Back in June I spotted a photo taken by local photographer Mike Ridgley of a field of poppies, and with a bit of sleuthing (i.e facebook stalking 🙂 ) I found the field was up near Aydon Castle, a place I had visited in the past, but wasn’t happy with the photo’s I took of it at the time. So Sophie and I decided to go and shoot the poppies and visit the castle for a re-shoot.
The History Bit
We’re back in the 13th century, and looking at a gentleman called Robert de Raymes, who bought the manor house as it was then, in 1290. The house is first mentioned in records back in 1225, and was owned by Hugh de Gosbeck, whose main properties were in Suffolk. Robert’s properties were also in Suffolk, so I presume they were pals and the deal was done over a pint of ale somewhere in deepest darkest Suffolk. Robert promptly uprooted his family and moved up to Northumberland and into the wooden structure that was Aydon. Although there had been peace with Scotland for many years at this point, the fact that Aydon is only 30 miles from the Scottish border may have prompted his plans to fortify the house with stone. In about 1295 de Raymes started work on a stone residential range, now known as the solar block,
at the east end of the wooden hall, and a garderobe (toilet) block at the corner of the solar closest to the drop into the valley below.
In 1296 the first of the Wars of Scottish Independence started up with England invading Scotland, and Robert must have wished he’d stayed in the safety of Suffolk. So he began to focus his efforts on turning the undefended manor house into something resembling a castle. He replaced the wooden hall with one made of stone blocks.
It must have been done in a hurry as the workmanship doesn’t speak of skilled stonemasons as in the solar. Next came another major expansion and a large purpose built kitchen block was added extending north from the west end of the hall, to replace the kitchen that had been incorporated into the new hall.
(digression) Sophie and I spent a fair while trying to photograph a swift feeding her chicks in the roof of the original kitchen, you can see their little mouths open but Mum is just a dark blur, she was moving so fast!
Back to the lesson 🙂
By 1315 Robert had added defensive walls to the inner courtyard
and more ranges of buildings were built along the inside of a new, outer, curtain wall, which created the outer courtyard.
Unfortunately the defences were totally ineffective. Robert was away in 1315, and had left Aydon defended with a garrison of men commanded by one Hugh de Gales, (there were a lot of Hugh de’s back in the day) and 300 quids worth of provisions to see them through, but the main gates of Aydon
did not have much in the way of serious defences, so when the Scots attacked in force at the time, the garrison surrendered, as opposed to getting killed, letting the Scots pillage the provisions and burn the buildings.
In 1317 Northumberland was in a right old pickle, and on 5th December Aydon was attacked again, this time by the English rebels, lead by the same Hugh de Gales. Anything that had been mended after the first attack was destroyed again, burned again, and anything that was portable got carried away. By 1348 Robert was dead and his son, Robert mark 2, had taken charge, but back came the Scots and the castle faced the same fate. Groundhog Day!
By the end of the century, the de Raymes had given up and gone to live elsewhere in Northumberland leaving Aydon in the hands of tennants. Attacked yet again (those Scots were bonkers!) in 1448, doing more damage, but eventually the castle was sold to the Carnaby family. They did a lot of fixing up and restoration, but by the 1600’s tenants were holding the place again, until it was sold to the Collinson family for £653 in 1654, and again, this time for £2,350, to John Douglas in 1702. In 1751 it passed by marriage to the Blackett family, who have owned the estate since then. In the 1830’s Sir Edward Blackett did some more fixing up of the place and turned it into a farm, and it continued to be that right up until 1960’s. During the previous 3o years a fair few tenants had had serious injuries whilst in the farm and the place got an ‘unlucky’ reputation, making it hard to let out, so in 1966 Sir Charles Blackett placed Aydon Castle in the care of the Ministry of Works. They restored the structure of the castle, and removed most of the fixtures and fitting added from the 1800s onwards. Today it is in the care of English Heritage.
So that’s the end of today’s lesson 🙂 and here are a few more pictures
Stay tooned for a bit more of the castle and the Poppyfest next time 🙂