing retain possession.  After this the prior spent £70 on moving and improving the shrine of St Oswin as well as works on the priory which included £90 on new brattishing (bracinae) around the dormitory and £80 on other works.  There then followed a period of relative peace for Tynemouth.

In the 1380s war was resumed with Scotland and ‘the poor chaplains, prior and convent of Tynemouth' found themselves constrained to inform the king:

that whereas their said priory has been long time and still is one of the strong fortresses of the North, and now by the inroad of the sea, the walls of the said priory are in great part fallen, and the rents of the said priory are in no way sufficient to repair them as well as to bear their other charges, because great part of their said rents lies near the march of Scotland and is destroyed by the enemy, therefore the said prior and convent pray our lord the king and his council to assign them some reasonable aid, whereby they pray to be recovered, to the saving of the said priory and fortress and of the country round about.

The result was the king, on 20 February 1380, granting them the right to acquire lands and tenements amounting to £20 yearly rent.  This would hardly be sufficient for the repairs the castle seemed to be in need of and the amount of money that was eventually assigned to the job. 

In 1384 the prior complained again that the sea walls and the priory buildings were in decay and that they suffered a ‘constant mortal pestilence' of Scottish invasions.  In 1389 a Scottish army reached the Tyne and eventually appeared under the castle walls and asked to parley.  The cellarer went out to speak with them, but in the meantime the Scottish host began to fire the town.  Consequently a soldier of the garrison shot a sergeant of the earl of Moray.  In the ensuing uproar the cellerar was almost killed, but he managed to regain the castle stating that he would heal the fellow and return him to Scotland at his own expense.  In light of this attack and the prior's petition for aid, which was supported by the dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester as well as the earls of Huntingdon and Northumberland, the king assigned £500 to the prior on 23 February 1390.  The full royal text ran:

For the prior and convent of Tynemouth; greetings to all from the king.
The abbot and convent of the abbey of St Albans, beloved of us in Christ, besought us that, with the priory of Tynemouth in the county of Northumberland, a cell of the same abbey, which is situated above the sea port and the mouth of the River Tyne, has sustained such and excessive destruction of its lands and possessions by our adversaries the Scots, that the great tower and the gate and the greater part of the walls of the said priory, facing the sea, are prostrated to the ground by such misfortune; considering that all the goods of the abbey and their priory are not sufficient for the reparation of the same priory, which used to exist as a fortress and a refuge for the whole country in time of war... we would like, considering the damage and loss to the premises of the whole country aforesaid if the said castle should be taken by our enemies for want of speedy reparation, which is far off, that the aforesaid abbot, prior, and convent, unless they have great help and succour from us in this matter, are unable to defend and repair the same priory itself a castle, ...to order that the same priory or castle to which the abbot, the prior, and the assembly, as they asserted, will gradually apply their full power to do the same, and it will be repaired with all possible haste.  We, having due regard to the aforesaid petition and other considerations, first for the honour of God and subsequently at the request of our dearest uncles the dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester and our dearest brother the earl of Huntingdon and to our dear kinsman the earl of Northumberland, by our special grace have granted to the same abbot, prior, and convent to have £500 by a sufficient assignment to be paid within the next 2 years in aid of the repair of the aforesaid priory.

The grant was summarised in Walsingham thus:

The Subsidising of Tynemouth
At the same time, the king, through the solicitous mediation of the dukes of Lancaster and Gloucester, as well as the earl of Northumberland, and with the help of the counsel of the venerable father Lord Abbot Thomas of St Albans, granted as much as possible, as it is thought, £500 to repair the ruin which had happened at Tynemouth, at the gate of the priory, the previous year.  To accomplish this work, the said duke of Lancaster gave £100 out of his own treasury, and the earl of Northumberland contributed 100m (£66 13s 4d).

The implication of this could well be that although the king ‘assigned' £500 for the work the prior only received £166 13s 4d from the 2 nobles.  Assignments were an attempt to pretend the royal treasury went further than it really did and those poor souls who had an assignment, often had great trouble in converting the tallies into cash.  It is claimed, not unreasonably, that this money allocated by the king was used to build the new castle gatehouse.  That said the arms of a certain Robert Rhodes, claimed to have been prior of Tynemouth around the middle of the reign of Henry VI (1422-71), are said to have been displayed upon the gatehouse until taken down by Governor Villiers in 1705 and sent to Dr Ellison, the vicar of Newcastle.  This may suggest that the completion of the gatehouse is somewhat later than the 1390s.

The fifteenth century was generally kind to Tynemouth castle.  In 1415 it was recorded in the Nomina Castrorum et Fortaliciorum infra Comitatum Northumbrie as having been:

built upon ye remains of ye Tunnocellum of ye Romans.  It is at present a garrison and in it a company of Foot and 60 Invalides, a master guner and a store keeper.  In it is ye ruins of the old parish church and an abby - the latter very beautiful...

Half a century later Margaret of Anjou landed briefly here in 1462 as part of her campaigns around Bamburgh castle, but she didn't stop.  A strong garrison seems to have been retained at Tynemouth and when Prior Stonywell greeted Princess Margaret in 1503, when she was on her way north to marry the king of Scotland, he was ‘well appointed and in his company had 30 horses, his men in livery'.  Despite this, both castle and priory were in a state of some ruin by the death of the prior.  On 3 July 1527, it was reported that there were many;

decays within the castle walls of the priory which are numerous and expensive... the necessary repairs for this year [being] especially the glass windows and leads of the church and the barns and garners for the corn.

At some point between 1528 and 1536, the castle was attacked by Henry Ewer and Richard Bellyees, esquires.  Just before Christmas they entered the priory gate with force and arms and held court within the abbey precincts.  There they were joined by the knights John Delavale and Thomas Hilton (d.1559) who claimed stewardship of the place by right.  They seized the priory bursar who was out on his rounds and detained him for 2 days, while Thomas More was virtually besieged within the priory itself, fearing to be murdered by the attackers.  Consequently he wrote to the king for help.  The result was Henry VIII (1509-47) in Star Chamber writing to all 4 insurgents, but nothing further is recorded of the matter.  Possibly this was all to do with the dissolution of the monasteries.  During this, it was found that Prior Gardener and 7 of the 15 Tynemouth monks were in need of removal, while the church itself had a rental value of £509.  Found within it were the shrine of St Oswin, the cup of St Cuthbert, the finger of St Bartholomew and the girdle of St Margaret.  The attack on the monasteries helped lead to the Pilgrimage of Grace in October 1536.  During this, the local population stripped the priorless priory of its sheep, cattle and corn, withheld their rent and threatened to enter the priory by force.  Interestingly Thomas Hilton was asked to help restore order, with the aid of the duke of Norfolk, who appears through a confusion of the Mowbray surname, to have regarded himself as founder of the priory.  The monastery was finally handed over to the king on 12 January 1539 and the shrine of St Oswin desecrated and his alleged bones cast away.  Hilton was then assigned the monastery site and various of its lands and rents for £163 1s 5d yearly rent.  The term of this was to be 21 years.
King Henry VIII (1509-47) ordered the castle to be fortified as a supply base for war against Scotland and in 1544 the fleet assembled here for the war of Rough Wooing.  This resulted in an apprisal of the castle defences in January 1545 with Richard Lee being ordered to view the castle and carry out what fortifications he thought necessary.  The following report stated that Tynemouth was ‘a place so needful to be fortified as none within the realm more'.  The plan consisted of fortifying the south side of the harbour and joining that to new outworks west of the castle gate by a wall and also by fortifying the landward castle wall for artillery.  The report stated that the spades, shovels, mattocks and baskets to allow the work to go forward were already within the fortress, stored there since the start of the war last year.  With great speed work began on 21 February 1545 and continued until 19 July.  For this work 1,000 workmen were impressed with £2,118 6s being spent on general wages and £233 8s 6d on masons and other artisans.  Nails, boards and ironwork were also purchased bringing the total expenditure up to £2,633 4s 3d.  This suggests that the old castle and priory were the source of the stone for the new defences.

The new fortress was sufficiently completed for thoughts of garrisoning it to be broached on 30 April 1546, with the earl of Shrewsbury sending a letter to the king which stated that if he understood correctly he should appoint someone captain with:

200 or 300 men to lie in garrison at Tynemouth for the defence and safeguard of your highness' new fortifications there: for the accomplishment whereof, considering that there be at Tynemouth at this present about a thousand workmen or more, whereof, as we be informed, may be picked out about 400 able and tall men, we have thought mete to take order for the sending thither of harness and weapon to furnish a good number of them, which shall both supply the works and remain there as soldiers for defence of the said fortress, as the case shall require, without putting your majesty to any further charge for the wages which they have already as workmen.  And for the better order of them in case of defence, if enemies shall approach, we have not only taken order with one John Norton of Clydderowe, who is a hard gentleman and of good experience of the wars, to repair forthwith unto Tynemouth, to reside there and to join with John Brende, your majesty's servant, who has the oversight and order of the said works to be as captains to the said workmen; but also we have appointed Hugh Boyfelde, master of your majesty's ordinance in these parts, to send unto Tynemouth aforesaid from Newcastle a cannon, a saker, 2 falcons and 2 slynges, for to be placed for the time in such places of the said fortress as shall be most mete for defence; and also the country thereabouts shall be in a readiness to repair thither for defence at all times as the case shall require.  This order we have thought best to be taken in this behalf, both for the avoiding of your majesty's further charge, and also for that victuals be so scarce that there is much ado to get sufficient for the said workmen which be already at Tynemouth as is aforesaid.

Two days later a force of 1,300 Spanish mercenaries arrived at Newcastle and some of these were placed in Tynemouth, giving their name to the new Spanish Battery, while Francis Leeke was appointed governor, with Thomas Hilton (d.1559) offering him, ‘not only his farm and stewardship [of the priory], but all that he had in the world besides, to be at the king's majesty's pleasure'.  As a result Leake received some £81 14s 10d pa in consideration of his remaining captain of Tynemouth for life.  He also disbanded many of the garrison, finding that 50 men were quite sufficient with a reserve as ‘the footmen within the lordship of Tynemouth should be attendant upon the castle there'.  To augment his garrison 3 culverins and a saker were dispatched to him from Newcastle.  On 19 January 1546, Leeke was given a warrant for ‘£20 towards making a church at Tynemouth'.  Presumably this involved the nave being made into the parish church.  Leake did not last that long as captain, for on 5 April 1549 he was succeeded by the ubiquitous Thomas Hilton (d.1559).  During 1558, Captain Thomas Hilton, was ordered to remove his ordnance ‘to the end that the inhabitants might use the church for the hearing Devine service'.  He was succeeded by Henry Percy (1532-1585), the brother of Earl Thomas Percy of Northumberland, who on 5 August 1561 was instructed by the earl of Rutland:

I require you, upon the entry of any strange ship, especially French or Scottish, into Tynemouth haven or road, to cause some trusty man of yours to search the same.  If there be any matter that carries with it any manner of suspicion, give orders that the ships be courteously stayed and I speedily advertised.  I do understand by special intelligence that there is like to happen such things of importance as, being well foreseen and stayed, may highly advance her highness' service.  Use diligence and good circumspection in this service, as the same may lend to a good end.

The good service would have been capturing Queen Mary of Scotland who was sailing from France back to Scotland.  Would not history have been different, if due to a Percy of Tynemouth she had not made it.  However, in 1563 he did take charge of the fugitive Earl James Hepburn of Bothwell, lord of Hermitage castle and future husband of Queen Mary, at Tynemouth.  Bothwell remained for a year where Percy found him ‘courteous and honourable' and that he was ‘very wise and not the man he was reported to be... I doubt not but that this realm will find him a friend for his usage here'.  In 1566 Henry had complained of the parish church being within his castle as it was much visited by strangers who landed in the port, much to Henry's annoyance.  Consequently he suggested building a new church in the town.

Captain Henry Percy's brother, Earl Thomas (d.1572), was a leader of the Rising of the North against Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603), but Henry distanced himself from his relatives and was seen by contemporaries as one who contributed largely to its failure.  After the failure of the rebels in the South during December 1568, Percy mustered all the men he could, guarded the Tyne and placed a garrison of 200 men in Tynemouth castle, forcing the rebels to retreat west of his forces.  Despite this, in 1570 he was involved in the dubious Ridolfi plot to free Queen Mary from Tutbury castle and marry her to the similarly 3 times married duke of Norfolk.  On hearing of the plot's collapse, Percy hurried south to proclaim his innocence, leaving his castle porter, John Metcalf, to hand the castle keys over to the king's men when they arrived.  They reported back to the Crown that the ordnance with only a hundredweight of serpentine powder and 100 shot was ‘almost useless for want of stocks, ladles, sponges and wheels', while, ‘munition is needed and a master gunner of skill should be assigned as the castle is destitute of one'.  As a result Percy was charged with criminal negligence, but not treason, and he fined 5,000m (£3,333 6s 8d) for his freedom and the privilege of retaining Tynemouth as an absentee captain, but with the castle under a suitable deputy. 

After the death of his brother Thomas in 1572, Henry was made earl of Northumberland in 1576, but again plotted against the Crown, consenting to the Throckmorton plot of 1583.  This caused him to be stripped of Tynemouth, despite his appeal for clemency.  Again the castle was found in a poor state with there being only 10 pieces of ordnance in the place, with each gun having only 5 to 9 shot a piece and all to be fed from a single barrel of powder, while there were also 16 unserviceable harquebuses.  There were no calivers (an early handgun), pikes , bills, spades, nails, pickaxes or lanterns and worst of all, no match.  Further the castle walls were in ruin with the cost of repair being estimated at £500 ‘only for workmanship, besides lime and stone where they have sufficient store'.  Francis Russell, it's new captain, repeatedly decried the castle's dilapidated state, but nothing was done about it, despite the released earl of Northumberland's new plot to unseat the queen.  Henry was arrested again and finally found in his prison bedchamber in the Tower of London shot through the heart on 21 June 1585.  Although suicide was claimed, it seems few believed that tale.  On 1 July an inventory was taken of the castles.  This found:

First there is upon the mount head a saker and 2 falcons mounted upon carriages; not serviceable in the store house a falcon without carriage; a demi-colveryn of brass mounted upon unshod carriage; a demi-colveryn of iron mounted upon unshod carriage; a flanker of iron and fower chambers not serviceable; upon the back side of the barns a demi-colveryn of brass mounted upon carriage not serviceable; in the church yard a saker of brass mounted upon decayed carriage; in the mather yard a saker of iron mounted upon decayed carriage; 17 falcon shot of iron; 11 saker shot of iron; 26 demi-colveryn shot of iron: 60 stone shot; a falcon ladle; a saker ladle; a demi-colveryn ladle; one sponge; one old decayed harquebus of crock; more in the store house 20 harquebuses, broken and not serviceable; 22 old plates of iron; 4 collars and traces for cart horses not serviceable; 48 sheaves of old decayed arrows not serviceable; 2 cressett heads; 2 bill heads; 8 cloven shot for small pieces; 3 small pieces of webbes of lead which were parcel of a sestern: a piece of a strake of iron for a whele; a bow chest wanting a covering; a body of a cart not serviceable; more 3 parcels of webbes of lead taken of the steeple; more a broad plate of iron; 3 cranes to mount ordinance not furnished nor serviceable; in the church one old salt pan of iron decayed; more 12 sundry pieces and a rownde bottom, parcels of decayed salt pans of iron; in the hall 10 old decayed corslets with burgonettes and collars; more in the store house certain pieces of timber which were the whole frame of an old decayed house taken down, and some other odd pieces of timber.

A month later Russell was murdered during a parley with the Scots at Cocklaw.  An inventory was then made of Tynemouth castle on 14 October 1585.  This found that there were in the hall various red and black woollen hangings, a table with a pair of trestles, 2 formes and 2 benches.  The outer parlour contained a framed table of wainscot, a table with a pair of trestles, 3 formes and benches, a plate candlestick, an iron chimney, green hangings and a portal with a door.  Within the great chamber was a framed table of wainscot with drawing leaves, a square framed table of wainscot in the window, 6 busset stools, a wainded screen, a pair of playing tables without men, a spring lock on the door and a shelf with trestle.  In the [bedroom] was a bedstead of wainscot, a cupboard and lockers of wainscot about the chamber, a table with 2 trestles with 3 locks and 3 keys.  The galleries contained hangings of green sage (saies).  In the Red Chamber were red hangings, a red chair with embroidered back, a cupboard with a soldered frame, an iron chimney, a standing walnut bedstead and a portal with a door, lock and key.  The study contained blue sage (says) hangings with a cupboard with lock, but no key.  The blue chamber was hung with blue woolen hangings, a chair with an embroidered blue back, a standing bedstead, an iron chimney, a lock without tree and a matted chair of ease.  In the inner chapel chamber with greyde hangings and an iron chimney.  There were 3 other chambers which contained a lead water spout, a great banded chest with 2 locks and a key.  There were also Edmund's chamber, the cook's chamber, a chamber over Dune's Lodge, the high white hall, the low white hall, the porter's lodge, the laundry house, the inner brewing house, the outer brewing house, the baking house, the buttery, the larder house, the kitchen and the pantry.

Ten years later in 1596 the castle was in a worse state.  A report of that year stated:

Tynemouth castle, since the decease of the late earl of Northumberland, is fallen into great decay, and, by reason that the lead is taken off several lodgings, the timber floors and timber above the cellars and larder and many other necessary houses of office are like utterly to be decayed and wasted if the roof be not forthwith covered again with slate or otherwise.  The bakehouse and other houses of office are either pulled down or suffered to fall down, and the timber and slates thereof conveied.  Also there is munition there planted in several places about the castle, viz: on the mount one saker of brass and 3 falcons of brass all lying on the grass unmounted with their carriage crushed under them; in the madder garth one saker of iron lying in like case; in the church yard one saker of brass in like sort unmounted with her carriage rotten crushed under her; in the bulwark in Tynemouth park one saker of brass lying in like sort; in the storehouse 3 sakers of brass with whole carriage and one fowler without a carriage; and not so much as one shot or discharge of powder for any of the aforesaid pieces within the castle at this instant if they were mounted.  There is furniture for soldiers in the armoury but 14 muskets, bandoleers, and rests, 10 petronels (petronelles, a horseman's muzzle-loader), 20 pikes, 19 halberds, but neither powder nor shot at all for the same pieces nor training of men for present service if need required.  The decay and naked estate of this house is so corned to pass by reason that the custody thereof has been committed unto several deputies since the late earl of Northumberland deceased, who have rather suffered decay then any way procured reformation, as upon view and inquisition thereof had and made may and will appear.  Also Peter Delavale, gentleman, since Candlemas last gards the said castle as deputy unto the now earl of Northumberland, and has several times since his entry informed the earl of the decay of munition and want of provision and furniture for defence of the house whereby his honour might move for reformation, which as yet is not had.  There is in Tynemouth castle of able men attending Peter Delavale. deputy captain there, and his brother Ralph Delavale, 20 able men, all which serve the said Peter and have entertainment there.

By 1608 the castle cannon had finally been recarriaged, but the church and castle were left in a state in great decay as for ‘the most part of the houses are so ruined that without some present cost they are not fit to lodge any person'.  In 1635, William Brereton reported of Tynemouth that although ‘the fairest church I have seen in any castle, but now it is out of repair and much neglected'.  As a result of this the castle was abandoned and then occupied by the advancing Scots in August 1640.  They then fortified the place and supplied it with good ordnance, before withdrawing at the end of the Bishop's War on 21 August 1641.  It is surprising then, that a year later, when the Civil War began, the castle was found to be ruinous and indefensible, meaning 2 little temporary forts had to be constructed on either side of the Tyne to control the river, until 300 soldiers and some ordnance could be supplied.  In the meantime money and goods poured into the royal coffers at Newcastle from Holland.

In February 1644 the Scottish army appeared on the Tyne and put pressure on Newcastle and Tynemouth, but both places held out.  After the Parliamentarian victory at Marston Moor in 1645, the castle was closely besieged and plague struck the garrison.  After 5 weeks of this the garrison decided to capitulate on easy terms and marched out the same evening leaving to the victors 29 or 38 pieces of ordnance, 50 barrels of powder, 500 muskets, ball and match.  Scottish garrisons in the North now included Hartlepool, Newcastle, Stockton, Thirlwall, Tynemouth and Warkworth.

After the capture of Charles I at Newark by the Scots in 1645, they took him to Newcastle and then Tynemouth during negotiations over his future - the keys of Tynemouth being delivered to the captive king's keeping!  On Christmas night 1646, a Dutch ship sailed into Tynemouth Bay to rescue the captive king, but Charles could not get from Newcastle to the ship.  As the Scots returned northwards the custody of Charles was surrendered to Parliament and in January 1647 Tynemouth castle was quietly delivered to General Skipton who established a Parliamentarian garrison there.  Parliament then ordered that £5,000 should be made available for the fortification of Newcastle and Tynemouth.

During 1648, in the Second Civil War, the governor of Tynemouth, Henry Lilburn, changed sides resulting in the castle being besieged. 

Yesterday between 2 and 3 of the clock in the afternoon, Lieut-Col Lilburn, being deputy-governor of that castle, commanded most of the officers upon several services out of the castle, and then armed and set at liberty the prisoners, and plucked up the drawbridge, and told the soldiers, that he would pistol every soldier that would not be for himself and King Charles.  Whereupon many ran over the works, and a very honest and faithful corporal, refusing to deliver up his arms to him upon those terms, he thrust him through the body and killed him.  And immediately he shot off several pieces of ordnance, declaring that he kept the castle for King Charles, and sent to the Shields and other adjacent towns, and made proclamation for all that loved him and King Charles, to come to the castle for his assistance; and many seamen and others came to him immediately.
So soon as I heard the sad news of his traitorous revolt, I commanded a very considerable body of foot to be drawn out of the regiments in this garrison, under the command of Lieut-Col Ashfield, and sent also 100 dragoons with them.  I sent also many ladders down by water and gave orders to storm the castle that night whatsoever happened.
Between one and two of the clock this morning they drew near to the castle.  Lieut-Col Lilburn fired 4 pieces of ordnance upon them as they came up.  Major Cobbet led on the forlorn hope.  They took no notice at all of the cannon, but, when they came within twenty yards of the works, bringing their ladders with them, they gave a great shout and fell on.  The works are exceeding high, and, though their ladders were long, they could not easily get up; the enemy still, as they mounted, with pikes and gunners' ladles pushed them down.  Some storming at the gunholes, the enemy were forced to come so high upon the works that our soldiers underneath shot them into the bellies and killed divers of them; but at last ours mounted the works, recovered the castle, and killed many seamen and others; and, amongst the number that were slain, they found Lieut-Col Lilburn.

Lilburn was then decapitated and his head displayed on the castle walls.  By 1650 the church was described as quite ruined while in 1659 part of the church collapsed killing 5 or 6 Parliamentarians who were taking an oath to uphold the state.  Around this time a new church was being built in North Shields to replace Tynemouth church.

In 1663 the fortifications of Tynemouth were again overhauled and a governor's house built just northeast of the church.  During this phase a new lighthouse was built to replace the one which had collapsed in 1659.  This was finally demolished 200 years later in 1859.  By 13 April 1675, the east chapel of the old priory had been appropriated to the new church and baptisms commenced there.  Meanwhile the castle had been refortified at a cost of some £200 in 1665.  Despite this, baptisms continued within the castle until 1810 when the chapel became a powder magazine.  Burials continued within the castle on the site of the chancel and lady chapel until 1826, while the castle defences were repeatedly up to World War II and remained in operation protecting the valuable east country ports until 1960.

The current fortification consists of an irregular rock headland projecting eastwards into the North Sea.  From the south the site somewhat resembles a legless dromedary about 500' north to south by 700' wide at its maximum extents.  Centrally within this are the remains of the priory church.  Obviously the main defences lie on the west side where the headland joins the mainland.  This front is highly irregular, dropping back to the east the further south the enceinte runs.  The bulk, if not all, of the early seawall has collapsed down the cliff due to sea erosion.  Luckily the castle is not quite in Scotland so climate change cannot be blamed for this... yet.

The castle part of the remaining monument consists primarily of a strong wall on top of a rampart with a ditch in front of it cutting the neck of the headland off from the mainland.  The original castle enceinte was over 3,000' long, although, as has been noted, this has now collapsed with its cliff into the sea.  The statement in 1390:
...the great tower and the gate and the greater part of the walls of the said priory facing the sea are prostrated to the ground...

suggests that a keep and maybe a water gate once stood to the east, facing the sea.  Certainly such structures could feasiblely have lain east of the priory church.  Indeed, at Scarborough, the Roman keep as well as some of its associated enceinte stand precariously on the undercut cliffs of the rock.  Similarly the outer curtain around the rock top there has also largely disappeared.  The erosion at Tynemouth, if anything, seems far worse than that at the later site of Scarborough.

The Mount
It has been suggested that remains of the first ‘Norman' castle may survive in the large mound of earth known as The Mount.  This is situated at the southwest corner of the promontory and is some 20' high, with a basal diameter of probably somewhat over 120'.  Such a structure might have been a motte and has generally been assigned as being the heart of Mowbray's castle in 1095.  However, the accounts of the siege of that year mention no motte, but the defence of a perimeter, rather than a main defensive structure, like a keep on a motte.  If there was a motte then surely Mowbray would have retreated to that and not a church.  Further, if the motte fell to siege, Mowbray could hardly have fled that to the church which would already have been occupied by the enemy who had broken into the perimeter.  Indeed the idea of building a true Norman motte on a headland crag which is already a dominating feature seems unlikely.  More likely this was mound was constructed for Henry VIII (1509-47) and was The Mount Head mentioned in the survey of 1590.

As it stands The Mount seems to have had its probable centre set some 50' back from the front of the gatetower.  Further, the lower slopes of the mound encase the base of the gatetower which would suggest that the earthwork postdates the stonework.  Additionally there is no trace of a ditch around the mound.  Most likely this was a sixteenth century artillery earthwork.  Certainly the base of a wall runs down the mound to the west, probably to link up with the seventeenth century ravelin before the gatehouse.  Finally, there is the point that mottes are not common in Northumberland, but when they do appear they are generally impressive, viz. Elsdon, Harbottle, Mitford, Wark and Warkworth.

Starting at the northwest corner of the enceinte are the slight remains of the possibly fourteenth century Whitley Tower, now divorced from the seventeenth century artillery wall by some 40' of slope.  This rectangular tower, once 3 storeys high, would have covered the medieval approach to the castle that came upon the gatehouse from the northwest.  Possibly the tower was built at the same time as the barbican.

The Gatehouse
The main approach from the northwest led to the large rectangular gatehouse protected by its own barbican.  This in turn was surrounded by a seventeenth century ravelin of which little remains.  The gatehouse consisted of a rectangular block about 58' east to west by 35' deep.  Slightly off centre in this is a reset vaulted gate passageway containing 3 gates.  The latter one is probably a later addition in a single storey rectangular projection that added a chamber above the exit of the passageway.  This chamber was entered via a narrow doglegged passageway cut into the east wall of the gatehouse.  On the outer face of the block the front has a vague appearance of a twin towered gatehouse, but the slight projections the reset makes hardly qualifies it for such a description.  The quoins on these projections are chamfered.  Above the main gate is a relieving arch.  The stonework under that is different to the stonework above, suggesting that this might be later infill.  Immediately above the relieving arch is a large window.  A similar one is at the floor above.  Within the passageway are 2 doorways leading into large chambers on either side.  Probably these were ordinally guard chambers.  What is missing in this defence is a drawbridge.

On the first floor was a great hall with access to a large rectangular kitchen tower to the southeast.  Set in the northeast wall of this was a circular stair leading to the upper floors and battlements.  On the floor above was another large chamber.  Centrally in the north wall of the gatehouse was a curtain wall of which traces still survive.  At second floor level there is a very large rectangular fissure in the wall which was either a window or a doorway.  This may have fed the ancient wallwalk.  In the eastern corner is a small, partially blocked doorway which feeds onto a slight reset in the gatehouse wall.  On the south side the curtain is better preserved, while a gash in the top storey suggests that a door once fed into the centre of the wall.  Presumably this went to a garderobe, but it is at a very high level and the current curtain is not very thick at this level or lower.  In the southeast corner of the tower the remains of a round bartizan surmounts the turret.  Old prints show that there were once 3 more on the other corners.  The gatehouse was modernised in 1784 when all the remaining monastic buildings were destroyed. 

The Barbican
Fronting the gatehouse was a twin turreted barbican of which only the lower storeys remain.  This allowed for an extra 2 gates and a portcullis to be added to the defences, but no drawbridge.  The structure was originally of 3 storeys and it's sharply pitched roof crease can still be made out cut into the gatehouse west wall.

The Enceinte
Of the enceinte the main medieval remains lie to the south.  After The Mount the curtain runs southeast in a series of turns and dog legs to the remnants of a projecting D shaped turret.  This part of the curtain has some crude, low battlements.  At the turret the walls divided with one heavily rebuilt section moving away to the east, the other running south-east towards the harbour shore.  The latter has a buttress in it and ends after some 90' at the sad remnant of a rectangular gatetower that was still standing in the eighteenth century.  Its rectangular form would tend to suggest an early date, as too would what appears to have been blind arcading at its summit as still apparently existed in the eighteenth century.  The sad remnant of this tower consists of small reused almost square pieces of what may have been ashlar masonry, possibly taken from a Roman site.  It is currently roughly coursed into a rather jagged wall.  From here a wall ran off to the eastern side of the crag above the harbour marking the outer extent of the enceinte to the south.  This portion of the crag has since disappeared.  There was once a large rectangular tower half way along this front.  Possibly this was the keep mentioned in 1390.

From the much damaged rectangular gatetower a wall ran on to the Spanish battery on the other side of the harbour.  An outer wall ran a little distance to the west of this, coming down from the gatehouse ravelin.  However, improvements to the harbour seem to have removed this in its entirety.  Of the rest of the enceinte most has now fallen into the sea, although some faceless revetting of the rock face to the north, still standing some 30' high, appears to be original.

The Lighthouse
Making the site somewhat similar to Dover, Tynemouth had one of the earliest recorded monastic lighthouses.  It would appear that it originally consisted of a coal fire in an open brazier situated in one of two turrets which flanked the east end of the presbytery.

The Cross Shaft
Set within the claustral ranges is an incomplete and badly worn cross shaft, thought to have been a ninth century boundary or wayside cross.  This originally stood near Monkhouse Farm northwest of Tynemouth, but has been moved to the priory site.  It stands some 6' tall and is 1½' wide by just under a foot deep.  Detailed study has suggested that the west side has 2 panels showing a hunting scene and 3 animals.  The south side also had 2 panels showing 2 animals on an interlaced background as well as 3 pairs of beasts.  On the north side were 2 panels with a foliated design, while on the final, east side was a tree scroll.

The Church
Excavation has so far found no trace of any early church structures on the site, other than possible conventional buildings.  What remains seems to date from 3 main building phases, the first ‘Norman' foundation and then additions in the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.  The entire surviving fabric of the church is some 300' long, mainly due to the extensions made to the east.  The whole consisted of a nave and choir, both with aisles transepts and a thirteenth century presbytery, overlying its predecessor.  To the far east is the fifteenth century Percy Chantry and at the opposite end is the western doorway of a similar date in another extension.  The tracery in the Percy Chapel rose window is as late as the nineteenth century.

The rather small cloister, roughly 80' square, was entered through 2 doorways in the south aisle, one of which was a fine Romanesque specimen.  The cloisters are largely destroyed, with little but foundations remaining.  The same is largely true of the rest of the older ‘Norman' structure with most of the surviving masonry being later.  The prior's lodgings, including hall and chapel, stand south of the cloister.

On the north side of the priory lay the outer court.  This consisted of 2 large yards.  Excavation in 1963 uncovered part of these buildings.  They seem to have consisted of store houses, barns and stables and possibly a sacristy and a priest's house.  In the mid twelfth century a guest house and the dormitory still had thatched roofs as a fire nearly burned the place down.  In 1980 excavation found the large aisled barn, known from historical evidence as the wheat barn.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry