Monday, 14 April 2014

Dunstanburgh Castle

The building of Dunstanburgh Castle began in 1313 when Thomas, the Earl of Lancaster, nephew of King Edward II.   However Thomas never got to see the castle complete as he was executed in 1322 for his revolt, and defeat, at the battle of Boroughbridge.  The site of the castle provides excellent protection with its sheer cliff face on one side and the stormy North sea on the other. The site covered almost 11 acres and was, at that time, the largest castle in Northumberland.  An outstanding feature of the castle is its imposing Gatehouse of which the ruin still stands proud and tall.

In 1362, John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward III, inherited the castle and had the gatehouse converted into a keep.  His son, Henry of Bolingbroke, inherited the castle in 1399 and subsequently usurped the throne as Henry IV.  Dunstanburgh became a royal castle and a Lancastrian stronghold during the War of the Roses.  Its Lancastrian commander was Sir Ralph Percy.
A castle as imposing as this has a history of hauntings.  One spirit that supposedly walks the grounds is that of Thomas, the first Earl.  It is said his beheading in Pontefract took 11 blows of the axe and his headless ghost wanders near to Lilburn Tower with the head tucked under its arm and a look of agony on its face.

Lilburn Tower is sometimes referred to as Queen Margaret’s Tower after Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI.  She supposedly haunts the tower weeping for her soldiers defeated at the battle of Hexham and calling the name ‘Henry’.  This may be her husband who died in the Tower Of London in 1471 or her trusted friend, Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was captured at the battle of Hexham and executed in the town square.  Another ghost was a Danish prince who fell in love with the Lord of the Castle’s daughter.  She was forbidden to marry him and one stormy night when he was riding to the castle he was set upon by her brothers and killed.  She was so distraught she threw her self from the ramparts to her death in the sea.  If you are lucky, or unlucky, on a stormy night you may catch a glimpse of a rider on a black horse riding furiously to the castle looking for his love.  If you visit the Gatehouse, watch out underfoot for toads, as they do love the wet slime on the walls and floor.

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