Warkworth first enters history in about 737AD when Werceworde was recorded as a land of King Ceolwulf which he held when a monk at Lindisfarne.  King Henry II (1154-89) later confirmed Tynemouth priory's lands.  These included the gifts of Earl Roger of Northumberland (1080-95) amongst which were the tithes of Corbridge, Newburn, Warkworth (Werchewrth) and Rothbury.  These would all later be held by the lords of Warkworth.  Warkworth is next mentioned in 1165 when it was noted that Roger Fitz Richard (d.1178) had been given land worth £20 in the borough of Newcastle and £32 2s in Wercheswrda.  Although the castle is described as a ‘well-documented example of a twelfth century tower keep castle' the above and what follows shows that this is not true and the origins, buildings and even if the castle was of a tower keep design is far from certain.

The foundation of Warkworth castle is undoubtedly entwined in the Norman annexation of Northumberland which occurred increasingly after 1070.  It would therefore be logical to fortify Warkworth, as the major crossing point of the River Coquet half way between Bamburgh and Newcastle, at any time after Newcastle was founded in 1080.  As the land was royal land when reclaimed by Henry II in 1157, it would seem likely that the fortress was a royal construction.  The least likely builders would be Henry I (1100-35), King Stephen when he held Northumberland between 1135 and 1139, or Henry II between 1157 and 1165 by which time he had given it away.  It therefore seems most likely that the motte and bailey castle was built either between 1139 and 1152 by Earl Henry (d.1152), the lord of Northumberland during that period, or by William Rufus (1087-1100).  It is most unlikely that Earl Henry's son, the later King William I of Scotland (1165-1214), would have built the fortress as he was only the nominal lord of Northumberland from 1152 until 1157 by which time he had just reached the age of 14.  With the choice between Earl Henry (1139-52), who is known to have built no mottes and William Rufus (1087-1100), the logical choice would be King William as the builder.  Certainly he may have wanted a castle commanding the route from Newcastle to Bamburgh during his campaign of 1095.

King William II (1087-1100) is recorded in only one contemporary source, Florence Worcester,  as having built ‘a siege castle' called Bad Neighbour during the campaign against Robert Mowbray.  Later twelfth and thirteenth century chronicles elaborated on this story, but with how much knowledge is unknown.  The sources are examined under Bamburgh castle, but the implication ‘might be' that the siege castle was actually the foundation of Warkworth castle.  Certainly the scale of the earthworks suggest a royal castle.  Further, there is no evidence that Earl Henry (d.1152) ever built a motte, let alone one on the scale of Warkworth.

Whatever the case of Warkworth's founding, the district including the castles of Norham, Wark, Alnwick, Newcastle, Harbottle and Bamburgh were much fought over in the period following the death of Henry I in 1135 and the establishment of King David of Scotland in Northumberland and Cumberland by the treaty of Durham in 1139.  At this point Earl Henry (d.1152) was supposed to become earl of Northumberland in exchange for returning the castles of Bamburgh and Newcastle to King Stephen.  However, he seems to have retained both these castles until his death in 1152, while Harbottle, Norham and Wark were certainly destroyed in 1138 and apparently not rebuilt until the late 1150s.  It is quite possible that Warkworth was similarly overthrown in this period 1136-39.  Consequently it seems unlikely that Earl Henry would have been troubled to build Warkworth castle if it didn't exist at this time when Harbottle, Wark and Norham were certainly destroyed.  Alnwick, as the fortress of Eustace Fitz John, not the king, was also allowed to survive.  In 1157 all the surviving fortresses of Northumberland and the sites of the others were returned to King Henry II (1154-89) who ordered Norham and Wark rebuilt as well as possibly Harbottle.  No fortress was mentioned at Warkworth at this time, although Roger Fitz Richard witnessed a royal charter at Newcastle upon Tyne during the early months of 1158.  Possibly he already held the castle or castle site.  Certainly the castle existed by 1164 as King Henry's brother, William (d.1164), witnessed the king's grant to Roger Fitz Richard of the castle and manor of Warkworth with all purtenances just as King Henry I (1100-35) had granted the manor.  This charter was recorded in the Quo Warranto proceedings of the 1290s.  The question is, was the castle granted by Henry I or not, as the late thirteenth century copy clearly states that Henry I only granted the manor, while Henry II (1154-89) granted the castle and manor.  It also seems unlikely that Henry I could have granted Warkworth to Roger Fitz Richard if his provenance is correctly assessed below of him being of the house of Clare.  It is therefore possible that Henry II confirmed Warkworth to Roger on the strength of a verbal assurance that Henry I had granted the place to Roger or his predecessor.  Certainly no original charter of the transaction has survived.

Warkworth is mentioned contemporaneously for the first time in 1165 when it was noted that Roger Fitz Richard (d.1179+) had been given land worth £20 in the borough of Newcastle and £32 2s in Wercheswrda.  Roger Fitz Richard was a baron of some weight at the start of the reign of Henry II (1154-89).  At the end of August 1153 Roger was the second of the 3 recorded lords helping Duke Henry of Normandy (d.1189) in the siege of Stamford castle.  The other 2 were Hugh Beauchamp (d.1187) and Hamon Falaise.  Two months previously Roger had been at Coventry when Duke Henry was attended by Earl Roger of Hereford (d.1155), Walcheline Maminot (d.1190, of Dover), Warin Fitz Gerold the chamberlain (d.1159), Hugh Piraris (d.1166+, of Corfham) and Roger Fitz Richard.  His good service was obviously rewarded for in 1156 he was recorded as having been given 7s 7d worth of land in Suffolk, pardoned 10s Danegeld and 7s 1d gift in Essex, 40s Danegeld and 50s 8d gift in Warwickshire.  In 1158 he was pardoned 35s gift in Essex as well as being given £58 worth of land in Northumberland and receiving a gift of 40m (£26 13s 4d) from the king in the same county.  He was also pardoned giving a gift of 62s to the king in Warwickshire.  In 1159 he was gifted £52 12s in Northumberland and the next year, 1160, he was given land to the value of £20 in the borough of Newcastle and Warkworth worth £32 12s.  Quite obviously the land worth £32 12s included the site of Warkworth castle if the fortress was not still functional.  These payments continued until around Christmas 1177, although the payments for Newcastle had ceased in 1176.  There is no direct evidence as to the provenance of Roger Fitz Richard, but it should be noted that he was important enough to marry into the Vere family when he married Alice (d.1185+), the widow of Robert Essex (d.bef.1140) of Clavering.  To this end, and the fact that the family used Fitz like the Fitz Walters of Dunmow, it is possible that Roger Fitz Richard was a member of the Clare family of Essex.  The most likely origin of Roger was that he was a son of Richard Fitz Baldwin who died in 1136, quite possibly defending his uncle, Richard Clare, who was ambushed and killed at the start of the Great Welsh Revolt on 15 April 1136.

Whatever his origins, in 1168 Roger Fitz Richard was assigned to view the works going on at Newcastle at a cost of 47s 4d and further work paid for from Lancashire which cost £18 18s 8d.  In the latter view he was associated with Robert Stuteville (d.1186).  At this time the value of his lands in Northumberland were valued at 1m (13s 4d) tax for the 1 knight's fee he held in the county.  Presumably this was Warkworth.  Roger paid scutage for 1 fee in Yorkshire in 1172 as he did not participate in the Irish campaign of that year.  During the Young King's war Roger supported Henry II (1154-89) and was sent £30 for retaining his knights at Newcastle by the writ of Richard Lucy.  According to the chronicler Fantosme, during the summer of 1173 King William of Scotland invaded Northumberland and besieged Wark castle, forcing its commander, Roger Stuteville (d.1185+), to request a 40 day truce and send to Henry II (1154-89) for instructions.  The Scottish host then went to Alnwick and called on the young bastard William Vescy (d.1206) to surrender or make a truce like Wark.  This was refused and the king then marched on nearby Warkworth.

They came to Warkworth, not bothering to stop;
Because the castle was weak, the wall and the earthworks.
And Roger Fitz Richard, a valiant knight,
Had had it in custody; but he was not able to keep it.

Instead Roger waited for the Scottish host within the much more powerful Newcastle.  The implication is that there was no effort made to defend the castle.  That the castle was not mentioned in the subsequent attack on the borough the next year would suggest it was destroyed in the summer of 1173.

After taking the undefended Warkworth castle, King William again baulked at an open assault, this time at Newcastle against one of the major fortresses in the North defended by Roger Fitz Richard in person.  Instead King William set off for Carlisle via Prudhoe, both of which he hoped might be easier prey.  Therefore the Scottish attack of 1173 proved largely unsuccessful and King William was soon forced back over the border by Richard Lucy (d.1179).  However this was not the end of the affair and the Scots invaded again the next year.

A contemporary source stated that the new campaign of 1174 began with King William of Scotland sending his brother Earl David of Huntingdon (d.1219) to Leicester, to lead the men there against King Henry II (d.1189).  William then went with his army to besiege Carlisle where he tarried a few days, leaving part of his army around the castle.  He soon went in person with the rest of his host to Northumberland, laying waste the lands of the king and his barons, on route taking Liddel castle as well as Appleby and Brough, the latter 2 being royal castles which Robert Stuteville (d.1186) was keeping.  Next they moved against Warkworth castle, which Roger Fitz Richard held in custody.  Finally the Scots took Harbottle castle which was held by Odinel Umfraville.  It is interesting to note the taking of Warkworth castle is therefore placed in 1174 here.  Yet when the chronicler talks about the attack on Warkworth in detail no castle is mentioned.

But Earl Duncan at once divided the army into 3 parts; one part he kept with him and the remaining 2 he sent to burn the surrounding towns and to slay folk from the greatest to the least, as well as to carry off spoil.  And he himself with the part of the army which he had chosen entered the town of Warkworth and burned it, and slew in it all whom he found there, men and women, great and small; and he made his followers break into the church of Saint Laurence which was there and slay in it and in the house of the priest of that town more than a hundred men, besides women and children; oh, the sorrow!  Then you might hear the screaming of women; the crying of old men; the groans of the dying; the despair of the young!

Quite clearly the chronicler blundered in his summary which mentions an attack on the castle in 1174.  Fantosme confirms this scenario.  After the attack on Warkworth castle the previous summer, the early summer of 1174 saw King William back in the North of England besieging Prudhoe for 3 days without result, other than losing good men.  He therefore withdrew to besiege Alnwick castle and on route part of his army violated St Laurence's church in Warkworth, castrating 3 of the priests there and killing some 300 men, presumably on route rather than in the church itself.  The lack of mention of the castle probably means that it had not survived the attentions of the Scottish host in 1173 and that Hoveden compressed the attack on the castle in 1173 and the attack on the town in 1174 into one event.  In reality the castle seems to have fallen 1173 with the townsfolk being massacred the next year.  Alternatively both may be right and the castle was sacked on both occasions.  Regardless, after the attack of Warkworth borough in 1174, Roger Fitz Richard (d.1179+) joined his forces to those of Odinel Umfraville (d.1182. Prudhoe), Bernard Balliol (d.1190, Barnard Castle) and their companions and marched on Alnwick where they surprised and captured King William on 13 July 1174.  Despite this victory, Roger fell out of favour with Henry II (1154-89) and was fined 40m (£26 13s 4d) for misdeeds in the forest of Essex in 1177.  Further, his Norfolk and Suffolk manor of ‘Stanham' was seized by the Crown during the early summer of 1179.  It would therefore seem that Roger was stripped of Warkworth for some failure at the same time.  Possibly this was allowing it to fall to the Scots in 1173/74.  King Henry did not take kindly to other barons who had abandoned their charges without resistence during that war, viz. Appleby.

Roger Fitz Richard was still alive in 1178 when he fined 20m (£13 6s 8d) for his misdeeds in the Essex forest of which he paid 10m (£6 13s 4d), the rest being required under Norfolk.  He was last heard of the next year when he and his son, William, paid the last 10m (£6 13s 4d) of his fine in Norfolk.  Roger's Northumberland lands, however, appear to have been in royal hands, probably since 1174.  Roger in 1179 would have been over 44 years old and left his wife, described as a 60 or 80 year old widow by 1185 when she had 2 recorded sons who were knights.  Presumably this was Roger's heir, Robert Fitz Roger (d.1214) and William Fitz Roger.  There was also a daughter, Alice, who had been born before 1155 and who was by 1185 married to John Fitz Richard (d.1190), a grandson of Eustace Fitz John of Alnwick (d.1157).

In 1187 the royal borough of Warkworth and its appurtenances of Acklington, High Buston (Werbuttesdun) and Birling, were taxed £6 6s 8d of which the final 63s 4d was paid the next year.  That these monies were collected by the sheriff shows that Warkworth was under royal control, even though the sons of Roger Fitz Richard (d.1179+) were of age by 1185, if not much earlier.  A tallage of 63s 4d was also given from the same places as a gift to Richard I in 1189.  There appears to have been another family of similar names to the dispossessed lords of Warkworth around at this time with a Roger Fitz Robert appearing in Dorset in 1188 and a William Fitz Roger, clerk, and his brother Ralph appearing in Hocton and Hawthorpe (Horthorp) in Lincolnshire as well as in Suffolk, Essex and Warwickshire with Leicestershire.  Whenever Roger Fitz Robert did die towards the end of the reign of Henry II (1154-89), he was eventually succeeded by his son, Robert Fitz Roger (d.1214).  He does not seem to have been the man mentioned from 1185 to 1187 in Nottingham and Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, the honour of Bristol and Warwickshire and Leicestershire.  This man seems to have ended his days as an outlaw.  The Robert of Warkworth had witnessed his father's foundation of Aynho hospital in 1170 and appeared as a knight in 1185.  This suggests that he had been born before 1164.

The affairs of Robert Fitz Roger (d.1214) improved immeasurably for the better when Richard I took the throne in 1189.  Around the time of the death of King Henry II (6 July 1189) Robert was granted Blythburgh in Suffolk.  This property was previously held by Hugh Cressy (d.1189), the deceased first husband of Robert's wife, Margaret Caisneto (d.1230).  It consisted of some 11 fees in East Anglia.  A year later in the Spring of 1190, it was also recorded that the sheriff of Northumberland was allowed £16 12d in his account as Werkewurda with purtenances were now no longer a part of the royal demesne from that time forward by royal charter.  However, it was noted that a gift of 60s 4d had been raised on the borough and its purtenances, presumably before this grant was made.   Therefore it seems that Warkworth was under royal control from to 1174/79 to 1190.

On 5 April 1194 King William of Scots petitioned King Richard to restore the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire to him to hold as his ancestors had held them.  The king deferred his answer until he could take the opinion of his council.  On 8 April Richard was attended by William St Mere Eglise (d.1224), Robert Fitz Roger, Robert Tregoz (d.1214) and Guy Dive at Northampton.  Presumably Robert was part of this council and on 11 April the king refused the petition of the Scottish king.  Then on 16 April 1194, the king granted Robert the manor of Iver
(Eura) in Buckinghamshire.  Those laymen with the king at this time included Earl David of Huntingdon (d.1219), Earl Ranulf of Chester (d.1232), Earl Roger Bigod (d.1221), Earl William Ferrers (d.1247), William St Mere Eglise (d.1224)..., William Marshall (d.1219), Geoffrey Fitz Peter (d.1213), Hugh Bardolf (d.1197), William Warenne (d.1240), Osbert Fitz Hervey, William Lestrange (d.1203+), Robert Tresgoz (d.1214) and Philip Fitz Robert.  The next day King William took part in King Richard's second coronation.  Robert was still with the king at Portsmouth during May when he attempted to Cross the Channel to Normandy and presumably then campaigned with Richard in Normandy after the crossing was achieved.  During September 1194 it was recorded that the grant of Iver in Wallingford lordship had cost Robert 500m (£333 6s 8d).  Around the same time King Richard granted him 11 fees in Eye lordship.  The same year, 1194, Robert was recorded as owing £9 12s 4d from the farm of Saham in Norfolk in 1193, but Robert claimed the amount was required from the earl of Clare.  This again could suggest a link between the lords of Warkworth and the Clares.

Two years later Robert was found with the king in Normandy, this time at the building of Chateau Gaillard.  He would appear to have remained with the king for the bulk of the royal campaigns against King Philip Augustus of France and was present at the peace treaty made between them at Les Andelys in June or July 1197.  Before 1 September 1197, allegedly in 1195, Robert founded Langley abbey, Norfolk.    Finally in 1197, Robert fined for 100m (£66 13s 4d) to obtain the marriage of the son and heir of Hugh Cressy which was granted by the advice of the archbishop of Canterbury and other relatives of the child.

During the reign of King John (1199-1216) Robert's career continued apace.  In 1199 Robert was confirmed in his knight's fee in Northumberland, wrongly said to have been granted him by Henry II in 1168.  This was probably Warkworth which was still valued as a loss to the Crown of £32 2s pa.  The same year it was recorded that Robert had paid 300m (£200) to have his charters renewed, these being the gift by King Henry and King Richard by which he held seisin of his lands.  This transaction was carried out under Norfolk and Suffolk, although it is widely stated that this referred solely to Warkworth.  However, it was on 23 July 1200, King John made an important charter to Robert Fitz Roger where he confirmed to him the gift which King Henry (1154-89) made to Roger Fitz Richard in hereditary fee for his service, namely the castle of Werkewrd and the manor with all its purtenances just as King Henry (1100-35), Henry's grandfather, had held them.  Possibly King Henry II's charter actually said this as Henry often harked back to the days of his grandfather in his chancery. The evidence as it stands strongly implies that Warkworth castle was standing during the reign of King Henry I (1100-35) and therefore strengthens the impression that William Rufus was probably responsible for the castle's foundation in 1095.  Certainly I can think of no mottes actually built by Henry I (1100-35).

Around the accession of King John, Robert also briefly acquired the honour of Tickhill in Yorkshire and possibly Aylsham (Aillesham) and Cawston (Causton) in Norfolk, although these may have belonged to another Robert Fitz Roger.  In 1200 Robert became sheriff of Northumberland until 1202 and the king reset his many debts to 450m (£300) which had to be paid off at 100m (£66 13s 4d) pa.  Before this was even begun the king forgave him another 200m (£133 6s 8d) .  Robert soon paid what remained of his debt at the correct rate.  Warkworth had 2 mentions when King John confirmed the properties of Brinkburn priory on 19 February 1201.  One of the gifts was a toft from German Tisun in Werkewurth as well as a salt works from the same vill by Robert Fitz Roger.  The same year the tithes of Warkworth were also confirmed to Tynemouth priory

On 13 August 1204, King John told Robert, no doubt in his capacity as sheriff of Northumberland, to repair those royal castles he had in custody by the view and testimony of honest men.  This explains Robert spending £33 4s 3d on castle works at Bamburgh and Newcastle that Michaelmas.  Robert then made the last major addition to his lands when the king granted him the farm of the manors of Corbridge and Rothbury on 15 October 1205.  Robert remained sheriff of Northumberland for the rest of his life, although he usually had a companion working with him.

On his tour of the north King John's scribe wrote 3 letters from Warkworth on 2 February 1212.  Within six months Robert Fitz Roger was dead, aged at least 50.  Consequently, on 12 August 1212, King John gave a charter to John Fitz Robert Fitz Roger confirming the gift by Henry II (1154-89) to the castle and manor of Warkworth with all purtenances as that king had given to Roger Fitz Richard the father of Robert and which King Richard I (1189-99) had confirmed to Robert for the service of 1 knight; also from the gift of the same King Henry the manor of Clavering with purtenances as was given to Robert and which was confirmed for the service of 1 knight and the manor of Newburn for 1 knight and the service of Robert Trukelegna for the service of 40s pa and the manor of Whalton with all the barony which was Robert Cramaville's for the service of 3 knights; and the manor of Corbridge at fee for a rent of £10 for which John returned the charters of King Henry and King Richard.  At September 1214, it was recorded that John held the following places with their notional value, viz. £32 2s in Warkworth and purtenances, £30 in Newburn, £30 in Corbridge, £20 in Rothbury, 40s in Whittingham with the custody of the heir of William Flamville, in Durham bishopric £23 14s 3d in the wapentake of Seberge [within which stood Barnards Castle] and in the town of Newcastle £50.

John Fitz Robert at some point married into the Balliol family, taking Ada Balliol (d.1251) as his wife.  She brought him Stokesley, Yorkshire, as her dower.  During the Baron's War of 1215-17, John Fitz Robert was named as one of the surety barons for Magna Carta.  King John appears not to have moved against Fitz Robert this year, for attacks by the king were recorded around the castles of Alnwick, Mitford, Morpeth and Wark, but not Warkworth.  John Fitz Robert appears to have remained initially loyal and was on 1 May 1215 made constable of Norwich castle for King John.  This must soon have been revoked for by 16 March 1216 the king had seized his manor of Aynho.  Certainly after the battle of Lincoln in May 1217, he submitted to the new government of Henry III (1216-72) on 25 July 1217.  Despite this on 8 November 1217, he was stripped of his farm of Corbridge and ordered to hand it over to his old colleague, Philip Oldcoats (d.1221).  Regardless one John Fitz Robert was still sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk on 31 October 1217.  On 3 February 1221, John of Warkworth was amongst various northern barons who were ordered to assess and then destroy Skipsea castle due to the rebellion of Earl William Aumale of Cockermouth.  Then, on 19 February 1221, he was ordered to join the full feudal host of England that was ordered to converge on and destroy Bytham Castle.  Like his father John became sheriff of Northumberland, in his case from 1224 to 1227.  On 16 April 1225 he was ordered, as sheriff, to repair the king's houses in Newcastle keep, while in August 1224 he had participated in the siege of Bedford castle. 

John Fitz Robert died a little before 20 February 1241 when he held lands in lands in Buckinghamshire Northumberland, Oxfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk and was aged over 50.  He was succeeded by his young son Roger who died young a little before 22 June 1249 when his son Robert was just 1½ years old.  At this time he was holding Clavering in Essex for 1 fee of the honour of Raleigh, Datchworth (Thacheworthe) in Hertfordshire, Aynho in Northampton for 1 fee and Warkworth which was extended in full.  This consisted of a borough and new town, a mill from which the prior of Tynemouth received 3m (£2) yearly, a fishery with a small ship called ‘Cobel', a little round wood called Sunderland and the vills of Acklington, Birling, Buston and a quarter of Togston out of which were due to Durham church 20s pa for sustaining 4 wax tapers about the body of St Cuthbert by the deed of Robert Fitz Roger (d.1179+).  Roger was also accustomed to give yearly for the keeping of the castle and manor £18 6s 8d, 3 robes and hay and oats for 2 horses.  Warkworth church was held by the bishop of Carlisle.  There were also the vill and forest of Rothbury with the towns of Rothbury, Thropton, Snitter and Newtown from which 20s was due yearly at the Exchequer.  For the land of Cherland there was a forester with a horse who had 40s and a robe yearly for his service, while 3 foot foresters had 60s and their robes.  Rothbury church was in the gift of the bishop of Carlisle by the collation of King Henry I (1100-35).  On 5 May 1241, the king assigned as dower to John's widow, Ada Balliol, the manors of Newburn and Whalton in Northumberland and Iver in Buckinghamshire.  It should be noted that another John Fitz Robert survived his namesake and was still lord of half a fee at Haregworth in Northamptonshire and another half at Pottun in Bedford and Buckinghamshire on 6 November 1241.  Possibly he was the same man who had been sheriff of Norfolk in 1215.

John's son, Roger Fitz John, died young, at least 20 years old, around the beginning of June 1249, at a tournament apparently in Argences, Normandy.  He left a 1½ year old son, Robert Fitz Roger (d.1310) as heir.  On 14 August 1249, the king granted the wardship of two thirds of the lands late of Roger Fitz John to William Valance (d.1296), the lord of Goodrich castle.  These lands were extended at £145 8s 6½d, except for £4 8s 10½d which the king granted to him for the keeping of Warkworth castle on condition that this extend is deducted from William's yearly fee at the Exchequer.  By this act Valance was to hold the barony until the coming of age of the heirs, or if they died he would give up the lands and receive the like money back from the Exchequer as his yearly fee.  He was also granted the marriage of Isabel, the widow of Roger.  She also, no doubt, received the remaining third of the barony as dower, although the king refused the offer of Ada Balliol (d.1251) to buy the custody of her grandson for 1,200m (£800).  Interestingly, at this time Matthew Paris (d.1259) described the castle as noble (nobili castro de Wercwurthe).

On 21 May 1268, William Valance (d.1295) made an agreement with Robert Fitz Roger whereby he returned the manors of Blythburgh and Blickling, the land that belonged to Margaret Cressy the daughter of William Cheynne, with West Lexham (Westlechesham) and Filby (Phileby) lately held by Stephen Cressy, deceased.  Valance, in 1266, had negotiated to acquire the whole land in the right of Robert Fitz Roger (d.1310).  The same year Robert agreed that he owed William 450m (£300) to be paid off at 200m (£133 6s 8d) per annum, or have the sums raised from his lands and chattels in Essex and Northumberland, but this agreement was immediately cancelled and the payments quashed.  With Robert's coming of age he became much involved in the wars of the times.  He fought in Wales in 1277 and 1282-83, was at the parliament that condemned Dafydd ap Gruffydd (d.1283) and then was much active in the Scottish wars until his death in 1310. 

In 1292 Warkworth briefly paid host to King Edward I.  On 21 November Edward left Norham where Edward Balliol had paid him homage and moved via Wark to Roxburgh on 26 November.  He left Roxburgh on 11 December and began a perambulation around Northumberland which saw him staying at Alnwick on 17 December and then Warkworth on the eighteenth.  He eventually spent Christmas and New Year at Newcastle upon Tyne where Edward Balliol again paid homage to him.  In 1295, Robert Fitz Roger (d.1310) was called before the Quo Warranto commission to see by what right he held the right of wreck on his part of sea coast in Warkworth liberty, his free forest in Rothbury, his rights in Corbridge and free warren in Warkworth, Whalton and Newburn and his markets and fairs.  He claimed most of these dated back to antiquity or the time of King John.  On 11 September 1297 Robert was captured at the battle of Stirling Bridge, but was realised in time to fight at Falkirk the next year with his son and heir, John Fitz Robert.  He also took part in the siege of Caerlaverock in 1300, the defence of Berwick in 1302 and the battle of Methven in 1306. 

Robert Fitz Roger died aged over 62, a little before 29 April 1310, leaving his son, John Fitz Robert or John Clavering as he was otherwise known aged over 40.  Robert's lands were listed and included, Iver in Buckinghamshire, Clavering in Essex, Horsford in Norfolk, Blythburgh in Suffolk and the bulk of his lands in Northumberland - viz. Whalton, Widdrington, Lynton, Eshott and Bockenfield, Horton, Ogle (O[ggille?]), South Gosforth, Newham, Denton, Fawdon, Kenton and Newbiggin on the Moor, Shotton in Glendale, Herle, Kirkharle, Herle and lands called Cheuervile, Ripplinton, Newburn with the hamlets of Walbottle, Deuelawe and Botirlawe, Throckelawe, Deuelawe, Corbridge, Warkworth castle and borough including the new borough with the hamlets of Birling and Acklington, Upper Botilston, Togston and Rothbury with the hamlets of Newtown, Thropton and Snitter.  The king granted John his father's lands on his doing homage on 29 May 1310.  The barony was obviously in trouble from the first and it soon becomes apparent that John was continually short of money.  On 20 November 1311, the king granted John land to the value of £400 a year in Norfolk around the manor of Costessey as well as lands in Suffolk and Northamptonshire on condition that John willed his castle of Warkworth with the manors of Rothbury, Newburn, Corbridge and Iver to the king on his death.  In the meantime he and his wife, Hawise, were allowed to hold them for life.  The value of John's lands was reckoned at £700 in value.

On 8 July 1316, John Clavering received protection for 1 year for his chattels in his manors of Newburn, Corbridge, Rothbury and Warkworth, Northumberland, from which nothing was to be taken.  It would therefore appear that he was being pursued for debts.  Piracy was also taking place in the district.  On 13 November 1316, a commission of oyer and terminer was granted concerning a ship laden with provisions for Berwick on Tweed that was forced by piratical attacks into Warkworth port where the ship was boarded by Richard Thirlewal, Robert Arreyns, Eustace le Constable of Warkworth, John Aketon, Hugh Gulum and John Lescebury and stripped of its contents.  The ship was then impounded.  In 1318 the castle garrison, with those of Bamburgh and Alnwick combined to seize the 2 ‘piles' of Bolton and Whittingham which were opposing the king.  A little more is learned of the castle garrison on 28 September 1319, when King Edward II (1307-27) accounted for an addition to the garrison for the castle of 4 men at arms and 8 hobelars to enhance the existing force of 12 men at arms.

On 15 September 1322, Earl David of Athol (d.1326) was appointed as chief warden of Northumberland and its marches and various lords were ordered to give him aid with their entire posse as he commanded, but keeping sufficient force to guard their castles.  The order was given to Henry Percy (d.1352) for Alnwick, Ralph Neville (d.1331) for Warkworth, Roger Horsle for Bamburgh, John Lillebourn and Roger Mauduyt for Dunstanburgh, the constable of Prudhoe and Richard Emedlon as chief warden of Newcastle upon Tyne.  At the time Warkworth garrison sent 26 hobelars for the ill fated Scottish campaign.  Ralph Neville (d.1331), the keeper of Warkworth castle, was married to John Clavering's daughter, Euphemia (d.bef.1301).  He was also lord of Brancepeth castle.  On 2 August 1326, John Clavering was ordered to repair to his castle of Warkworth as ‘magnates having castles and fortresses in those parts should stay there for the defence of those parts'.  Within 2 months the king complained to Neville that small Scottish forces were penetrating the district and that he, with the constables of Alnwick, Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Norham, were doing nothing to repel them.

On 20 February 1327, it was noted that John Clavering (d.1332) had granted Edward II (1307-27) the reversion of Warkworth castle and other lands in Northumberland on a promise that he should have a suitable marriage for one of his sisters, but this was not done; therefore in recompense for the loss of the marriage and his expenses in going to Scotland as king's messenger he is released of his arrears of the farm of Corbridge which he holds for a yearly rent of £40 and which is greatly impoverished and wasted by the frequent attacks of the Scots.  Consequently he is to have that town for life without payment of any rent.  This immediately followed the Scots attacking Norham castle on 1 February.  Then on 30 June 1327, Ralph Neville (d.1331) was granted £157 7s 6d out of the customs of Newcastle to discharge the debt for his wages as well as the wages of the men at arms and hobelars who he retained in the service of Edward II when he was constable of Warkworth castle.  I
n August 1327, Robert Bruce's forces are said to have attacked Warkworth castle after they had unsuccessfully attacked Alnwick.  This is obviously an anachronistic entry as it is stated that Warkworth belonged to Henry Percy (d.1352).  This transfer did not happen until 1328, which means the chronicler was writing after this date.  Scottish sources only mention attacks on Norham and Alnwick castles after the July to August Weardale campaign.  Then, towards the end of the year, while Edward III was preparing for his marriage to Philippa of Hainault, Bruce entered Northumberland again and besieged Alnwick, Warkworth and other castles, although they all held, killing some of Bruce's men.

The next year on 1 March 1328, a royal grant was made to Henry Percy (d.1352) in fee simple of the reversion of Warkworth castle after the death of John Clavering (d.1332), tenant for life and in the event of his death without male issue of all the other lands in the county held by him in fee tail, provided that the 500m (£333 6s 8d) yearly now payable to Percy in time of peace or war by indenture, that he remains with a certain number of men at arms shall cease and also that he accounts for any excess if the issues of the castle and lands exceed 500m (£333 6s 8d) .  This was the same day the treaty of Northampton, actually ratified on 4 May 1328, was said to begin from.  The treaty recognised that Robert Bruce should possess the kingdom of Scotland without any homage.  That his son, David Bruce (d.1371), should marry Joan Plantagenet (d.1362) and that England and Scotland should become ‘good allies' and subjects of either kingdom should not hold any lands in the other.  For this Bruce would pay 30,000m (£20,000) within 3 years and King Edward III (1327-77) would use his influence to have the pope release Bruce and his subjects from excommunication and interdict.  Both these latter points were fulfilled.  On 13 May 1329, King Edward consented to receive 5,000m (£3,333 6s 8d) on account of the 10,000m (£6,666 13s 4d) due, the balance to be paid at Martinmas.  After King Robert's death on 7 June 1329, the king acknowledged receipt of the first 5,000m (£3,333 6s 8d) on 26 June.  Another 5,000m was paid on 12 November 1329, 5,000m around 3 April 1330 and the final 10,000m (£6,666 13s 4d) on 15 July 1330.  Both parties therefore kept their promises according to the treaty.

John Clavering, aged over 62, died without male heir in 1332, although no inquest post mortem was carried out on his lands.  This was probably due to the agreement with Henry Percy (d.1352), which the king ordered to take effect as John was dead on 23 January 1332 and Percy had paid homage for these new lands of Warkworth castle, Rothbury and Newburn with all his lands in Northumberland.  The next year, on 29 July 1333, King Edward III stayed briefly at Warkworth when on campaign at Berwick on Tweed.  A year later on 24 September 1334, Henry Percy (d.1352) tried to ensure his lands were enfeoffed to him in tail male, these included Alnwick and Warkworth castles, these included Alnmouth, Long Houghton, Lesbury and Chatton with land in Wooler held by Isabella Vescy as well as Newburn held by Ralph Neville (d.1331) and the dower part of Warkworth, Corbridge, Acklington and Rothbury with the hamlets of Snitter, Birling, Thropton and Newtown held by Hawise [Tibotot] the widow of John Clavering (d.1332), all in Northumberland.  However, the attempt was abandoned due to previously enacted laws being violated by the grant, but the act was later successfully carried out on 4 January 1335 with the exception of the church advowsons.

John Glanton, on 1 November 1336, asked the king for recompense for the time when he was constable of Warkworth castle and held the Scottish prisoner of war, William Bard, there for 3 weeks short of 3 years.  Presumably this had occurred recently during the wars of Edward Balliol and before Percy took over the castle.  Modern sources state that Warkworth town, but not the castle was sacked in 1341, the same year that King David II returned to Scotland.  This may well have happened for 3 years later on 19 October 1344, the men of many Northumberland parishes which included Warkworth, Chatton and Rothbury claimed

that for the most part their crops and other goods had been burned and otherwise destroyed and their animals plundered by the Scots.

They therefore requested remission from the current taxation of a ninth.  The next year, on 18 February 1345, John Clavering's widow, Hawise Tibotot died and her dower in Clavering passed to her blood heir, her much married daughter Eva (d.1369).  The rest of the barony of Warkworth was now totally consumed within the Percy honour with both Henry Percy (d.1352) and his son Henry (d.1368) granting charters throughout their careers at Warkworth and indeed both dying there.

The elder Henry Percy died on 26/27 February 1352.  Soon afterwards an inquest post mortem was carried out on his lands.  Within his many lands was the barony of Warkworth.  This consisted of the castle and manor with the towns of Birling, Acklington, Rothbury, Newtown, Thropton and Snitter.  These were all held of the king in chief in fee tail by homage and fealty and by the service of 2 knights.  There then followed an extent of the castle and manor.  This included herbage of the castle moat, the pasture of Wooler, rents from the towns of High Buston (Ourebotleston) and Togston, a fishery in the River Coquet and a wood called Sundreland.  The extent of Acklington included the site of a chief messuage, a windmill, park, and halmote, while Rothbury included 20 shielings (skalinge) in the forest and rent of burgages. Newtown included a land called ‘Storeland' and a fulling-mill.  Snitter included a meadow called ‘Brademedwe' and a plot of land called Chirland.  Corbridge borough was held of the king in chief in fee tail by fealty and by service of rendering £40 yearly to the king for the old farm with a new increment of 10s.  There was also a plot of land called ‘Waldefleys,' a wood called ‘Lynels,' a plot of land called ‘Prendestretland,' a house called ‘Tollebogth' farmed for 6s 8d pa, a plot of waste called ‘les Aldehals,' a yearly rent of 10s from the mill of Develeston and two water-mills.  Henry also held the advowson of the chapel of St Mary in Warkworth.  The chapel lay some third of a mile south of the castle and was founded by Robert Fitz Roger (d.1214) and given to the prior of Durham.

In the early fifteenth century the castle was where the Percy's planned their abortive overthrow of Henry IV which led to Harry Hotspur Percy being killed at the battle of Shrewsbury on 21 July 1403.  After this his father, Earl Henry Percy (d.1408), was forced to surrender to the king at York.  In 1404 Percy was pardoned and returned to his northern castle, only to rebel again in 1405.  The result was King Henry IV (d.1413) attacking the fortress with cannon.  The king himself stated that after 7 volleys of his artillery the well supplied castle surrendered.  It was then given to John Plantagenet (d.1435) the later duke of Bedford.  Earl Henry was killed in 1408 without regaining Warkworth.  In 1416 Henry Percy, the son of Hotspur, was restored to his patrimony which included Warkworth.  As earl of Northumberland he was killed at the battle of St Albans in 1455 and his son, yet another Henry, was killed at the battle of Towton in 1461.  Both had supported Lancaster in the civil war.  His son, another Earl Henry Percy (d.1489), continued the family support for King Henry VI (d.1471) and consequently lost the castle in the fighting of the early 1460s.  These campaigns are discussed under Bamburgh castle.  On 1 August 1464, the title of earl of Northumberland was given to John Neville (d.1471), the brother of Warwick the Kingmaker.  During his 7 year tenure of the castle, he built the Montagu Tower, Neville having the title Montagu from his grandfather, Earl Thomas Montagu of Salibury (d.1428).  After the death of the Neville brothers in 1471 the castle was restored to Henry Percy (d.1489).

Earl Henry Percy (d.1489) is said to have remodelled the castle and began the building of the collegiate church in the bailey beneath the motte.  This work was abandoned on his killing in 1489.  In 1536, Earl Henry's grandson, another Earl Henry (d.1537), bequeathed all his estates to King Henry VIII (d.1547).  Consequently the king had his castle of Warkworth examined.  The inquiry taken on 22 February 1538 found that Warkworth was:

A very proper house in good repair. There is a marvellous proper dongeon of eight towers all joined in one house, one of which needs repair. It rains very much in the dining chamber and the little chamber over the gates where the Earl lay himself.  A new horse mill is wanted. Cost, £40 3s 4d and 4 fother of lead.

Around the same time Leland found:

Werkworthe castle stands on the south side of the Coquet water.  It is well maintained and large.  It belonged to the earl of Northumberland.  It stands on a high hill, the which for the more part is included with the river and is about a mile from the sea.  There is a pretty town and at the town's end is a stone bridge with a tower on it.  Beyond the bridge is Banburghshire.

On 24 May 1543, the warden of the Marches reported back to the royal council that he had obeyed the king's instructions and had Alnwick and Morpeth castles surveyed and had since decided to set up his main centre of operations at Warkworth.  He found the castle somewhat decayed and out of repair.  Consequently he had ordered it ‘apperrelled and put in redines' expecting it to be furnished for his arrival in a week.

After its spell as a royal castle the fortress and the other Percy estates were passed to Henry's nephew, who became Earl Thomas Percy of Northumberland in the reign of Queen Mary (1553-58).  In the next reign he was executed for treason on 22 August 1572 following another failed Pilgrimage of Grace.  In 1567 Percy had ordered a survey of the castle by George Clarkson.  This found the castle in fair condition apart from the great hall which had collapsed apart from its east aisle, while the chambers and other buildings near them in the bailey were found to be much decayed and threatened collapse unless they were reroofed.  After the earl's rebellion and defeat the castle was occupied by John Forster (d.1602), the Warden of the Middle Marches, who spoiled and wasted it, just as he did Bamburgh and Alnwick.  The fortress was returned to the earl's brother in the 1570s and he found that the roof of the old drawing room, otherwise known as the solar in the bailey, was utterly decayed and that the Carrickfergus Tower was in utter ruin.  Nearly 40 years later it was reported that the castle was in complete ruin and used as a cattle fold with the gates open day and night.  The only part of the fortress still inhabitable was the great keep.

In 1617 King James visited the castle while his retinue explored the ruins for an hour finding goats and sheep in nearly every chamber and were ‘much moved to see it so spoiled and badly kept'.  In 1644 the castle was surrendered to the Scots who remained a year.  Commonwealth forces occupied it again in 1648 and when they left they took the doors and ironwork of the castle with them as part of the slighting.  In 1649 Algernon Percy applied for compensation for the damage, but was allowed none.  In 1672 the castle was stripped of its remaining fabric when 272 cart loads of lead, timber and other materials were taken from the keep alone.  In 1698 it was decided not to repair the castle when an estimate of £1,600 was given for restoring the battlements, floors and windows.

Restoration occurred between 1853 and 1858 when Anthony Salvin was employed to restore the keep.  He partially refaced the exterior and added new floors and roofs to 2 chambers on the second floor.  These then became known as the Duke's Chambers.  Excavations took place in the 1850s which uncovered the remains of the collegiate church within the bailey.  The Office of Works undertook excavations in the moat in 1924 and this no doubt accounts for the excellent state of the earthworks to the south of the castle.

The motte of Warkworth castle with its scarp blocks about 300' of the 750' wide neck of a sharp bend in the River Coquet.  The town then nestles in the loop of the river, with a fortified fourteenth century bridge over the north end.  Other castles stand in similar positions, viz. Appleby, Caer Beris, Durham and Shrewsbury.  The motte itself is some 200' in basal diameter with a current summit diameter of some 100'.  This is now filled by the much later keep which may have lowered and enlarged the original summit.  The motte itself is about 40' high, which ranks it with the largest in Britain.  As such it is probably a royal motte as only kings tended to have the economic resources to build such giant structures.  The motte was surrounded by a ditch to all sides but that to the north has been replaced by the current main road, as can be seen in eighteenth century prints.  Now there is merely a steep scarp running down the main high street into the town towards the church of St Laurence.

The ward of the original motte and bailey castle was about 250' east to west by about 180' from the probable line of the motte ditch to the south ditch.  When the stone ward was constructed the eastern 70' of the ward was abandoned, leaving a flat glacis which in eighteenth century appeared to be merely a grassed over pile of rubble.  Presumably the original entrances were the same as today, the postern to the north-west for access to the town and the main gatehouse to the south.

The castle is supposed to have been first walled in stone with the bulk of the curtain walls dating to this first masonry phase which is dated to the rather precise and utterly unscientific dates of 1199-1213.  This includes the gatehouse, Carrickfergus and postern towers as well as probably an early tower under the site of the Montagu Tower.  There must also have been a stone keep on the motte, though whether of the tower or shell keep variety is unknown.  Next the Grey Mare's Tail tower was added with the turret along the east wall and subsequently the massive great keep and even later the Montagu Tower.  This was probably built on a new plan to its purported predecessor which probably projected to the south like the gatehouse and Carrickfergus tower.

The Gatehouse
The castle is still entered to the south via the twin towered gatehouse.  This is a most odd structure, apparently unique.  To the south are 2 projecting 20' diameter, half octagonal towers.  The 2 southernmost angles of each tower are further protected by half octagonal buttresses.  Large crossbow loops pierce each of the 3 ground floor faces.  These are long with massive fish tailed oillets and short sighting slits towards the top.  Again, a unique feature of Warkworth.  The twin buttresses are chamfered at the base so they stand upon inverted pyramids on the massive sloping plinth at the base of the towers which progresses over half way down the ditch scarp. 

The gate passageway is entered via an Early English arch of 2 orders.  Unnaturally there are currently no portcullis grooves on the walls, although there are twin ‘murder holes' in the ceiling which would appear to be the remnants of the original twin portcullis.  Quite obviously the passageway has been relined and possibly totally rebuilt with a pointed barrel vault inserted.  There are similarities to the late rebuildings at Skipton here.  The projecting corbel line supporting the moulded string course over the gate has been taken as evidence that a drawbridge was once raised to this position.  If it were then all trace of the mechanism has gone.  If it were a turning bridge there is no trace of an internal pit within the gatehouse.

Within the passageway, defended by gates at either end, are 3 varied crossbow loops on each side.  Internally the final arches over the gate passageway have gone, but the rear of both tower entrances remain - odd Early English arches of 2 orders as are the other gate passageway arches.  Within the tower doorways are 2 long chambers with barrel vaults similar to the gate passageway.  They broaden out into the towers at the south end.  The floors within these have obviously been raised, making the altered embrasures useless for combat.  Presumably this was done in the nineteenth century when this gatehouse housed the castle custodian.

Two external flights of steps to east and west curve up to what should have been the constable's chamber on the first floor, but this has no forward looking loops.  However, there are what look like blocked embrasures in both towers and a single large crossbow loop to the east and west.  Both towers had later vaults added at this level, possibly to make the structure strong enough for artillery in the Scottish fashion, viz Urquhart.  Internally the rear of the gatehouse has gone at first floor level and the rough top of the inner wall to the south shows that the external face of the gatehouse has been totally refaced and a later upper storey added.  Presumably this occurred where the buttresses have their odd toppings.  Internally the remains of steeply angled roof creases remain to east and west, while in the towers on either side were later chambers, above the earlier roof level.  Above the gate at the height of the roof are overhanging machicolations, somewhat similar to those found over doorways at late Scottish houses, viz Hermitage and south of the border, Bywell.  There are also beam holes for a hoarding.

A contemporary curtain wall ran off from the gatehouse to the west.  This had a fine sloping plinth and a later chapel on its inside and other buildings, one possibly being a garret.

Carrickfergus Tower
At the south-west corner of the enceinte stood the Carrickfergus Tower which partially collapsed in the eighteenth century.  Like the gatehouse towers this was south facing and semi-octagonal, also having loops on all three southern faces, though unlike the gatehouse, there were no buttresses at the angles.  The base of the tower has a fine sloping plinth which runs almost to the base of the ditch, while the interior seems to have been partially infilled as the fighting embrasures would have been difficult to occupy.  Also note the state of these loops compared to those in the rebuilt gatehouse.

The bulk of the west side and most of the south side of the tower has collapsed.  The upper 2 storeys above the fighting level on the ground floor were residential and there are traces of a garderobe as well as fireplaces.  The windows were also quite large, while all the internal embrasures were shoulder headed.  Such features do not occur before 1250 and fade out after 1350.  This rather dates the tower at least 50 years later than the traditional dating and suggests that this tower is younger than the Early English gatehouse.  The refacing of all this front may have taken place at a very late date, possibly even post medieval. 

The pointed entrance passage to the ground floor of the tower is an obvious insertion, running at a odd angle diagonally through the south curtain.  There was an odd, corbelled out projection from the tower at the north-west corner.  Presumably the tower served as withdrawing rooms from the great chamber to the north.

Lying along the west curtain, north of the Carrickfergus Tower, but south of the great hall, lay a 2 storey building which housed the great chamber at first floor level.  The floor of this was supported on 3 central pillars, while narrow windows, now infilled, opened into the bailey.  The west curtain wall here is nearly twice as thick as the curtain making up the west wall of the great hall to the north.  It also contains a mural staircase.  The base of this wall, although much patched, would appear to be the earliest of the castle masonry.  Two large windows set low in the wall are probably later insertions, while the Romanesque recess, which contains a carved panel over what appears to have been a large, rectangular window, was possibly a balcony accessed from the solar.

Great Hall
The great hall consists of about half the length of the west curtain before it makes a sharp angle to ascend the motte.  The wall here is on a slightly different alignment to the thicker curtain which joins to the Carrickfergus tower.  It is also set on a plinth topped by 2 sloping courses at the base of the newer work.  Presumably this is late fourteenth century.  The internal junction is even more obvious with a first floor Romanesque arch in the great chamber at the collapsed junction, with a shoulder headed doorway beyond in the hall.  Above the change in wallwalk between newer thinner and the older thicker curtain is also obvious.

The original hall was widened, probably in the 1380s, with the line of the old wall being converted into an arcade with 2 of the pillar bases of this surviving.  There are also 2 stone fire pits in the floor, which is odd considering there is a blocked arch in the west corner of the south wall which is supposed to be the original ‘Norman' fireplace.  As the original hall would probably have been at first floor level, this seems perplexing.

In the late fourteenth century, when the hall was extended eastwards, 2 square towers were built, the little stair tower and the Lion Tower.  The latter was named after the grumpy and rather sheep-like Percy lion above the main doorway.  Above this again were the arms of Lucy of Egremont.  As Matilda Lucy, the second wife of Earl Henry Percy (d.1408), died in 1398, it would suggest that this tower and sculpture was made in the last 20 years of the fourteenth century, perhaps to celebrate their marriage which occurred in 1381.

North of the hall lay the ‘fifteenth century' buttery, pantry and kitchen.  Beyond these the curtain is much damaged before the Postern Tower is reached.  Beneath the rebuilt section are 2 relieving arches which may suggest the original collapsed into the river.

Postern Tower
The Postern Tower projects slightly from the curtains on either side, while internally it has been much rebuilt and a spiral stair, now destroyed, added to its north side.  The Early English arch lies upon a projecting string course and consists of 2 orders, the lower one being rebated for a door.  As no such rebate exists on the jambs, which appear to be chamfered, it appears that this portal has been rebuilt. The entrance is reached via a series of very worn steps.  Internally it is quite plain that the portal has been recently rebuilt.  Above the passageway are 2 further floors which appear to have been hollowed out of the original structure and have nearly square, probably fifteenth century windows.  The battlements appear of later date again and sport a curious cruciform loop to the north.

From the postern a curtain ran straight up the motte to the new keep.  Presumably it would have originally reached an earlier motte-top keep.  Other than a boldly projecting buttress, which is capped similarly to the gatehouse buttresses, the wall is pretty much featureless, although there are traces of a late rebuilding towards the motte top.

East Curtain
Running down from the south-east side of the keep is the east curtain wall.  For some reason this did not follow the path of the old castle bailey, but took up a position some 70' west of the scarp of the original ward, leaving a large glacis to the east.  The curtain ran in 2 uneven lengths to the south-east corner of the enceinte where the Montagu Tower now stands.  The main feature of the wall is another boldly projecting buttress at the base of the motte.  This implies that both wingwalls are contemporary. 

Running down the motte the wall has no plinth although there is a single chamfered offset on the level section.  Between the eastern turret and the Montagu Tower the wall gains a plinth with a sloped top course, rather similar to some of the plinthing at Caernarfon.  There is also an inserted postern here in what must be a later section of walling.  Internally the postern is shoulder headed.  Looking down from the keep on the battlements of this wall it is rapidly apparent that the inner face has been replaced, certainly at the top in various late refurbishments.  The same could well be true of the outer face.  Indeed an eighteenth century print of the castle shows this curtain as standing at no more than half its current height and the 'glacis' buried in debris.

The battlements seem to have served the garderobe in the top of the rectangular east turret.  This has a his and her's entrance, rather similar to that found in the east turret at Moreton Corbet castle which is thought to be Elizabethan.
 A 2 storey stables ran along the southern portion of the curtain, while a well house with well over 60' deep lay just west of it.

Grey Mare's Tail Tower
Near the angle in the east curtain wall at the base of the motte stands the semi-octagonal Grey Mare's Tail Tower.  This appears to have been inserted into the curtain, at least the junctions to the exterior of the curtain are butted upon by the more brick shaped tower masonry.  The tower has the most extraordinary elongated crossbow loops stretching over 12' high and graced with large fish tailed oillets and no less than 3 sets of sighting slits.  Internally these loops are serviced by shoulder headed embrasures that make the loops impossible to use and apparently stretch over 2 floors.  Obviously the interior of the embrasures have been ‘modified' in the late rebuildings.  Whether these extraordinary loops are also late post military insertions is impossible to know, but seems likely as the stone surrounding them appears slightly lighter than their more golden surrounding stones. 

In the sixteenth century the tower was used to hold prisoners and contains some of their wall graffitis.  The upper level of the tower was blind, similar to some early thirteenth century drum towers, like at White Castle.  The ground floor entrance to the tower was gained from a hall block that ran against the curtain and is now largely destroyed.  From here steps were accessed to the south and a garderobe turret to the north.  The internal building also gave access to the upper floor and the upper garderobe chamber of the attached garderobe turret.  The battlements again seem to have had a hoarding, but the darker colour of their stone suggest they may be late additions.

An attempt has been made at dendrochronology on woodwork retrieved from 2 ‘window lintels' in the tower.  Presumably these came from the odd mutilated and rebuilt crossbow embrasures within the tower.  There was no crossmatching between the samples and no tree ring dating evidence could be produced.  However, radiocarbon dating suggested an early fourteenth century date for the felling of the timber.  This was taken as evidence for the tower being early fourteenth century, though in reality this seems merely guesswork and wishful thinking.

Montagu's Tower
There should have been a tower at the south-east corner of the enceinte judging from the current remains, but all that stands there now is the square Amble or Montagu Tower.  If it was built by Montagu it most likely dates to between 1464 and 1471 when Lord Montagu held the castle.  However, there is no proof of this and its alternative name is the Amble Tower as it faces nearby Amble.  The tower stands 4 storeys high with the basement reached down a short flight of steps into a low room that has probably had the floor raised.  How this was used as a stable in the sixteenth century seems odd for a room which would make a better dog compound than a home for anything larger.  The odd entrances into the ground floor on the lower 2 levels suggest that some part of the lower level west wall may be older than the rest of the tower.  Fireplaces and garderobes show that the sixteenth century tower was residential.  The curtain from the Montagu Tower to the gatehouse is a modern reconstruction lying on older foundations.  The toothing of it in the side of the gatehouse show that this wall too was very thick.

Standing upon the old motte is a large and unusual tower keep.  This probably dates to the end of the fourteenth century and bears some comparison with Trim keep in Ireland, it being a square keep with four projecting towers set centrally in each face to form a 20 sided keep.  All the rectangular corners have been chamfered off.  Further the keep is not symmetrical, with all the turrets slightly off centre and the central square tower itself being by no means a perfect square.

Despite the initial similarity to twelfth century Trim keep, Warkworth is well unique.  It stands 3 storeys high on its motte and was entered through the west face of its south turret.  This and the adjoining south-east corner of the central tower have unfortunately been heavily rebuilt in the Victorian era, so the original approach is uncertain, although there are traces of an approach wall on the south face of the tower facing the entrance portal.  Externally the keep has a fine sloping plinth, which would be necessary with it being built upon an unstable earth mound.  The chamfered off corners of the whole have been interestingly geometrically shaped where they meet the plinth.

The ground floor of the tower has small loops, while the windows get larger the higher up the wall they are set.  On the top storey, on the turret corner chamfers, are coats of arms set above a projecting string course that makes an erratic course around the building.  On the northern turret, on the top floor where a window would be expected, is instead a large relief of a heraldic Percy lion, displaying itself in all its fury to the borough below.  This is certainly a better looking beast than the rather sad fellow on the Lion Tower.  Elsewhere are angels holding heraldic shields which would once no doubt have been coloured.  The last feature of note about the exterior is the postern in the northern section of the west wall, which no doubt like the nearby postern tower, offered a quicker way down into the borough.

The internal features of the keep are quite spectacular and consist of rectangular rooms in the 4 corners of the central keep, with long rooms occupying the turrets back towards the centre of the main tower.  In the very centre was a rectangular light well that collected rainwater.  Entrance to the living quarters was gained from the main doorway, into 2 successive entrance halls, the first controlled by a porter's lodge.  There was also what appears to have been an oubliette or pit dungeon in the south-west corner of the central keep.  From the main entrance hall a great stairway doubled back over the porter's lodge and up to the lobby above.  This led into the great hall in the south-east corner of the keep.  North of this, partially in the east turret, lay the chapel and beyond this to the north the great chamber.  The kitchen, buttery and pantry lay in the western third of the keep and various mural service stairs led to the lower floor below and battlements above.  On the top floor lay the duke's rooms in the south-west corner of the keep.  This was reroofed and made habitable between 1853 and 1858.  Off centre in the keep stood a watch tower which contains 3 floors of separate rooms.  The whole, though impressive looking, was utterly indefensible to any siege artillery.

Within the bailey are the shattered remains of the foundations of the fifteenth century colligate church.  This is alleged to be a similar build as the kitchen, chapel and great hall extension.  It has also been claimed that there are architectural similarities between Warkworth's keep, Bolton Castle, and the domestic buildings at Bamburgh castle.  This has led to the suggestion that the ubiquitous John Lewyn was the master mason responsible for building all these structures.  He certainly worked at Carlisle, Durham and Roxburgh, but the idea that he was responsible for most building work in the North during the fourteenth century seems to be stretching the possibilities as far as the ‘history' of James St George has been pulled.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry