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Bamburgh Castle
Medieval Castle in England

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Bamburgh Castle is an imposing medieval castle located on the coast at Bamburgh in Northumberland, England. It is a Grade I listed building.

As an important English outpost, the castle was the target of raids from Scotland. From 1096 it was a royal castle.

In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. Spanning nine acres of land on its rocky plateau high above the Northumberland coastline Bamburgh is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country. It is open to the public.





Bamburgh Castle sits on an outcrop of volcanic dolerite. Known locally as whinstone for the sound it makes when hit by a stonemasons hammer, it provides a natural throne upon which the castle sits forty five metres above sea level.

Bamburgh Castle is 42 miles from Newcastle upon Tyne and 70 miles from Edinburgh. OS map ref: NU184 351 By car: The castle is approximately six miles east from the A1. All day parking is available at the castle priced at £2.00. By bus: A regular bus services is in operation. Run by Arriva and Travelsure the main route numbers are 500, 501, 505, 515, 401 and 411. By rail: The nearest train stations are Chathill (six miles) Berwick upon Tweed (21 miles) and Alnmouth (22 miles).

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle
Northumberland NE69 7DF

Telephone from the UK: 01668 214515
Telephone from the US: 010 44 1668 214515
Telephone from France: 00 44 1668 214515
Telephone from other countries: +44 (0)1668 214515


Google map showing the location of Bamburgh Castle


Google map showing Bamburgh Castle



Built on a basalt outcrop, the location was previously home to a fort of the native Britons known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the British kingdom of the region from the realm's foundation in c.420 until 547, the year of the first written reference to the castle.

In that year the citadel was captured by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia (Beornice) and became Ida's seat. It was briefly retaken by the Britons from his son Hussa during the war of 590 before being relieved later the same year.

His grandson Æðelfriþ passed it on to his wife Bebba, from whom the early name Bebanburgh was derived.

Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one. William II unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by its owner, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. After Robert was captured, his wife continued the defence until coerced to surrender by the king's threat to blind her husband.

Bamburgh then became the property of the reigning English monarch and thus a Royal Castle. An important English outpost, the castle was the target of raids from Scotland. which is almost certainly why Henry II y built the keep.

The keep ia a massive square structure and the oldest surviving part of the castle. Its construction began in 1164 when a sum of £4 is recorded for its erection. Stones quarried three miles away at North Sunderland were carried to Bamburgh on the backs of horses. Built by scaffolding to the first storey, the rest of the Keep was built by masons using "over-hand" work. This means that i(internally) the walls overhang a little at each side as they are wider at the bottom than the top.

Built to withstand attack, the Keep's massive walls are between three and four metres thick. Its bottle- shaped doorway allowed soldiers on horseback to enter at a gallop without dismounting.

In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery, at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Forster family of Northumberland provided the Crown with twelve successive governors of the castle for some 400 years until the Crown granted ownership to Sir John Forster. The family retained ownership until Sir William Forster (d. 1700) was posthumously declared bankrupt, and his estates, including the castle, were sold to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham (husband of his sister Dorothy) under an Act of Parliament to settle the debts.

The castle deteriorated but was restored by various owners during the 18th and 19th centuries.

It was finally bought by the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong, who completed the restoration.

The castle's laundry rooms feature the Armstrong and Aviation Artefacts Museum, with exhibits about Victorian industrialist William Armstrong and Armstrong Whitworth, the manufacturing company he founded. Displays include engines, artillery and weaponry, and aviation artefacts from two world wars.



Since 1996, the Bamburgh Research Project has been investigating the archaeology and history of the Castle and Bamburgh area. The project has concentrated on the fortress site and the early medieval burial ground at the Bowl Hole, to the south of the castle.

Archaeological excavations were started in the 1960s by Dr Hope-Taylor, who discovered the gold plaque known as the Bamburgh Beast as well as the Bamburgh Sword.

The project runs a training dig for 10 weeks every summer for students to learn more about archaeological techniques and to further research into the Castle.






A great medieval kitchen was fed by a vaulted pantry, buttery, bakehouse and brewery. A Passageway ran from the kitchen to a vast Great Hall known now as the King's Hall This section of the castle badly damaged during the Wars of the Roses in 1464 when the fortress became the first in England to be destroyed by gunpowder and shot.

Two hundred years later the Lord Crewe Trustees resurrected the ruins and built classrooms for their charitable school here.

Built on the site of the medieval Great Hall, the King's Hall is a Victorian masterpiece. Its false hammer beam ceiling is made with teak from Siam. The King of Siam, a good friend of Lord Armstrong who visited Bamburgh, is said to have helped carve some of the intricate designs. The King's Hall was the castle's main social reception and banqueting room. Lord Armstrong built a minstrel's gallery where the musicians playing at the balls performed.

During the gaiety of Edwardian society the castle hosted many great balls. Guests included the Duke of Cambridge, a grandson of King George III. Balls were dazzling affairs and likened by the press of the time to "beautiful fashion parades" where "quite the most swagger gowns imaginable were worn."

Today, the grandeur of the King's Hall coupled with the location of Bamburgh provides a backdrop for weddings.

A reliable source of clean water was critical in a defensive site. Now enclosed in the Keep is a draw well dating back to Anglo Saxon times. Sunk through 48 metres of solid rock, the well is an incredible feat of early engineering. Workers at the time would have had only the simplest tools to help them cut through the resilient whinstone. In the Laidley Worm fable, legend tells that Behoc, the evil step mother turned into a toad, is banished to live in the depths of the Gaitwell. She preys to this day on unsuspecting maidens.

Inside the Keep is the Armoury, a collection of arms and armour bearing the scars of battle. The collection includes pikes, halberds and muskets issued to local militia in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion line the walls.

The different periods of the castle's story over the last thousand years can be seen in its stonework.From the Castle Green you can see a mix of pink and grey coloured stonework in its outer wall. Stones with a pinkish hue are the remains of the original medieval building. The grey and /greenstones are those used by Lord Armstrong during his restoration. They were quarried at Cragside his country seat at Rothbury, 28 miles from Bamburgh and brought by convoys of horse wagons.

The Clock Tower formally the Belle Tower has its origins in the early medieval period and the clock itself dates from the late 18th century.

Linking the Clock Tower and the Neville Tower is an inner curtain wall separating the east and west wards.

The original castle clock bell was mounted on what is today the Clock Tower. The 4th Lady Armstrong, an Italian countess lived in the Keep. She allegedly grew so irritated by the loudness of the clocks chiming that she had it taken down and moved to the apse of the chapel.

Dating from Anglo-Saxon times St Oswald's gate was the earliest entrance into the castle and gave access to a natural harbour beyond the walls. Archaeological excavations have uncovered stonework from two very early buildings believed to be the castle's fortified gatehouse and royal officials would have controlled access from here.





Film Location For:

Huntingtower (1927)    directed by George Pearson.

Ivanhoe (1952)    starring Elizabeth Taylor

El Cid (1961)    with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren

The Devils (1971)    starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. directed by Ken Russell.

Macbeth (1971)    directed by Roman Polanski

Mary Queen of Scots (1972)    with Glenda Jackson

Robin of Sherwood. (1984)    TV (1984 - 1986), Starring Michael Praed in the first and second series, Jason Connery in the third.

Elizabeth (1998)    with Cate Blanchett and Joseph Fiennes

King Arthur (2004)    starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley. 

Robin Hood (2010)    directed by Ridley Scott.










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