Tynemouth Priory and Castle (1)

Posted: July 22, 2015 in Dark ages, History, Northumberland, Saxon History, UK
Aerial view of Tynemouth priory and Castle today

Aerial view of Tynemouth priory and Castle today

During my recent visit to Northumberland, I visited Tynemouth Priory, which is situated on a high rocky headland on the north shore of the mouth of the River Tyne. It was a horrible wet morning and I could not help but feel sorry for those for whom this had been their home. I mentioned this to the people in the information centre and they said that there were actually letters from medieval monks in the Priory describing how they hated the place because of its weather and because the waves crashing on the rocks below would keep them awake at night.


There is evidence that the site was occupied during the Iron Age, but apart from a few small remains it doesnot appear to have been occupied during the Roman period.

Iron Age round-house

Iron Age round-house

It is believed that Tynemouth Priory was founded in the early seventh century. It is recorded that in 651 Oswin, King of Deira, was buried there after being murdered. He was subsequently canonised and the shrine of St Oswin became a site of pilgrimage. He was the first of three Kings to be buried in the Priory. The second was King Osred of Northumbria, also a victim of murder, in 792.
In the ninth century, the Priory was repeatedly attacked by the Danes and despite work to strengthen the defences was eventually destroyed in 875. There seems to have been no inclination to rebuild the Priory at this time and so the site lay unused for about 150 years.
In the reign of Edward the confessor, the land was owned by Tostig, Earl of Northumberland and brother of the future King Harold. He rebuilt Tynemouth as a fortress. During this time the tomb of St Oswin was rediscovered and Earl Tostig planned to found a new monastery on the site. However, in 1065 he had a falling out with his brother, who persuaded the King to exile Tostig from country. Tostig first sought sanctuary on the continent and then with King Malcolm III of Scotland. In 1066, together with the Scots and Norwegians he invaded north-east England. It was an invasion that was to change the course of English history as he chose to invade just a few weeks before William of Normandy would launch his invasion of the south of England. The newly crowned King Harold marched North to meet them and defeated them at the battle of Stamford Bridge, at which Tostig was killed. It was in the midst of the celebrations of this victory that King Harold received the news that William of Normandy has landed in Sussex.
With no progress on the re-founding of the monastery the remains of St Oswin were moved to the monastery at Jarrow.

7th century broach found on site

7th century broach found on site

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