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 â€“ 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.

refs:- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tynemouth_Castle_and_Priory



Preston Tower ~ October 2019

The history bit.

Built in 1392, Preston Tower was built in a time of warfare between England and Scotland. By the time of Agincourt in 1415, it was one of 78 Pele Towers and Tower Houses in the county. One of its owners, Sir Guiscard Harbottle was killed in hand to hand combat with King James IV at the battle of Flodden in 1513.

The Battle of Flodden, Flodden Field, or occasionally Branxton (Brainston Moor) was a battle fought on 9 September 1513 during the War of the League of Cambrai between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland, resulting in an English victory. The battle was fought in Branxton in the county of Northumberland in northern England, between an invading Scots army under King James IV, who had taken advantage of the fact that Henry VIII was on a jolly in France, and an English army commanded by the Earl of Surrey. In terms of troop numbers, it was the largest battle fought between the two kingdoms. James IV was killed in the battle, becoming the last monarch from the British Isles to die in battle.

Although the rest of England enjoyed peace and prosperity in the 16th century, the border lands between the two countries were constantly under attack by raiders known as Reivers. So instead of comfortable Tudor manor houses, the seats of the Border families still had to have 7 foot thick walls and tunnel-vaulted rooms to defend their people and livestock. The main entrance was usually on the first floor in order to make it harder for the pesky Scots to break down the door. Eventually in 1603 the Union of Scotland and England came about under James I, and peace finally came to the Borders.

At this time half the tower was pulled down and the stone used for farm buildings on the estate, but the present Tower is the original structure. Now owned by GJ Baker Cresswell, the property is uninhabited but furnished as might have been in the 14th century. A later addition is a clock with two faces & an hourly strike audible from afar, with mechanism on view.

So on with the pictures! It was a lovely autmn day, with a crisp blue sky when we visited.

Preston Tower

As you enter, the guard room and prison is on the left

Going up to the next floor, you can see the thickness of the stone walls

One of the windows on the 2nd floor, they don’t let arrows in!

The south window of the main hall, only 6 inches wide. If a man climbed up to it he couldn’t get in. If the raiders built a fire next to the tower wall to smoke out the residents (this was called ‘scumfishing’) the small window could easily be blocked.

Bedroom and living room on the first floor, furnished as they might have been around 1400

On the second floor there is the Flodden room, which is just an empty room with interesting extracts from border history fastened to the walls. For any medieval geeks reading this I’ll leave a link to the full album at the end of the posts so you can see them.

One can go up to the top of the tower, which is 200ft above sea level and there are magnificent views over the countryside.

Compass to show what you can see from the roof top.

So that’s the Tower, but stay tooned as next time we’ll have a look at the house and grounds.

Fraggle Report~St.Albans Cathedral~ May 2018

*Attention span warning*– long post requiring 5 minutes reading ability. 😀


Back in May, regular readers may remember, Phil and I went down memory lane to ST. Albans in Hertfordshire. Neither of us had ever visited the Cathedral before when we lived and worked there, so we made up for that, new memories :).

The History Bit. Maybe.

Ok, this is how it goes, give or take the odd legend.  Alban lived in what was known as Verulamium back in the 3rd or 4th century. ( see the post on that HERE).  Around that time, Christians were being persecuted by those nice Roman chaps who came to stay in England, and Alban met a Christian priest called Amphibalus who was being persecuted by said Romans.  Alban took him into his house to hide him, and became so impressed with the priest’s faith and teaching that he began to emulate him in worship, and eventually became a Christian himself.  Of course, the Romans found out where Amphibalus was hiding and came to arrest him. Alban took the priests cloak, pretended to be him, and was arrested in Amphibalus place.   When the judge found out his deception, he was really naffed off that Alban would impersonate a blasphemer and told him if he didn’t stop being a Christian and start re-worshiping the pagan gods, then he would have to endure all the punishments that Amphibalus would have got.

So Alban refused, as you do when aiming for sainthood, and the judge ordered him to be whipped good and proper, which he was, but apparently endured it joyfully. (There’s a name for that I think 😀 ). So off he went to be executed, but on the way to the spot where the deed was to be done, they came across an uncrossable river, the River Ver, whos only bridge was packed with rubber~neckers, come to see him off as it were. The execution party couldn’t get through the herd of people, so Alban, who wanted to be a saint quick smart, raised his eyes to heaven, whereupon the river dried up allowing his party to cross over.

His executioner was a bit upset about it all really, and decided to lay down his sword and stand with Alban to suffer with him or instead of him, which was a nice gesture really I think. The other executioners were a bit purturbed by then too, and wouldn’t pick up the sword.  Anyway, they were in this beautiful field of wildflowers and went up a little hillock where Alban said he was thirsty so said a prayer to God for water. Would you believe it!? A spring of water burst out of the ground and everyone got a good gargle of it. At that point, they struck off Albans head and that of the chap who’d laid down his sword. In my mind maybe it would have been more sensible for the first executioner to keep the bloody sword and chop off the heads of the other guys as they were drinking, thereby saving both their lives, but that’s possibly why I’m not a saint. The guy who chopped off their heads didn’t fare so well himself, as after the fatal swipe, his eyes popped out of his head.

The ending of the tale changes a little later on when it’s said that after Alban’s head was chopped off, it rolled down the hill, and a well sprang up where it landed. The Cathedral stands near where Alban’s martyrdom happened. Amphibalus was later caught by the Romans and also martyred, so it was all a bit of a waste as far as Alban is concerned, daft bugger.

Of course, there are more holes in this story than in a colander, for a start, Amphibalus wasn’t actually named by the earlier historians, i.e Bede & Gildas, nor was his martyrdom mentioned. But then Geoffrey of Monmouth read the accounts, and did his own version in his  Historia Regum Britanniae  (History of the Kings of Britain) and added the name Amphibalus, which is actually Latin for ‘cloak’! to Alban’s story, so for all we know his name could have been Bob. (The History of the Kings of Britain is now usually acknowledged as a literary work of myth, containing little reliable history as it includes all the stories about King Arthur, Merlin et al.  Sadly those stories are made up of legends and fabrications from the mind of our Geoff, but they make for great novels and movies 🙂 )

There has been some sort of memorial at the martyrdom point since the mid 4th century, with both Bede and Gildas mentioning a church or shrine to Alban, although a later historian, Matthew Paris claimed it was destroyed in 586 by the Saxons.  A Benedictine Monastery was then built there by Offa 2nd of Mercia in 793 and sacked by the Danes around 890. There were intentions to rebuild the Abbey in 1005 but was thwarted by further Viking raids in 1016.

The Normans came and built the first building on site that has bits which are still part of the building that stands today.  The tower is the only 11th century great crossing tower still standing in England. But it has been through a lot of upheaval and rebuilding. Earthquake damage, (1250), stonework collapsing, (1323),the Dissolution of the Monasteries,(1539), the Great Storm, (1703). In the 1700’s a scheme to demolish the Abbey and build a smaller church was put forward when it was thought the expense of the repairs was just too much to bear.

But in the 1800’s bit by bit repairs got done, unfortunately by Lord Grimthorpe, (see post re him HERE) who at best was an amateur architect, but as he footed a large part of the bill, got to make decisions on how the Abbey would look. He demolished parts that didn’t need demolishing, mixed different architectural styles, especially in the windows, and used heavy cement that cracked, and still does. The repairs to the Cathedral are ongoing.

That’s a really short potted history, and in fact the Cathedrals long and involved story is quite fascinating, I strongly suggest a visit to the excellent website they have, www.stalbanscathedral.org but I’m not here to write a novel, I’m here to show you some pictures of it. 🙂

St.Albans Shrine.


The Watching Loft, where monks and townsmen kept guard over Alban’s Shrine.


The shrine of Saint Bob 🙂 Oh alright, Saint Amphibalus

Love the little teddy bear sitting in it.


The nave is 85m long, and so the longest in England

The Nave


The nave statues are of seven martyrs, sculpted by Rory Young and installed in the niches of the medieval nave screen in 2015. Alban and Bob are in there 🙂

Seven Martyrs


The cathedral has one of the oldest and most extensive series of medieval wall paintings surviving today, ranging from the late 12th century to the 16th century. Which was quite amazing when you know how much damage has been done to the place over the hundreds of years,



This marvellous work is known as the Wallingford Screen

The Wallingford Screen

Completed in 1484, by Abbot William of Wallingford, though the statues are replacements of 1884-9 for ones destroyed during the reformation & dissolution. St.Alban and St.Amphibalus statues stand either side of the altar.

It has an amazing ceiling above it too. It’s timber vaulted and was painted between 1420 and 1440.


The rose window by Alan Younger was added to Grimthorpe’s north transept rose window and unveiled in 1989 by Diana, Princess of Wales.

Rose WIndow, Centurian, a bishop’s tomb and girlies.

Those are the highlights and there’s more pictures of it HERE 

The pictures as always are embiggenable,

oh go on then, just a couple more 🙂



Stay tooned for more down memory lane. 🙂

Jarrow Hall, Anglo Saxon village and Bede Museum ~ November 2017 ~ Part 1

The History Bit

Known as The Venerable Bede,(AD 673-735,) Bede was an author, scholar, skilled linguist and translator who also composed works on astronomical timekeeping and the motions of the sun, Earth and Moon. He was widely regarded as the ‘father of English history’ as his most famous work, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People is one of the most important original references on Anglo-Saxon history. This work also played a key role in the development of an English national identity. He was an English monk who lived at the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Wearmouth-Jarrow, a double monastery at Jarrow and Monkwearmouth, England. and the Bede museum  tells the story of Bede and his time, from the beginnings of the Anglo-Saxon period through Bede’s life, death and extraordinary legacy.

Sophie and I wanted to go somewhere nearby, and as the museum had recently been reopened after a year of being shut down for lack of funds, this is where we went.

When we arrived the chap at reception asked us if we’d come to hear the lecture on that day, we hadn’t known there was one but said yes anyway and went in to see what it was all about. It was a fascinating talk by the Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of York and director of the Sutton Hoo Research Project Professor Martin Carver, and his talk was on the Anglo Saxon buriel site at Sutton Hoo. He was really interesting and humorous with it. Afterwards we had lunch at the cafe and then went around the Bede Museum itself.

The Venerable Bede


The museum takes you through the times that Bede lived in

One of the statues by a timeline display showing Bede’s vision of English origins.


6th-century inhumation grave from Norton, Cleveland,


replica of anglo Saxon helmet


replica of the Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving manuscript of the nearly complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate. Three versions were originally produced in the double monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in around 700AD, and it is believed Bede had a personal involvement in their creation.  Commissioned by Ceolfrid in 692  the double monastery raised 2000 head of cattle to produce the vellum pages of these huge, beautifully illuminated manuscripts. Two versions have been lost and the only survivor, from which the Jarrow Hall copy and only one other have been made, now resides in the Laurentian Library in Florence.


The Franks Casket is a small Anglo-Saxon whale’s bone chest from the early 8th century, The casket is densely decorated with knife-cut narrative scenes in flat two-dimensional low-relief and with inscriptions mostly in Anglo-Saxon runes. Generally reckoned to be of Northumbrian origin, it is of unique importance for the insight it gives into early Anglo-Saxon art and culture. Both identifying the images and interpreting the runic inscriptions has generated a considerable amount of scholarship. The imagery is very diverse in its subject matter and derivations, and includes a single Christian image, the Adoration of the Magi, along with images derived from Roman history (Emperor Titus) and Roman mythology (Romulus and Remus), as well as a depiction of at least one legend indigenous to the Germanic peoples: that of Weyland the Smith. It has also been suggested that there may be an episode from the Sigurd legend, an otherwise lost episode from the life of Weyland’s brother Egil, a Homeric legend involving Achilles, and perhaps even an allusion to the legendary founding of England by Hengist and Horsa. The inscriptions “display a deliberate linguistic and alphabetic virtuosity; though they are mostly written in Old English and in runes, they shift into Latin and the Roman alphabet; then back into runes while still writing Latin”. Some are written upside down or back to front. This is a replica, the original being in the British Museum.


There are several pieces of medieval stonework on display

This is a fragment of cross arm and cross head dating from the first half of the 8th century.


as well as stained glass from the same time period.

Next time we’ll visit the Anglo Saxon farm and village, so stay tooned!

St. Andrews Church, Bolam ~ September 2017

Last week I posted about mine and Sophie’s trip to Bolam Lake, and for regular followers you’ll know that in the afternoon the clouds came over and we decided to visit St.Andrews Church, which is only around the corner and a minute or so away from the lake. In spite of that, and in spite of having been there before, I managed to not find it and got lost for 1/2 an hour. I’m blaming the sat-nav for confusing me!  Anyway eventually we got there and took a few pictures.

The church is ancient, a grade I listed building, and has been there for 1000 years. 

The tower was built at that time, by the Saxons, with a belfry at the top. The main belfry window opening has a classic Saxon rounded shaft in the middle, said to be made by applying wood turning techniques.

The porch’s round arched doorway has 13th century dogtooth carving around it and reaching all the way down to the ground . The pattern at its best is usually shaped like four flower petals. The outermost nutmeg carving is more a 12th century style. Above it in the church wall is a reused gravestone.

The Chancel

The chancel is typically long and narrow, with an east window of three lancets, which were glazed in about 1880 by F.R. Wilson. The original Saxon chancel was lengthened in the 13th century by the Normans and parts of the former sanctuary arch can be seen, reused. The beautiful altar frontal was donated in 1909 by Augusta in memory of her brother Charles Perkins who died at 2am on25th August 1905.

The South Aisle and at the end the Shortflatt Chapel.


The chapel, currently referred to as the Shortflatt Chapel or sometimes Dent chapel, is now so named because it was built by Robert de Reymes, who had inherited half the barony of Bolam. He was a knight and lived at Shortflatt, as did his descendants for the following three hundred years. Shortflatt eventually passed to the Dent and now the Hedley-Dent family.

Robert rebuilt Shortflatt Tower in stone with a licence to crenellate in 1305, after it had been burnt down. The town of Bolam was granted a market and a fair the same year, but Bolam castle was described as dilapidated. He died in 1324 and there is an effigy of him (without legs) in the chapel. It is thought the effigy was shortened to fit in the niche, which originally almost certainly would have contained a statue of The Virgin Mary.

On April 30th 1942, a German bomber  was on a bombing run over England when he was chased by 2 RAF fighters, in trying to get away he offloaded his bombs and flew low. He didn’t make it, but one of his bombs flew into the chancel. On 5th May the vicar’s wife, wrote to her son Flying Officer John Hutton stationed in the Middle East:
‘…Jerry paid us a visit at 4am May 1st. He was being hotly pursued by two of our fighters who were on his tail. He was very low down, and discharged the whole of his load in order to get away, but he failed and lies at Longhorsley. 4 bombs 2 1/2 tons in all. One fell, just missing the walnut tree, which still stands, 30yds from houses wall. An unexploded one lay in the chancel, it had passed through the lower part of the wall in the H>D> Chapel, smashing all the furnishings in that part of the church, none of any value, injuring some windows…the remaining two bombs only made large craters in Windmill field…’.

The churchyard has no less than 16 listed monuments, including the gate, but mostly ancient graves.

The oldest legible inscription on a headstone is dated 1697 and reads:
Hic jacet corpus Marci Ansley de Gallow-hill. Obiit II de Aprilis anno etatis……: salutis humanae 1697.

I think most photographers like a good graveyard to explore, and St.Andrews is one of the most interesting. And old!

Well that’s enough for a post I think. For more of the medieval stonework, mushrooms and ancient graves, the full album can be seen HERE

For more interesting info on the church, the website is HERE

Stay tooned 🙂




Fraggle Report ~ Bamburgh Castle ~ Part 1

Well we’re cracking on through 2016, May done and onto June. Back in June 2015 Sophie and I had our first trip to the Farne Islands to see the puffins, and of course we wanted to do that again in 2016, so booked a trip for our weekend outing. Unfortunately when we got there the weather was so awful that the boat trips were cancelled. A bit disappointing after a 1&1/2hr drive, but Bamburgh Castle is only a mile up the road so a quick change of plan and off we went.

THE HISTORY BIT, mostly from wiki with added extras

There is archaeological evidence of people living in this are from 10,000BC, along with Bronze Age (2,400 -700BC) burials nearby and bits of pottery dating to the Iron Age (700 BC – 43AD). Built on a dolerite outcrop, the location was previously home to a fort of the native Britons known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the British kingdom of the region from the realm’s foundation in c.420 until 547, the year of the first written reference to the castle. In that year the citadel was captured by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia (Beornice) and became Ida’s seat. It was briefly retaken by the Britons from his son Hussa during the war of 590 before being relieved later the same year.

His grandson Æðelfriþ (I mean, who thought up these names!!??) passed it on to his wife Bebba, from whom the early name Bebbanburgh was derived. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. William II (a badass old bugger) unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by its owner, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. After Robert was captured, his wife (a bit of a girl by all accounts),continued the defence until coerced to surrender by the king’s threat to blind her husband.

Bamburgh then became the property of the reigning English monarch. Henry II probably built the keep. (The Castles own website says the keep is Norman) As an important English outpost, the castle was the target of occasional raids from the pesky Scots. During the civil wars at the end of King John’s reign, it was under the control of Philip of Oldcoates. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster (d. 1700) was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle, were sold to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham (husband of his sister Dorothy) under an Act of Parliament to settle the debts.

The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration.

The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and is opened to the public. It also hosts weddings and corporate events. It has been used as a film location since the 1920s, featuring in films such as Ivanhoe (1982), El Cid (1961), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Elizabeth (1998) and both the 1971 and 2015 adaptions of Macbeth.

Rear Aspect

The grounds

View over to the Farne Islands

Ready to repel borders

The Castle Front

The Norman keep


There are still archaeological digs going on around there, and as they have found bones from the Bronze Age we were there on the day that they were being re buried, they had a proper funeral for them.

View over Bamburgh village, standing on the ramparts,

Where we should have been!

More to come so stay tuned 🙂

The Shillington Church Report

During the Scarecrow Festival we came across All Saints Church, which as well as being a beauty, has a really great view. The church stands on a hill of domed chalk, and is built of ironstone (an iron rich sandstone with a mineral giving a greenish colour which darkens to brown on exposure to light).  It has been a place of worship for over 1000 years, with the present building dating from 1400 with only minor changes.

We met the vicar while we were there and asked to take photo’s, he showed us some of the interesting stuff.

Firstly a few of the church’s pillars have graffiti on, not modern as they resemble medieval drawings and have been there since anyone can remember, but no-one knows what they mean or who did them.



Tantalising mysteries!

He also pointed us to the crypt, which is thought to have held a relic, but no-one knows what that was either!

On the way to the crypt
On the way to the crypt

That’s well old English, and I can just about make out ‘Here lyeth Thomas..’ but that’s it!

In the crypt
In the crypt

spidey home
spidey home

Saints in hiding
Saints in hiding

Crypt staircase
Crypt staircase

Back upon the main hall there are some beautiful stain glass windows



and simple ones too..shillchurch-3

The chancel and nave are separated by a rood screen..common to late medieval churches

rood screen

The ceiling was amazing..


and the light throughout the church was lush..





Outside there was a graveyard..



and the view was spectacular. The fuji has a panorama setting so I tried it out..

fuji pano
fuji pano

but I also turned to portrait pano, which whilst it doesn’t encompass as much, seems better to me..


so that’s the end of my visit down South, it will be winter when I get back there, or at least late autumn, so it was nice to have blue sky days.

laters gaters