Bamburgh Castle

amburgh Castle is located on an outcrop of basalt rock on the Northumbrian coast of northern England. The outcrop of rock forms a long ridge and stands over a hundred feet above the surrounding land overlooking a natural harbour. This location has been chosen as a site that could be defended long before the medieval period. Bamburgh was chosen as the capital of Northumbria, or Bernicia as it was known, one of the seven kingdoms that existed in Saxon times. In Saxon times the castle was called Bebbanburgh after Bedda the wife of Aethelfrith of Bernicia. When Aethelfrith's son Oswald returned from exile on Iona and became King, Christianity arrived in Northumbria and a chapel was built within the confines of the castle. Aidan, a bishop from Iona, was invited to Bamburgh and was given land on the nearby island of Lindisfarne to build a monastery to be seen from the castle.

The following centuries saw destruction and reconstruction at the castle due to internal conflicts in Northumbria but also from the Vikings who attacked the north east coast stealing from the vunerable monasteries and murdering the monks. After the Norman invasion Bamburgh played an important part in protecting England from the Scots and major rebuilding work took place to improve the defences of the castle. In 1164 during the reign of Henry II a large square Norman keep known as the 'Great Tower' was built at the castle at the cost of four pounds and over the next few centuries the castle was visited by all the English kings.

The War of the Roses saw the end of Bamburgh Castle's power when a siege was ended with the use of cannons, the first English castle to fall in this way. The following centuries saw the decline of the castle's fabric as repair costs grew too much for the private owners to afford. This state of disrepair lasted until 1894 when the castle was bought by Lord Armstrong who began restoration work to convert the remains into a private mansion. The results of his and successors work is what you see today when you visit Bamburgh castle.

Bamburgh Castle Key Facts
CountyNorthumberland (15 castles)
RemainsExcellent remains
Access to siteOnly open at certain times

1164   Construction of the Great Tower at Bamburgh
 A large Norman square keep was built as Bamburgh castle as the cost of four pounds. 
1311 Jul  Edward returns to England
 Edward II left Scotland and returned to England to attend a session of Parliament. Gaveston was left behind at Bamburgh Castle where he was relatively safe from the Lords Ordainers.[1]

Episode: Edward II and Piers Gaveston  
1462 Oct 25  Queen Margaret invades
 Queen Margaret landed near Bamburgh Castle on the Northumbrian coast with a small army. The main castles in the area, Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh surrendered to the Queen.[2]

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
 Dec  Yorkists take back control of Northumbrian castles
 The Earl of Warwick was put in charge of capturing the castles from the Lancastrian garrisons. Edward had to stay at Durham to recover from a bout of the measles. The castles were not attacked but cut off from supplies to starve the soldiers out. Just before the new year the Lancastrian soldiers surrendered and the Yorkists took control of Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh Castles. Warwick used the castle at Warkworth as his base while he monitored the seiges at the other castles. The seige of Alnwick Castle continued into January.[3]

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1463 Mar  Northumbrian castles fall to Lancastrians
 Sir Ralph Percy, the constable in charge of Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles, defected and allowed the Lancastrians to take control. Alnwick Castle fell to the Lancastrians shortly afterwards.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
 Dec  Duke of Somerset rebels
 Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and Lancastrian supporters rebelled against Edward and used Bamburgh Castle as a base.

Episode: Wars of the Roses  
1464 Jun 23  Alnwick Castle Surrenders to Warwick
 After the Lancastrians were defeated at the Battle of Hexham their power in Northumberland was at an end. The Earl of Warwick accepted the surrender of Alnwick Castle on June 23rd. Dunstanburgh Castle surrendered shortly afterwards. The seige at Bamburgh Castle was brought to an end with the use of cannons, tthe first castle to fall in such a way.[3]

Episode: Wars of the Roses  


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