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Warkworth castle

Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle is a ruined, although reasonably well preserved castle, situated in Warkworth, Northumberland, on a defensive mound in a loop of the River Coquet.

Warkworth Castle was originally constructed as a wooden fortress, some time after the Norman Conquest.

It was later ceded to the Percy family, who held it, and resided there on and off (dependent on the state of their often stormy relationship with the royalty of the time) until the 16th C.

During this period the castle was rebuilt with sandstone curtain walls and greatly reinforced. The imposing keep, overlooking the village of Warkworth was added during the 15th C. It was refurbished, with much refaced stonework, by the Dukes of Northumberland in the late 19th C.

History of the castle

Although the village of Warkworth, Northumberland dates back at least to the 8th century, the first castle was not built until the mid-twelfth century. It was of motte and bailey construction and built by Henry, Earl of Huntingdon and Northumberland, son of David I of Scotland. At this time, Northumberland was part of Scotland.

In 1147, Northumberland was re-taken for the English by Henry II and the castle was given to Roger FitzRichard whose family continued to hold it until the early fourteenth century. During this period, the original wooden structure was replaced with a stone-built castle which, by the mid-thirteenth century, was described by Matthew Paris as "a noble castle".

The descendants of FitzRichard encountered financial problems, including the cost of the upkeep of the castle, and ownership reverted to the Crown in 1332. It was next granted to Henry de Percy, Lord of Alnwick. Under the Percys, additional building work took place, including fourteenth century keep.

However, in the rebellion of 1403, the castle fell to the King's cannon, suffering damage to the curtain wall. The castle was forfeited to the Crown, in whose ownership it remained until Henry V restored it to the Percy family.

It was again forfeited to the King, during the Wars of the Roses and passed briefly into the hands of John Neville (brother of Warwick the Kingmaker) but again returned to the Percys in 1470.

The Percys sided against Elizabeth I in the rising of the northern earls which began in 1558. Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, was executed in 1572 and the castle was pillaged by royal servants. The castle fell into long-term disrepair, being further damaged by the Parliamentary forces who were garrisoned there in 1648 and then used as a source of building materials for other houses in the later 17th century.

The castle remained a ruin until the mid-nineteenth century, when the third Duke of Northumberland undertook some preservation work and the fourth Duke excavated some of the older parts of the castle and re-roofed other areas.

In 1922 the 8th Duke of Northumberland handed the castle over to the Office of Works which had been made accountable for the guardianship of ancient monuments. The Office of Works was in due course supplanted by English Heritage who now own the castle.


* Henry Summerson, Warkworth Castle, English Heritage, London, 1995. ISBN 1-85074-498-X


* Photographs and Description * English Heritage Handbook

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picture of Warkworth castle by steve.wilde at flickr

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