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On Dunstanborough’s caverned shore;
Thy tower, proud Bamborough, marked they there,
King Ida’s castle, huge and square,
From its tall rock look grimly down,
And on the swelling ocean frown;
From “Marmion” by Walter Scott
Bamburgh Castle is a castle on the northeast coast of England, by the village of Bamburgh in Northumberland. It is a Grade I listed building.The site was originally the location of a Celtic Brittonic fort known as Din Guarie and may have been the capital of the kingdom of Bernicia from its foundation in c. 420 to 547. After passing between the Britons and the Anglo-Saxons three times, the fort came under Anglo-Saxon control in 590. The fort was destroyed by Vikings in 993, and the Normans later built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one.
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The Normans invaded England in 1066 and quickly secured the south. However, resistance continued in the north prompting William I to march north with his army. Bamburgh may have been the stronghold of the rebel leader – Gospatrick, Earl of Northumbria – but ultimately he was forced to submit. The King then granted the Earldom, including Bamburgh, to William Walcher, Bishop of Durham. It was either William I or Walcher who established the first castle on the site. . . . William II granted Bamburgh Castle to Eustace Fitz John who commenced rebuilding the structure in stone. . . . Henry II took back control of northern England in 1157. Bamburgh Castle was retained as a Royal fortress and accordingly Henry II funded the completion of the Great Keep. It later hosted visits from King John, Henry III and Edward I with various modifications being made at this time including construction of a new Hall. In 1307 the castle was granted to Isabel de Vesci, a direct descendant of Eustace Fitz John. However, by this time the structure was seemingly in a poor state of repair. Repairs must have been made because the defences were adequate to resist a three-month siege by Scottish forces during 1328.
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During the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh was one of four castles held by the Lancastrians in the north. . . . Following the Battle of Hexham (1464), Bamburgh was again besieged by the Yorkists. The castle’s garrison was headed by Sir Ralph Grey who was told by the besiegers he would be executed whatever the outcome. Unsurprisingly he was unwilling to submit and so the Yorkists bombarded the castle with cannon fire until one of the towers collapsed; the first instance of a castle falling to artillery on the British Isles.
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With the defensive era of castles over, Bamburgh had become a thorn in the side for the Crown. In 1610 James I gifted the castle to Claudius Forster, the castle’s last royal keeper in honour of his long-standing service. Having been a royal dwelling for over 1200 years, Bamburgh passed into private hands. Unable to afford the upkeep of a castle Bamburgh was soon an uninhabitable ruin. What remained of Bamburgh Castle and its bankrupt estate passed to the last heir of the Forster family, Dorothy. She went on to marry distinguished Bishop of Durham, Lord Nathaniel Crewe. After Dorothy’s death her grieving husband set up a charity in her memory to restore the castle and support the people of Bamburgh village.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol. I”, James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p.365
There were three wards or courts; the W. or lower ward, and the E. or middle ward, have been at one time covered with the buildings of the ancient town, and at the extreme W. end was situated the Church of St. Peter. The original entrance was by a flight of steps at the N.W. or lowest corner, where now are modern stairs. The great quadrangular Norman keep was built after the foreign pattern adopted at London, Dover, Newcastle, and other places; it had originally only two storeys, with galleries and staircases in the wall. A deep draw-well exists in the keep; it is 145 feet deep, cut through the hard rock, and the water, “sweet and very pure,” is said in the Chronicle to have existed in 774. There has been much fanciful restoration, but happily some old work has escaped, and on the W. is the wall of the Captain’s Lodgings, where probably the shot from the brazen gun penetrated Sir Ralph Grey’s quarters. The gatehouse is all changed. . . . Under the Captain’s Hall is a very fine vaulted chamber of the best masonry in the castle; it is now divided and used as a coal-cellar. Above this were the kitchens.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol. I”, James D. Mackenzie, 1897, p.367