Sunday, 20 April 2014

Mitford Castle

The site of the castle is a strong one guarded by the Wansbeck ravine on one side and steep slopes on the others.  The castle has the honour of having the only five-sided keep in England. However, it is believed Mitford fords provided a better river crossing for travellers than nearby Morpeth, which is why it became of greater importance. The village was granted a charter for a market and became a borough some 50 years before Morpeth.

 


Prior to the 1066 Norman Conquest, the castle was held by Sir John de Mitford, whose only daughter and heiress, Sybilla Mitford, was given in marriage by William the Conqueror to the Norman knight, Richard Bertram. In 1215, it was seized by John de Balliol, King of Scotland’s troops.

 
 
A garrison commanded by Philip de Ulecotes withstood a siege here by Alexander II of Scotland in 1216. In 1264, the castle was held by the third Roger Bertram, but in that year, it was seized from him and committed to the custody of William de Valence, 1st Earl of Pembroke, King Henry’s   half-brother. It was held by Alexander de Balliol, the son of John de Balliol  and the elder brother of King John, in 1275. During the rebellion in Northumberland set in the 1310s, Sir Gilbert de Middleton seized Mitford Castle from the Valence family.

 
In 1315, it was the headquarters of a group of bandits responsible for kidnappings and the holding of prisoners to ransom led by Sir Gilbert de Middleton. The Castle was taken by a ruse by a band of men under the leadership of Sir William Felton and Sir Thomas Heton in December 1317 and the de Middleton brothers Gilbert and John were captured and later executed at London in Jan 1318. The Castle was then destroyed by 1327. There are conflicting accounts over the castle's destruction. One theory is of a fire during Middleton's rebellion. Another theory is that it was destroyed by the Scots in May 1318 during Middleton's imprisonment in the Tower of London.

 
It is said the ghosts of the Middleton’s still walk the ruins looking for their next kidnap victims and you can hear the howls of the porters who were slain by William De Felton whilst carrying ransom money at the gateway.

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