Belsay Hall & Castle~Oct 2021~The Castle

Coming out of the Quarry Garden we get a splendid view of the Castle.

Belsay Castle.

The Castle was built as an extension to a manor in 1390, modified in 1614 with a Jacobean range on the west side, with a further wing added in 1711 or thereabouts, and was abandoned in 1817. It’s had it’s ups and downs since then, but English Heritage are looking after it now.

Front door
It’s missing a floor or two

Spidey Window

There are stairs up to the roof top of the castle’s tower house, and up we went to see the views..

a green and pleasant land

There is a walled area in front of the castle and it has monkey puzzle trees in it..

and one of the walls of the castle has a carved face in the stonework. 😊


Finally the rear view of the castle with the imposing tower house built in 1391 by John Middleton.

Stay tooned for next time and the return through the Quarry Garden.

all pictures embiggenable by clickeration.

Further history HERE.

Easby Abbey

Following on from our trip to Richmond Castle, Sophie and I went a mile and a half down the road to the ruins of Easby Abbey, and as you know, before we get to the pictures, we must first do

The History Bit 🍪 ☕️


Easby Abbey, or The Abbey of St.Agatha is one of the best preserved monsteries of the Premonstratensian order. Premonstratensian is a bit of a mouthful, and I’d never heard of it so in case I’m not the only one here’s a quick run down of what it was/is. It’s full title is The Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré, also known as the Norbertines (sounds like a grunge pop group) and in Britain and Ireland the White Canons, on account of the canons wearing white habits.

Founded in 1120 by Norbert of Xanten (which is in Germany). Norbert has nothing to do with Easby Abbey per se, but he’s an interesting chap so lets dig a bit deeper into his history. Nobby’s Dad, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was a member of the high nobility of the Holy Roman Empire and related to the imperial house and also to the House of Lorraine. Because of the family connections, he was ordained as clergy to the church of St. Victor at Xanten, wherein his only job was to chant the Divine Office. Nobby wasn’t up for that so much and paid someone else a small fee to do it for him while he went off to become a councillor to the emperor Henry V in Cologne. The salaries he got from the Xanten church and the royal treasury allowed him to live in the style of the nobility of the times.

He quite liked living high on the hog for not so much work, and managed to avoid ordination as a priest and also turned down the chance to become a Bishop of Cambrai in 1113. But two years later, Nobby had a near death experience whilst riding his horse to Verdun. A thunderbolt from a storm struck near his horses feet, naturally the horse threw him and he lay unconscious for nearly an hour. Nobby saw this as a wake up call, gave up his posh life at court and returned to his church in Xanten to live a life of penance placing himself under the direction of Cono, Abbot of St Sigeberg. In gratitude to Cono Nobby founded the Abbey of Fürstenberg in 1115, endowed it with some of his property and gave it over to Cono and his Benedictine successors, which was jolly nice of him I think.

Nobby was 35 years old at this point and soon accepted ordination as a priest and became a great devotee of the Eucharist and Our Lady. He adopted a lifestyle of ascetism, (adopting a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and also spending time fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.) Unfortunately his ascetism was so fierce it killed his first three disciples. 🙄 He tried to reform the canons of Xanten, but in light of not wanting to starve to death, they declined and denounced him to some council or other, whereupon Nobby resigned his positions, and sold up his properties to give to the poor. Off he went to visit Pope Gelasius II who gave Nobby permission to wander as an itinerate preacher so he trundled around Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France, where he did some unspecified miracles. Along the way, in many settlements he visited he found a demoralised clergy, often lonely chaps, feeling abandoned by the official church, and practicing what’s known as concubinage, which means they were indulging in matters of bodily naughtiness with ladies they could not marry.

He also became acquainted with the Cistercian administrative system that created an international federation of monasteries with a fair amount of centralized power, though local houses had a certain amount of independence. These reforms, written up in their “Charter of Charity” would affect him significantly in his own future work. Nobby gained a lot of acolytes and founded houses of his order all over the shop, firstly in Premontre, as well as becoming the Apostle of Antwerp after combatting a heretical preacher called Tanchelm. He became the Archbishop of Magdeburg where he survived a few assassination attempts whilst reforming the lax discipline of his see. In 1126 and in his last years, he was chancellor and adviser to Lothair II, the Holy Roman Emperor, persuading him to lead an army in 1133 to Rome to restore Innocent to the papacy.

Nobby died in 1134, and initially buried in Magdeburg. The abbot of Strahov in Prague was able to claim the body after a few problems such as Magdeburg turning protestant and military fisticuffs and such like. He is now buried there in a glass fronted tomb and was canonised by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, so is now Saint Nobby.

So back to Easby and it is listed in the Domesday survey of 1086 as ‘Asebi’, which was held by Enisan Murdac, an important local landowner who was a vassal of Alan le Roux or ‘the Red’, Earl of Richmond (c 1040–1093) whomst you may remember from the History Bit re: Richmond Castle.

The abbey of St Agatha at Easby was founded in about 1152 by Roald, constable or principal officer of Richmond. It’s thought he was the son of Hasculfus Musard, lord of Tansor in Northamptonshire and of estates in Oxfordshire. He established Easby as a Premonstratensian monastery, only the third such house to be founded in England. In the process, the existing minster community was probably absorbed into the new abbey.

Roald endowed a modest bit of land to Easby which rose slowly, over the centuries and there are over 100 charters documenting it’s rise. Sheep farming seems to have been their main income. Not much is known about the early buildings of the monstery, but there is a re-used 12th century doorway in the west range of the cloister, and surviving fragments of the abbey church probably dating from 1170 or 80. In the 12th and 13th centuries the monastery prospered, with the increase of more Canons and the replacing of the original buildings on a grand scale. In 1198 Egglestone Abbey in nearby Teesdale was founded as Easby’s only daughter house.

During this time Roald’s descendents kept hold of the constableship of Richmond going all lah-de-dah and styling themselves De Burton or De Richmond, but then in the late 13th and 14th centuries they started to sell off their estates for unknown reasons.

In come the Scropes of Bolton, a family from Wensleydale, and landowners of knightly rank. They made the abbey their buriel place and it’s most likely they paid for an extension to the chancel in the 14th century. In 1392 Sir Richard Scrope the 1st Baron of Bolton granted land to the Abbey and it was substantially enlarged. Sir Richard served King Richard II and also fought in the Battle of Crécy under the Black Prince, (Richard II’s Daddy). He had been made Lord Chancellor in 1378, trying to stop Richard II spending all the treasury dosh on wars against the Pesky French, but resigned in 1380 when the government collapsed after all the military failures in France. He regained the position after the Peasants Revolt that had started then, but was sacked by King Richard for non-cooperation in 1382, so went off back to Bolton and rebuilt his castle there. He had a 4 year long dispute with Sir Robert Grosvenor over his armorial bearings for the right for his shield to be emblazoned “Azure, a bend Or.” A court of chivalry decided in his favour, with Geoffrey Chaucer gave evidence in his favour. Although his son William had been executed by King Henry IV for supporting the deposed King Richard, Henry held Sir Richard in high regard and allowed him to keep his lands and titles. He died in 1403 and was buried at Easby Abbey.

A good deal is known about the abbey between 1478 and 1500 when the abbey was subject to inspections on the state of it’s community. Richard Redman the Abbot of Shap and later the Bishop of Ely was the principal of the Premonstratensians in England and he recorded any goings on. In 1482 he discovered a canon called John Nym had run away after being accused of improper bodily naughtiness with a widow, Elizabeth Swales. Redman wanted him found and to face a tribunal, which he was and he did, where he was exonerated. By 1494 he was the Abbot in charge. Redman also observed that although the Abbey was in debt, the buildings were well maintained and food was provided.

In the 16th century little is known about the abbey, but in 1535 the then Abbot, Robert Bampton, drew up a document restating the rights of the Scropes as patrons. Round about this time there were rumours that Englands monasteries would be suppressed and it’s thought he issued this document to obtain the Scropes support for keeping the monastery intact.

That was a vain hope in the end, as the year after Easby Abbey was closed. Their were only 11 canons left by then, so the abbey and it’s lands were let to Lord Scrope of Bolton for £300. Also by this time Richmond was taking a major part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, whereby the north rose up in support of the monasteries. That went tit’s up and by Springtime 1537 the leaders of the uprising had missed the opportunity to defeat the Crown’s forces. It was, of course, Henry VIII in charge at this time, and he was well miffed about the uprising. His pal the Duke of Norfolk was tasked with crushing the rebels, and Henry wrote to him saying “at your repair to … St Agatha and such other places as have made resistance … you shall without pity or circumstance … cause the monks to be tied up [hanged] without further delay. Vengeance was a thing with Henry.

The Abbey was returned to the Scropes but by 1538 most of the buildings had been demolished and the lead roofing stripped. The Scropes gave up the lease in 1550 and the abbey and estates went through several pairs of hands before another Lord Scrope, Henry, bought it back in 1579. There’s no evidence of any repairs being done to the Abbey between the 16th and 18th centuries and an engraving of it in 1721 sees it not much different from it’s present state.

The Scropes passed it on through the family until the death of Lord Emmanuel Scrope in 1630. His daughter Annabel married John Grubham Howe and so the estate passed into the Howe family. In 1700 Sir Scrope Howe (way to go combining the names!) sold it to Bartholomew Burton and then it passed through several different hands until 1816 when Robert Jaques bought it.

Late 18th century and 19th the abbey became known for being a romantic ruin and was painted by several artists including JMW Turner between 1816-18. Then in the 19th century it became the plaything of antiquarians, and Sir William St John Hope partially excavated it in 1885-6. It was still owned by the Jaques family up until 1930 when it was taken over by the Ministry of Works.

And some pictures I took of it to finish up with.

The graveyard


Bishop Auckland & Auckland Castle~ February 2020 ~ Part 1

A cold yet sunny day out in February had Sophie and I visiting the newly refurbished castle at Bishop Auckland, so get your ☕️ and 🍪 and we’ll do

The History Bit *LONG POST ALERT*

There’s 1,134 years to get through, and a lot of Bishops,so this will be a potted history (again) and here we go!

King Alfred, sort of.

In 886 King Alfred (last seen forgiving Uhtred in The Last Kingdom series 4 🙂 )created the See (area of a bishop’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction) of Durham when he gifts “all the lands between the Were and the Tine to Saint Cuthbert, and to those who should minister in his church, for ever, by which they may have enough to live upon, and not be forced to struggle with want and necessity.” In 1000, St. Cuthbert is laid to rest in Durham. Bishop Aldhun, previously known as the Bishop of Lindisfarne, becomes the first Bishop of Durham.

1020~1021 Bishop Eadmund is the first Bishop of Durham to live on the site of Auckland Castle.

Willy Conk

1071 WIlliam the Conqueror appoints William Walcher the first non-Englishman to hold that See, being a Norman. Walcher increases his power by purchasing the Earldom of Northumbria in 1076. He is known as the first of the Prince Bishops but was murdered in 1080, which led William to send an army into Northumbria to harry the region again. He’d already harried the North once. We’re always harried up here.

William St-Calais

1081 and Willy Conqueror bestows the Bishopery on a Norman monk, William de St-Calais. Too many Williams I think meself. He worked very closely with Willy Conk, going on important missions and suchlike. When Will Conk’s son William Rufus acceded to the throne, St-Calais was given special powers (not like Captain America or Superman etc) and becomes a political and military, as well as religious, leader. He can raise taxes, mint coins and hold his own parliaments. These royal privileges allow the Bishop to govern the north on behalf of the king.

1093 ~ Building work starts on Durham Cathedral, which is still on my list to visit! The building is at the cutting edge of Norman technology and pioneers many new building techniques and architectural features and was completed in 40 years.


1153 and we have Bishop Hugh de Puiset, or Pudsey as he was known, a nephew to King Stephen of England and Henry of Blois. He was chief Justiciar (roughly equivalent to Prime Minister) under King Richard 1st and when Dick began his reign in 1189, Pudsey bought the offices of Earl of Northumbria and Sheriff of Northumberland. In 1183 he commissions a survey of all his holdings, known as the Boldon Buke (Buke is a days of Yore word for ‘Book’) similar to the Domesday Book, detailing all the revenues and obligations owed to him, and showing how rich and powerful he was. Pudsey is known as a builder, working on the Cathedral and building a bridge in Durham, and in 1195 builds a great banqueting hall complete with minstrel’s gallery at Auckland. He also owns hunting rights across his vast estates, a unique privilege only belonging to the king elsewhere. Pudsey’s impressive hall allows him to lavishly entertain his retinue and court following the hunt. (Mmmm banquets!) It is the oldest surviving part of the Castle, now St. Peter’s Chapel.

Edward I

In 1283, Prince Edward, son of Henry III has Anthony Bek esconced as Bishop of Durham. Beks comes from a family of knights, and is noticed by Edward through his eclesiatical work. When Edward goes off on a crusade in 1270, Beks goes with him, and continues to work for him in high office on their return. In 1298 he rides off with Edward to fight in the Battle of Falkirk against the Pesky Scots, led by William Wallace (last seen in Braveheart, with half his face painted blue and an Ozzie accent). They win, and in 1308 Beks pays Galfrid, the Bailiff of Auckland, £148 to “….sumptuously build and incastellate the ancient mannor place of Auckland.” A great Throne Room is constructed and a four storey lodging block, as well as a magnificent two story chapel.

The Throne Room
Edward III

Moving on to 1346, and Edward III is on the throne, and off to Crécy to fight the Pesky French, and Bishop Thomas Hatfield is with him, last of the warring Bishops. In the meantime, the Scottish King David II takes advantage of their absence and Descends upon Durham. 6-7,000 English troops led by the Northern Dukes muster in the Deer Park at Auckland Castle before marching to Durham. They defeat the Scottish troops and capture the Scottish king in the battle of Neville’s Cross. (Which you may remember from this post about Crook House)

Cuthbert Tunstall

In 1530 the Bishop of London, Cuthbert Tunstall, was ordained as the Bishop of Durham, succeding Cardinal Wolsey, by papal decree. Henry VIII is our King now, and suspects Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall of treason, largely due to the bishop’s role as advisor to Catherine of Aragon during her divorce trials. Henry had Thomas Cromwell raid Auckland Castle for incriminating evidence against the Bish, but Cuthbert had been forwarned that was going to happen and no treasonable doohickies were found. Tunstall goes on to survive as Prince Bishop through four turbulent Tudor monarchies.

James Pilkington

James Pilkington was the first protestant Bishop of Durham, serving from 1561 until his death in 1576. He is also the first married Bishop when in 1564 he marries Alice Kingsmill. The marriage was carried out privately as Queen Elizabeth is rumoured to dislike married clergy. 

Sir Arthur Hazelrig

From 1642-6 the English Civil War kicked off, the middle part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, In 1646 when this bit was over and Cromwell and his New Model Army had had won and locked up King Charles 1st, the Bishops are stripped of their power and their lands and estates seized. Auckland Castle is sold to Sir Arthur Haselrig, who in spite of being a 2nd Baron, was a parliamentarian who supported Cromwell and became his northern governor, in 1648. Haselrig and his son brought a large amount of property in the north east which included the manor of Bishop Auckland. Haselrig destroyed the medieval Chapel built by Bishop Bek, reputedly with gunpowder, and re-used the stone to begin building his own manor on the site, which never got finished.

John Cosin (1594-1672),

1660 and the monarchy has been restored. Charles II is on the throne and makes John Cosin Bishop of Durham. A loyal Royalist, Cosin had been exiled to France with the court of Queen Henrietta Maria during the English Civil War. Cosin believes that beautiful music, objects and architecture can lead people to God, which leads to accusations of popery, but he was muchly anti the Roman Catholics in his writings. On his arrival at Auckland he sets about repairing what he describes as ‘the ravenous sacrilege of Haselrig.’ He transforms Pudsey’s banqueting hall into St.Peter’s Chapel, (hmm, banqueting or praying, I know which one I’d be doing!) by raising the floor, and replacing the roof. He added the clerestory and screen and commissioned a set of magnificent silver-gilt altar plate (the Auckland Plate), new richly bound copies of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, and a tapestry depicting Solomon’s meeting with the Queen of Sheba to be used in worship. (Not a banquet though is it?).

St.Peter’s Chapel
Chapel Ceiling
Nathaniel Crewe

On to 1674 and here comes Bishop Nathaniel Lord Crewe. His tenure as Bishop of Durham saw the first two new parishes to be erected in England since the Reformation, Stockton-on-Tees and Sunderland in 1712. The Church of the Holy Trinity in Sunderland, now redundant, was the base for responsible local government in the growing port town for the first time since the Borough of Sunderland, created by the Bishops of Durham, was crushed by Cromwell. Bishop Crewe installed the organ, which was built by Father Smith, a German Master Organ maker who had emigrated to England in 1667. It is still in the chapel now.

Bishop Richard Trevor

1771 and we have Bishop Trevor in da house. He buys Jacob and his Twelve Sons, a series of paintings of the Jewish patriarchs by Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán at auction in London for just over £124. He is outbid for the painting of Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son. Instead he commissions a copy of the painting from Arthur Pond. The Bishop hangs the paintings in his newly re-furbished dining room at Auckland Castle. Bish Trevor is a busy boy, as he also spends a fortune remodelling Auckland Castle and the Deer Park, including a new clock tower to the design of Sir Thomas Robinson of Rokeby. Trevor employs Jeremiah Dixon of Cockfield (of Mason-Dixon line fame) to lay out the park. Trevor also builds a new bridge over the River Gaunless and the Park’s deerhouse.

4 of the Zurbarán paintings.
The Dining Room

Shute Barrington

Shute was the son of a 1st Viscount Barrington, and rose up the ranks of religious roles to be ordained as Bishop of Durham in 1791. He employs celebrated architect James Wyatt to remodel Auckland Castle in the fashionable Gothic style, and Wyatt creates an impressive processional route from the State Entrance to the Throne Room. The Bishop’s secretary William Emm records the work, noting that ‘no expense has been spared or thought too great to render it comfortable and fit for the residence of a Bishop of Durham.’ These remodelled rooms are used for social occasions, allowing the Bishop to entertain and influence his wide circle of acquaintances. (Mucho banqueting for this chap I think!)

William van Mildert

William van Mildert was the last of the Prince-Bishops. ( there are still Bishops, just not Princey ones.) As part of the University of Durham’s foundation, behind which he was the driving force, he gave Durham Castle to the university, where it became the home of University College. That left Auckland Castle the sole residence of the Bishop of Durham. He was often described as a ‘stormy petrel’ on account of his outspoken expression of his views. In 1831 he naffed off Reformists by leading Bishops in the House of Lords to vote down the Reform Bill. He believed reform would cause ‘strife and disunion, envy and discontent…seditions and heresies, the spirit of insubordination and contempt of all lawful authority.’ For these views the bishops were declared enemies of the people and the people of Durham burnt an effigy of him at the gates of Auckland Castle.


1875 Sees J.B Lightfoot in the post, he was mostly a scholar and theologian and wrote lots and lots of books and articles on religious stuff. He is also responsible for adding stained glass windows and a carved oak altarpiece depicting the lives of the region’s most significant saints, including St Cuthbert and St Hilda. 

Brooke Westcott.

1891 and Brooke Foss Westcott is ordained as the Bishop of Durham. A man with a social conscience he brokers a meeting in Auckland Castle between the mine owners and the union leaders which ends a bitter three month miners’ strike. Calling it the happiest day of his life, he is subsequently the first Bishop of Durham to be invited to address the Durham Miners’ Gala, a tradition continued by many later Bishops.

Hensley Henson

1920 and the controversial Bishop Hensley Henson takes over the dioscese of Durham. A chap not backwards in coming forward, and at Oxford when he was studying he was nicknamed Coxley Cocksure. He was a good guy though, and in 1938 publically criticises the British government for their appeasement of dictators Hitler and Mussolini. He is one of the few public figures brave enough to condemn prime minister Neville Chamberlain for what he terms ‘doing business with a gang of murderers.’ Throughout the 1930s Henson continues to raise awareness of the plight of Jews in Germany.

Bishop Hensley’s desk in his study
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Ian Thomas Ramsey
by Bassano Ltd

Dr Ian Ramsey was a clever chap. He came to Durham as Bishop in 1966 having been a Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at Oxford University. In spite of that he becomes known as ‘the people’s Bishop’ as he is prone to going out into local communities and engaging with people from all walks of life. His speeches in the House of Lords form a significant contribution to the rapidly changing social and political life of Britain in the 1960s, and he speechificates on many topics from advances in medical science to rising hemlines. He is featured in ITV documentary ‘A World of my Own’ in 1969.

Bishop David Jenkins

Another controversial Bishop, David Jenkins is ordained in 1984, under great scrutiny. He had done an interview for the ‘Credo’ tv programme, and the press were reporting he denied the existence of Jesus. The press misrepresented him there, no surprise. He said in an interview: “I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if he wanted. But I don’t think he did.” He also naffed off Margaret Thatcher by speaking out about the miners strike, asking for compromise and condemning government policies which are ‘indifferent to poverty and powerlessness.’ Thatcher refers to him as ‘cuckoo’.

Brenda and Michael Turnbull.

In the ‘there’s always one’ category, in 1994 Bishop Michael Turnbull was the man in the hot seat. Just before he was enthroned as Bishop, (they still call it that even when. being non-princey) he was asked to give his thoughts on homosexuality in the clergy, and he said it was incompatible withfull-time clergy. Then the News of The World reported Turnbull had previously, in 1968 been convicted of an act of gross indecency with a Yorkshire Farmer. Anyways he was sorry, so he still got the job, and did good works. Brenda, his wife, is the first to develop the castle as a venue, with an exhibition space and facilities for conferences, weddings and other occasions.

Back in 1948 a new Church Commission was set up, and took over the ownership of Auckland Castle, it’s fixtures and fittings. In 1997 they decided to sell the Zurbarán paintings bought by Bishop Trevor which have hung in the Castle since the 1750s. This is vigorously resisted in a fourteen year campaign led by Bishop Auckland Civic Society. The Commissioners don’t stop trying though and again in 2010 they intend to put the paintings up for auction at Sotheby’s for an estimated £15 million.

Jonathon Ruffer

Luckily in 2012, financier and philanthropist Jonathon Ruffer decided to invest in County Durham. He donated £1 million to the Durham Foundation and in 2013 he donated £15 million to preserve Auckland Castle through the Auckland Castle Trust, which he is the chairman of, this included the preservation of the 12 paintings. He donated £18 million to restore the Bishop’s Palace and created a museum on the history of Christianity and faith in Britain.

I think that’s enough for this week, but we’ll continue having a look at Bishop Auckland next time, so stay tooned!

refs:- lots of wiki pages on Bishops


Tynemouth Castle & Priory ~ November 2019

A cold but sunny day had Sophie and I opt for a short outing nearby to Tynemouth Priory.

Get your cuppa ready, here comes

The History Bit. *Long post alert* skimmers and those of you with short attention spans should move right along to the pictures 🙂

Firstly, as fabulous as I am, condensing 2000 years of convoluted Northumbrian history in one blog post is not an easy task, so bear with me and a potted version will have to suffice.

The Priory stands on a headland known by ancient Britains as Pen Bal Crag, the literal translation of that is, unsurprisingly ‘The head of the rampart on the rock’. It overlooks the North Sea and the River Tyne, and combined with Tynemouth Castle was once one of the largest fortified areas in England. The moated castle towers, gatehouse and keep are incorporated into the ruins of a Benedictine priory, where the early Kings of Northumbria were buried. Note for my Colonial brethren, before we were a United Kingdom, we were a few small kingdoms, a bit like Game of Thrones. Without the Dragons, although maybe…. but that’s a story for another day! Onwards McDuff….

Not much is known about it’s early origins, although some Roman stones were found at the site, there’s no other evidence to say they were in occupation there. So we have to start in the 7th century when Edwin of Northumbria possibly founded the priory.

Britain peoples circa 600

Edwin, (586 – 12 October 632/633) was King of Deira and Bernicia which you can see on the map there. They later became Northumbria, which still exists though the borders are different now, and the Priory is now in Tyne & Wear. He was King from 616 until he was killed by Penda, King of Mercia, and Cadwallon ap Cadfan, the pesky Welsh King of Gwynedd, in the Battle of Hatfield Chase, after which Edwin was venerated as a saint. He had converted to Christianity and was baptised in 627. He’s an interesting chap, but it’s only possible he founded the priory, so we’ll leave him there.

In 634 Oswald, son of the Bernician and later Deiran King Æthelfrith, came to the throne, and united the two into Northumbria after defeating Cadwallon in battle at Heavenfield near Hexam. He was also a Christian convert, and was according to Bede a good and saintly King. Unfortunatley his downfall came about at the hands of the pagan King of Mercia, Penda, who, in 642 defeated and killed Oswald at the Battle of Maserfield in Oswestry, where his body was dismembered and his head and limbs were placed on stakes. He’s a saint too now.

Oswine was next up, his Dad Osric was a cousin of Edwin and a King of Diera, and Oswine’s succession in 644 split Northumbria and they became Diera and Bernicia yet again, with Oswiu, son of Æthelfrith, becoming King in Bernicia. There were 7 years of peace between them, then Oswiu declared war on Oswine. Oswine didn’t want a fight so he scarpered off to his pal Earl Humwald who lived in North Yorkshire, but Humwald betrayed him and gave him over to Oswiu’s soldiers, who promptly killed him. Oswine was buried at Tynemouth, with his relics later being transferred to the Priory. And guess what, he’s another Saint! (In 1103 the Bishop of Durham, Ralph Flambard took the remains from the Priory chapel, which was in disrepair, and interred them in St.Albans Abbey, Hertfordshire. A long way from home).

Onwards to 789-790 when Osred II was King in Northumbria but for a very short time. He was deposed in favour of Æthelred and exiled to the Isle of Man. For some reason he returned in 792 when the Anglo Saxon Chronicle reports that he was “apprehended and slain on the eighteenth day before the calends ( 1st day of every month) of October. His body was deposited at Tynemouth Priory.

Cracking on to 800 and the pesky Danes plundered the Priory, after which the monks there fortified the place enough to deter the Danes next visit in 832. But 3 years later, back they came and massacred the Nuns of St.Hildas who had gone there for safety, and destroyed the church and monastery. They plundered the Priory again in 870, and destroyed it in 875, leaving only the small parish church of St.Marys.

On to the reign of King Edward the Confessor who ruled from 1042 – 1066 when Tostig Godwinson, Earl of Northumberland made Tynemouth his fortress. The priory by now was abandoned, and St. Oswine’s buriel place was forgotten. Now St.Oswine was fed up of being forgotten so he appeared to a hermit novice monk living at the priory and showed him where to find his tomb, so he was re-discovered in 1065. Tostig decided to re-found the Priory, but got himself killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 so that idea went tits up.

The third King to be buried at the Priory was Malcolm III, King of Scotland from  1058 to 1093.. After ravaging Northumberland in 1093, due to a dispute with King William Rufus ( “the Red”, king of the English (1087–1100) he was ambushed on his way back North by Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria, who was mightily naffed off that Malcolm had devastated his lands. The ambush occurred near Alnwick, on 13th November 1093, and Malcolm was slain by Arkil Morel, steward of Bambrough Castle. This became known as the Battle of Alnwick. Malcolm’s body was buried at Tynemouth Priory, but later sent North to Dunfermline Abbey when his son Alexander reigned. Shakespear based Malcolm in Macbeth on this King Malcolm.

Two years later and Robert de Mowbray took refuge in Tynemouth Castle after rebelling against King William II. The King beseiged it and Mowbray was dragged from there and imprisoned for life for treason. In 1110 a new church was completed on the site. It is thought that a castle consisting of earthen ramparts and a wooden stockade was already in place by 1095. The stone building we can see now didn’t happen until 1296 when the Prior applied for and was granted royal permission to surround the monastery with walls of stone, with a gatehouse and barbican being added on the landward side in 1390.

A little before then in 1312 King Edward II and his pet sycophant and possible boyfriend Piers Gaveston took refuge in the castle before fleeing to Scarborough Castle by sea. His  illegitimate son Adam Fitzroy was buried at the Priory on 30th September 1322.

Then along came Henry VIII and the dissolution of the monasteries. Tynemouth Priory copped it in 1538 when a chap called Robert Blakeney would be the last Prior. There were 15 monks and 3 novices living there as well, but the Priory and it’s lands were taken over by Henry and gifted to Sir Thomas Hilton. The monastery was dismantled but the Prior’s house was left standing. Henry kept the castle though and in 1545 new artillery fortifications commenced with the advice from Sir Richard Lee, Henry’s military engineer, and two Italian engineers, Gian Tommaso Scala and Antonio da Bergamo. Gunports were put in place in the castle walls.

In 1564 when his father was guardian of the castle, Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland was born in the castle. His Dad, the 8th Earl, was responsible for maintaining the navigation light, a coal fired brazier on top of one of the castle turrets. It’s not known when that practice began but is mentioned in a source in 1582. The Earl and his successors in that office were entitled to receive dues from passing ships in return. Unfortunately the stairs up to the turret collapsed in 1559 preventing the fire from being lit, so in 1665 the then Governor, Colonel Villiers obtained a grant of 1s toll from every English ship and 3s from every foreign ship for the maintenance of the light, and built a new lighthouse at the north-east corner of the Castle promontory. It was rebuilt in 1775 and by 1807 had upgraded from coal fire to a revolving red light via an oil fired argand light in 1802. It was demolished in 1898 having been superceded by St.Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay to the north.

So modern times now, we’re nearly at the end. (yay!) At the end of the 19th century new buildings and barracks had been added to the castle though many were removed after a fire in 1936. In WW2 it was used as a coastal defence installation to guard the mouth of the Tyne. Restored sections are open to the public. More recently the modern buildings of Her Majesty’s Coastguard were on site and opened by Prince Charles in 1990. The coastguard station was closed in 2001, being replaced by digital equipment at a Bridlington station that can monitor the sea from Berwick to the Humber Estuary. New technology sweeping away the past, but it was always thus.

And that’s the lot, it’s now managed by English Heritage.

Well done whoever got to the end, you are my very favourite visitor 😘

So here we go walking up to the site, and there’s the castle and walls directly ahead, looks imposing. Well I was imposed anyhoo.

Into the keep where there’s a little side room you get your ticket, or show your card if you’re a English Heritage member (I am).

A tantalising view of the Priory before you go through the iron gate

it looks so chunky and indestructable, even though it’s destructed!

then you go through the arch and to the left

to the right

and then through the arch you come to the KAPOW view, which I just had to do in B&W

there’s a little archway and door you can see at the bottom there

which leads to the 15th Century Oratory of St.Mary, or the Percy Chapel. It has a ceiling decorated with numerous coats of arms and other symbols, stained-glass side windows, and a small rose window in the east wall, above the altar.

This is the view of it looking back, you can see the little chapel all intact.

Interesting details on the boards around the monastery.

That will do I think, but there are more photo’s of the Priory HERE and this includes the restored gun battery and cannon.

All pics are embiggenable with a click.