Norham Castle

Castle Berwick Upon Tweed Northumberland

Norham Castle

Castle In Berwick Upon Tweed, Northumberland

A 12th century castle that saw plenty of action during the wars between England and Scotland.

I can't believe this is the first time we have actually visited this beauty of a ruin, even though we have ventured up to the top of Northumberland on many occasion.

There are two entrances to the Norham Castle grounds and we parked at the south end which is on a rise, so the size of the tower is quite deceiving as it's hidden by the slope.

But once you enter the grounds, the sheer size of the tower and what remains after 900 years of degradation and countless wars is impressive.

As with all castles on the border, they were involved in an innumerable amount of skirmishes between the English and Scottish. Fortunately we have our unofficial castle correspondent Sandra to give us the full deets. 

Norham Castle was built by Ranulph Flambard, who was Bishop of Durham from 1099 until 1128. The Bishops of Durham were given many powers by the Crown during this time and in return, they protected the English border. The orders for construction of the castle were given in 1121.

Norham, along with Berwick and Wark castles, was an essential part of the defence of the borders, due to its proximity to Scotland. Consequently it was besieged at least 13 times, captured 4 times and was the castle most frequently attacked by the Scots. The most important event in Norham's history took place in May 1291. 

Anthony Beck, the Bishop of Durham entertained King Edward I and his advisors at the castle while they judged 13 competitors for the Scottish throne. This event was known as 'The Great Cause'. There was no obvious heir to the Scottish throne at this time, after the deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter Margaret. 

This left the vacancy open and Edward I was quick to step in and help with the decision of who should be the next monarch. However, he took it too far and claimed he should be recognised as Scotland's feudal overlord and continued to assert his power over Scotland.

This reignited the dormant civil wars in the borders and consequently Norham was besieged 4 times between 1318 and 1327. After this period of sieges, there was relative peace at the castle until the late 1400s. In 1497, James IV of Scotland bombarded the castle with artillery, including Mons Meg, the huge siege gun now on display at Edinburgh Castle.

However, among the worst sieges on the castle was in 1513, when King James IV invaded for the second time and the castle was captured and badly damaged. James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden only 3 weeks later and the castle was reclaimed by the English.

There was extensive damage to the castle following James IV's attack. Large scale rebuilding quickly followed, which repaired the 1513 damage and modernised the castle's defences. Most of what stands today was built around this time in the early 1500s.

In 1559, the castle passed back to the Crown when Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham refused to take the 'Oath of Supremacy' meaning he would not acknowledge Elizabeth I as the Head of the church, due to her protestant beliefs.

Elizabeth took the castle and maintained it for most of her reign until 1596. After this, she refused to spend any more money on it, as it had fallen into decay, and after the union of the crowns in 1603, it was deemed unnecessary. 

It had a number of owners over the years, but passed into state care in 1923.

It is now managed by the English Heritage.

This is the remnants of the spiral staircase that gave access to all floors in the tower.

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Where Is Norham Castle

Where Is It?

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55.721769, -2.150742
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Where To Park?

There are two entrances to the castle with parking at each location.

Simon Hawkins

Contributed by Simon Hawkins

Thanks for checking out this place on the Fabulous North! I do enjoy a wander out in to the countryside trying to find hidden gems that not many people know about. You can't beat a rogue Pele tower up a remote hill or a mysterious stone circle or a stunning waterfall secluded in a forest.

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