Friday, 30 May 2014

Norham Castle

The castle was originally founded in 1121 by The Prince Bishop, Ranulf Flambard, in order to protect the property of the bishopric in north Northumberland, from the Scots. In 1136, it was captured by the Scots, then handed back, only to be recaptured in 1138 during another invasion. It soon became derelict until Hugh De Puiset, Bishop of Durham, rebuilt it between 1157 and 1170.

In 1174, Hugh de Puiset supported the rebels in a revolt against Henry II, during which the Scottish king, William the Lion invaded Northumberland. The rebels were defeated and as a result, Bishop Hugh was forced to relinquish Norham Castle to the crown. In 1209, the castle accommodated both King John and William the Lion, on an occasion when William did homage for his English lands to the English king.  In 1215, Alexander II of Scotland besieged the castle for forty days without success. In 1217, the castle was once again restored to the bishopric of Durham.  In 1296 Edward I, “The Hammer of the Scots” invaded Scotland, and during his campaign, his queen, Marguerite of France, remained at Norham Castle.
In 1318, Robert the Bruce besieged the castle for nearly a year. The Scottish army succeeded in occupying the outer ward for three days but were then driven out. The siege did not succeed. In 1319, the Scots returned and the castle withstood a siege of seven months. In 1322, there was yet another unsuccessful Scottish siege. During all three sieges, the castle was under the command of Sir Thomas Grey of Heton, a knight who had been captured by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.  In 1327, a Scottish army captured Norham, but the castle was soon restored to the Bishop of Durham, when peace was declared.

In 1462, the Yorkists on behalf of Edward IV held Norham Castle during the War of the Roses.  However, the following year a Lancastrian army besieged the castle for eighteen days until Yorkist forces relieved it. In 1464, the forces holding Norham castle changed sides to support the Lancastrians but were then forced to surrender to a force of Yorkists. In 1497, the castle was besieged for two weeks by an army led by James IV of Scotland. The siege included the use of artillery to try to breach the walls but an English army finally relieved the garrison. Following this latest siege, the castle was repaired again. One of the guns used in the siege was a 22-inch (56 cm) caliber cannon called Mons Meg. However, in 1513 James IV of Scotland again invaded England with a powerful army that included artillery. He crossed the border and moved on Norham. Weeks later, James was defeated and slain at the Battle of Flodden Field and Norham fell into English hands again.

William Dacre, 3rd Baron Dacre (c. 1493-1563), was Captain of Norham Castle in 1522-23. During another invasion scare from Albany, in September 1523 the Earl of Surrey gave orders for new earthwork defences of platforms and rampires.  The steward of the Earl of Northumberland, Roger Lascelles met with the Earl of Angus and William Douglas Abbot of Holyrood across the Tweed on 5 September 1528. Angus was threatened by his stepson James V of Scotland, and he asked Lascelles for chambers in the castle to be provided for his daughter Margaret Douglas, and the young Earl of Huntley. Margaret Douglas, the grandmother of James I of England was received at Norham in October.

However when an extended state of peace existed between the two countries, the garrison was reduced and the defences were allowed to deteriorate. By the end of the century, the castle had already fallen into a state of disrepair. In 1596, Queen Elizabeth gave the Captain, Sir Robert Carey, her 'resolute answer' that she would spend nothing on Norham. It was destined not to see any further fighting, but the castle and manor was given to George Home, 1st Earl of Dunbar by James VI of Scotland on his accession to the throne of England. The castle was left to fall into ruin.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Etal Castle

When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they established their rule over southern England then advanced north.  It was not until the end of the century that the border with Scotland was firmly established.  In 1100 Henry I began the colonisation of Northumberland by securing a series of baronies between the Tweed and the Tyne.  These baronies were given to Normans of proven loyalty in  return for military service.  The castles of Morpeth, Alnwick, Bolam, Mitford, Prudhoe, Wark and Wooler formed the nuclei of the strongholds.  Etal was a small manorial holding within the barony of Wooler, granted to Robert Muschamp, stretching from the North Sea to the Cheviot Hills.

Documents show that Robert Manners was already holding lands within the barony which was probably the manor of Etal.  Due to the proximity of Scotland and the violent and bloody times that people lived in, the timber hall was replaced by stronger and more defensible structure.  Another Robert is recorded as Lord of Etal, having been knighted in 1278 for services to the king.  Robert would have served both Edward II and I in the Scottish wars, however another Robert (son) is recorded as Lord of Etal in 1336.

In 1338 The Manners’ neighbours, the Herons of Ford, obtained a licence to fortify their manor house into a castle.  In 1341 Robert Manners followed suit and began to fortify Etal.  His son, John, who continued with the building of the fortifications, and in 1368, Etal is referred to as a castle, succeeded Robert.  John died sometime before 1402 when another Robert became Lord of Etal.  It is believed he married a Baxter heiress as substantial lands passed into the hands of the Manners family.
John was succeeded by another Robert, who is remembered for his part in a disastrous feud between the Manners and the Herons of Ford.  The feud peaked in 1428 when John Manners killed William Heron, son and heir of the Lord of Ford.  A commission was set up to examine the death and John was ordered to pay Williams widow compensation.  However the feud continued with the Herons being supported by the Umfraville family and the Manners by the Ogles, Middletons and Lilburns.  The feud rumbled along until 1438, with quite a few leading local personages including John and his eldest son dying.

His second son Robert, who was an active leader and accompanied Sir Henry Percy on his border duties, succeeded John.  He was awarded a knighthood, but was killed during the War of the Roses when he served with the Percy’s for the Lancastrian cause.  Both Robert and the Earl of Northumberland fell at the battle of Towton in 1461.

Eventually the Lord of the manor moved south and the lands were left in the hands of a constable, John Collingwood.  In 1513, an army of 30 000 Scots led by James IV invaded England whilst Henry VIII was abroad fighting another war. The Northumbria castles started to fall and Etal was captured and turned into a Scots stronghold. The Earl of Surrey raised 20 000 northerners to take arms leading to the English victory at Flodden.  James and many Scottish notable families were killed, and the Scots artillery was taken to Etal for safekeeping.  
 The union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603 ended Etal’s role as a fortified stronghold against the Scottish.  The need for castles at strategic locations ceased and Etal became a manor.  The Crown granted the manor to George Hume who became Baron Hume of Berwick.  However Etal still continued to pass  through the hands of some colourful characters.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Bothal Castle and St Andrew's Church, Bothal & Woodhorn Church, Newbiggin by the Sea

Bothal is both a castle and a stately home, lying in the village of the same name by the river Wansbeck.  Botl is Old English for dwelling and probably refers to an original building or hall in the same location.

 In 1095, Bothal was given by King William Rufus to Guy de Balliol, whose daughter Alice married William Bertram, Baron of Mitford.  In 1343, Sir Robert Bertram was given permission to turn his manor house into a castle.  Sir Robert's daughter Helen married Sir Robert Ogle and consequently Bothal Changed hands.

Carrying on the family tradition, Helen's son, also Sir Robert, fought at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388.  When he dies he left his lands at Ogle to his oldest son, another Sir Robert, and Bothal to his youngest son, Sir John.  The two siblings then fought and Robert besieged Bothal for four days until Sir John appealed to the king and was reinstated as heir.

Ralph, Third Lord Ogle, fought in two Scottish campaigns in 1494 and 1496 while his son, Robert, took part in the Battle of Flodden.

In 1591 the states passed to the Cavendish-Bentinck family (Dukes of Portland) through the marriage of Catherine, Countess of Ogle to Sir Charles Cavendish of Welbeck.

In 1828, the Sample family came to the castle and are still there . William Sample was appointed land agent for the Duke of Portland's Bothal estates and part his job was to stop the decline of the Castle.

St Andrew's church, at Bothal, dates from around 1200.  Much of the present building is
600-800 years old, however, part of an Anglo-Saxon Cross and other stone fragments provide evidence of earlier worship.  The site may have been used from the 7th C and dowsing has revealed the foundations of a church from about the 10th C.


The Anglo-Saxon building was replced by a Norman structure by Richard Bertram who was the first Norman lord to live at Bothal.  The church was further developed by Robert Bertram I and Robert Bertram IV.

The church contains the alabaster tomb of Ralph, Third Lord Ogle who died in 1513, and his wife Margaret Gascoigne.

Down the road at Newbiggin by the Sea,  you will find the church of St Mary the Virgin, more commonly called Woodhorn church.  It is said to be the oldest church in Northumberland and dates back over 1200 years and includes Norman, Gothic and Saxon architecture.

In 1971, it was declared redundant and became a museum.  It contains a 13th C stone effigy of a nun, two bells dating back to the 13/14th C and the Woodhorn Cross, which dates back to the 11th C.  In 1906 a hoard of copper and silver coins were found in the grounds dating back to the 16th C.  The graveyard contains graves of miners, seafarers and soldiers who died in the First WW.

The graveyard is reputedly haunted by a soldier from the First WW called Tom Chalkley, and the adjacent lane by the Paddler.  The Paddler wears pitman's clothes and rides a black bicycle; however, he has a skeletal face and empty eye sockets.  You will know when he is about, as you will hear the squeaking of his rusty bike.