Monday, 8 September 2014

Prudhoe Castle

In 1066, the year of the Norman Conquest, the lands around Prudhoe were already established as estates and small villages.  William II took the lands and bestowed them upon his most faithful supporters.  These ‘new’ barons guaranteed to supply the king with either fully armed knights or equivalent funds.  

The first barons of Prudhoe came from the Umfraville family.  Robert d’Umfraville was one of the nine barons of Northumberland, who in 1095, were granted permission to build a castle.  Prudhoe castle became part of a chain of strongholds controlling a main river crossing.

In 1139, the titles of earl of Northumberland and Cumberland were granted to the Scottish kings as a means of maintaining peace along the Anglo Scottish border.  This lead to the inter marriage of Northumbrian barons and Scottish royalty.  Odinel d’Umfraville was brought up in the Scottish royal courts, but when Henry II reclaimed the Northumbrian earldom’s, Odinel kept loyal to Henry.  This infuriated the Scottish king William the Lion, who twice laid siege to Prudhoe for revenge.  However, William was captured at a battle near Alnwick and Odinel was sufficiently rewarded so he could continue building his castle.  William the Lion was taken before Henry II, who had him imprisoned in Normandy whilst a ransom was agreed.  The ransom price included handing over the Scottish castles to Henry and English control and William had to pay homage to the king until Henry’s death in 1189
Odinel’s son Gilbert married Matilda, the heir to the Scottish earldom of Angus, and they kept the titles until 1350.  In 1294, Gilbert d’Umfraville, the seventh earl of Angus, asserted his rights to administer punishment in Prudhoe through the gallows, the tumbrel (cart carrying prisoners) and the pillory.
In 1296 Edward I broke the peace by leading an army in to Scotland and started 300 years of war between the two countries.  In 1316, Scottish prisoners of war were held at Prudhoe whilst waiting for their families to pay ransom.
During the 14th Century the Percy family began to acquire lands and power.  Henry Percy was created the first earl of Northumberland by Richard II.  He struck a deal with Gilbert Umfraville III, ninth earl of Angus, for the purchase of the Umfraville lands when Gilbert died.  Henry gained the barony of Prudhoe and married Gilberts widow, Matilda Lucy, who was an heiress of considerable wealth.
The earl and his son, Harry Hotspur, rebelled against Henry IV in 1403.  Harry Hotspur was killed in battle but Northumberland rebelled for a second time.  The  king decided to give the barony to his brother John, Duke of Lancaster.

In 1603, James IV of Scotland inherited the English throne and Prudhoe Castle lost its defensive role.  Eventually the administration of Prudhoe transferred to Alnwick castle, back to the Percy’s.  Hugh Percy, second Duke of Northumberland, gave the castle a new lease of life through a programme of restoration in the early 19th Century.

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