Archive for the ‘Northumberland’ Category

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Warkworth Castle is, to my mind anyway, one of the most complete and finest examples of a medieval castle in England. It is built on a hill contained within a loop of the River Croquet, just a few miles inland from the river’s entry into the North Sea at Amble.

Gatehouse

Gatehouse

The castle as it is seen today dates from around 1200 and was built by Roger Fitz Roger, Sheriff of Northumberland. It replaced an earlier castle which had suffered as a result of the Scottish invasion of 1173.  King Edward I stayed at Warkworth in 1292 during his campaigns against the Scots. In 1328   it passed into the hands of the Percy family (formerly Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland).

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The Tower dates from 1377 and was built by the first Earl of Northumberland. The castle passed to the Crown when the sixth Earl died in 1527 and although Crown officers continued to use it but by 1550 it was described as falling into decay. It was restored to the Percy family in 1557 and they set about repairing the decay, but Warkworth continued to pass between the Crown and the Percy family as the family’s fortunes waxed and waned.

Tower Chapel

Tower Chapel

During the civil war, the castle was held by Parliamentary forces and when they withdrew they were ordered to make sure the castle could not be held by any other force. It is recorded that materials from the castle were used in buildings elsewhere in the area. In the 19th century the Percy family began to renovate the castle. The Dukes of Northumberland, now living at Alnwick, would bring guests to Warkworth for picnics in the Great Tower. The castle passed into State guardianship in 1922 and into the hands of English Heritage in 1984.

Stairways to upper floors

Stairways to upper floors

 

Remains of passage from lower ward to tower bailry

Remains of passage from lower ward to tower bailry

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It is not certain when the first castle was built at Alnwick. It was probably between 1070 and 1090 as it is recorded that King Malcolm III of Scotland tried to take the castle in 1093 and was killed at the battle that ensued. Some remnants of both an 11th century and a 12th century stone castle can be found in the castle today, but it is likely that the original castle was a wooden structure. Most of the castle that can be seen today dates from the time when the Percy family took control of Alnwick after purchasing the land from Bishop Bek of Durham in 1309. Baron Percy retitled himself ‘1st Lord Percy of Alnwick’. Many of the early lords of Alnwick carried out redevelopment and improvement. It is reputed that the 2nd Lord used money obtained from ransom of Scottish prisoners following the Battle of Neville’s Cross to finance his redevelopments.

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Despite the important part that the Percy family play in the history of England, Alnwick itself seems to have been untroubled by these events. By the 16th century the family had moved south and the changing political and military scene meant that Alnwick was no longer so important as a garrison castle and it began to fall into disrepair. So much so that it was used as a prisoner of war camp during the English civil war.A reference to the castle in 1750 mentons its state of disrepair.

In 1750, the first Duke of Northumberland, a Percy through his maternal line, decided to establish a residence in his Ducal county and chose Alnwick. He began a programme of repair and redevelopment to turn the ruined medieval castle into an 18th Gothic mansion.

Alnwick in the 18th century

Alnwick in the 18th century

In the 19th century the 4th Duke undertook a plan to re-medievalise the castle removing some of the features added by his Great-Grandfather. Whilst he tried to turn back the clock outside he was also responsible for building the lavish state rooms in the keep on an Italian theme.Unfortunately there si no photography inside the castle and so I cant show you the interiors of his keep.

The castle remains the family home of the Dukes of Northumberland – the current occupant being the 12th Duke. the latest in a long line of the Percy family which has owned Alnwick castle for over 900 years.

What a wonderful experience. Visited Vindolanda a couple of years ago – a great site

Stephen Liddell

I’ve been so busy with my tours that I haven’t had a day off since April 16th and so my blog posts are currently a bit shorter than usual.  Even last week when I would be walking for up to 11 hours a day, I still had to start and finish my day with what I call Admin Work.

One of the places I most enjoyed visiting last week was the old Roman site of Vindolanda.Vindolanda is one of Europe’s most important Roman archeological sites and every summer archeologists and volunteers from around the world descend on the place.

IMG_9628One photo can’t capture just how big a site Vindolanda is

The site itself comprises at least 8 successive forts of which several were occupied before Hadrian’s Wall was built.  Regiments from across the Empire were garrisoned here. The visible stone fort dates to the early third century and the impressive…

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The bullfinch is one of the most attractive birds and one of my favourites. So it was very exciting to get the opportunity to photograph them at The Wetlands Trust at Washington.

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Some more pictures of Puffins taken in the Farne Islands

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Some more pictures of Grey Seals from the Farne Islands.

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Some pictures of Guillemots from Staple Island. These amazing ‘cities’ of birds crowded on the cliff tops.

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