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.

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