Words words words – castle glossary

beware – not all castles are as defensive as they look! Bodiam Castle, Kent.

How did you do? It’s probably one of those activities that build over the period of a couple of weeks. It certainly has for me and has been a popular challenge with He Who Is Occasionally Obeyed. No doubt we’ve forgotten a few. If you’ve got more than 50 can I just check that you’re not James St George who built Edward I’s castles?

Anteroom: small outer room – think of it as a waiting room or a connecting room that you have to get through before arriving in a larger room. Ie a large body of men couldn’t rush through an anteroom and attack everyone in the great hall , they’d have to file through.

Bailey: A courtyard defended by the outermost ring of a castle wall is called the outer bailey. Sometimes the bailey is also described as a ward. The outer bailey usually contains ancillary buildings. In very large fortifications that is an outer, middle and inner bailey. The inner bailey is the courtyard nearest to the keep. If a castle is built on a hill the arrangement may be described as an upper and lower bailey – but basically it’s all the same – a way of describing how close a courtyard is to the defensive centre of the castle.

Barbican: A stone building protecting the gateway or entrance of a castle.

Barrel vaulting: ceiling curved like the inside of a barrel.- at its most simple a set of arches side by side. Helps make the walls thicker and stronger. Often reinforced by ribs.

Bastion: Angular projection in the wall – to provide better defensive fire.

Battlements: A parapet with indentations and raised portions (merlons). Battlements are sometimes called crenellations. You would need a licence from the king to crenellate.

Berm: the bit of land between the moat and the curtain wall.

Buttery: Room to store drinks – rather than butter think wine, beer and ale.

Buttress: stone support for a wall.

Cannonier – gun port – demonstrating that castle architecture evolved to reflect the development in weaponry.

Casemate: fortified gun emplacement

Cistern: Tank to store water.

Concentric: Castles built with rings of stone walls one inside the other. Think Edward I.

Crenet: Another name for an embrasure which is the open bit behind an arrow loop where someone can stand and draw their weapon.

Curtain wall: Connecting wall between towers of a castle – or if there are no towers the wall that makes up the main defensive portion of the castle.

Drawbar: The rather large wooden beam used to secure the rather large wooden gates.

Drawbridge: The wooden bridge that clatters down or up so that horses can gallop across the moat into the castle – as evidenced on many a good black and white Hollywood blockbuster.

Drum-Tower: A large circular tower that was usually low and squat.

Fore building: The building infant of the keep – a bit like a pawn in front of the king on the chess board – it’s there for defensive purposes.

Fosse: A ditch surrounding a castle – for those who can’t afford moats or who wish to demonstrate their grasp of Latin.

Garderobe: Castle toilet. The garderobe was often a projection from the wall over the moat or alternatively it was a chute that dropped into the base of a tower which periodically had to be cleared out (lovely.) You would also keep your spare clothes in the garderobe chamber as the smell kept moths at bay….and possibly everything else as well.

Gatehouse: A building protecting the entrance to a castle. Larger castles might have an outer and an inner gatehouse adding to the number of defensive structures to be surmounted by attackers.

Gate passage: passageway beyond the main gate leading through the curtain wall to the outer bailey.

Great Hall: The main room in the building where the castle owner and his family lived. We tend to think of great halls as being part of the keep but there are castles where the great hall is separate to the main defensive structure.

Hoardings – the wooden structures built out from the top of the curtain wall or towers.

Keep: Main stone tower of a castle. It was also known as a donjon.

Lancet: Long, narrow window with pointed head – good for defensive projectiles. Plus who wants a big draughty window with no window panes in the middle of winter? To be fair many solar windows were lined with thin horn window panes or glass or there would have been shutter.

Loop: Narrow opening in castle wall that was used by archers to fire on attacking soldiers.

Machicolations: Projecting stonework on the outside of castle towers or walls, with holes in floor for dropping missiles on people attacking the castle.

Moat: A deep wide trench round a castle, sometimes called a ditch or a fosse.

Motte: A mound of of soil. Some mottes were only about 5 metres (16 feet) high, but some were over 18 metres (60 feet). The Normans built wooden watchtowers on the top of their mottes. Gradually motte and baileys were rebuilt in stone. Many small motte and baileys date from the Anarchy when Stephen and Matilda fought one another for the throne.

Motte and bailey: basic keep sitting on top of a mound. The mound would usually be surrounded by a palisade. Motte and bailey castles were initially built from wood and were later rebuilt in stone – somewhat reducing the fire hazard. The bailey was a bit of flattened earth near the motte.

Mural tower: A tower built into the wall.

Mural passage: A passage or corridor in the wall itself.

Murder-Holes or meutrieres in the roof or ceiling of a castle – usually leading to a gate house or through a passage into a ward.These were used for pouring scalding water, hot oil or other equally unpleasant stuff on attackers who had managed to enter the outer defences of a castle.

Palisade: A strong timber fence built on top of an earth rampart – usually seen in depictions of early motte and bailey castles of the kind build by Norman Conquerors.

Pantry: room near the great hall used to store food.

Parapet: A low wall on the outer side of the main wall.

Portcullis: Grating made of metal and wood. The portcullis was dropped vertically from grooves to block passage through the gate of the castle – to prevent entry or indeed exit through gateways. Castles often had more than one portcullis so that attackers might find themselves trapped beneath the handily placed murderholes.

Postern gate: the back door – for daring escapes and raids.

Rampart: A defensive stone or earth wall surrounding a castle.

Sally port: Another name for the back door for daring escapes and raids.

Screen(s) passage: Passage way for the transport of food and drink from the pantry and buttery by servants for the enjoyment of those in the great hall.

Shell-Keep: A wall surrounding the inner portion of the castle -think of an onion. The curtain wall is the outside skin, the shell-keep is the layer closer to the middle of the onion.

Solar: The upper living room of castle. The solar was usually situated above the hall and was used mainly as a bedroom. It was often the only semi-private accommodation in a castle.

Spiral staircase: does what it says on the tin.

Tower: Towers usually comes as square, polygonal, or round – and let’s not forget the drum tower.

Turret: A small tower. A turret on top of the main tower was often the main observation point in a castle.

Vice: a spiral staircase – cos why have one self explanatory word when you can have another more complicated one as well.

Wall-Walk: A passage along the castle wall. It can also be called an alure if you really want.

Window seat: Does what it says on the tin.

History Jar Challenge -7- castles in Wales and the Marches

As you may well imagine I am not going to list more than 600 castles! The castles were built at different times and in different political situations. Consequently they reflect the evolution of castle architecture as well as telling the story of various attempts to subdue the Welsh. Kidwelly Castle was initially built during the Norman period for instance. It was rebuilt in stone in the fourteenth century. Chepstow is also originally a Norman Castle. Pembroke Castle was established by the Normans in 1093 but usually lingers in most people’s minds as the birth place of Henry Tudor.

Carreg Cennon, perched dramatically on top of a cliff was built by a marcher lord but extended during the period of Edward I’s rule. Caerphilly Castle was built by the de Clare family.

If you would like to work your way through the full list please follow this link:

https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/CastlesinWales/

The ones that sprung to my mind were Edward I’s “ring of iron” – I think I may have called it a ring of steel in my last post. Edward invested more than £80,000 on his castles which must have been an eye-watering sum in the thirteenth century. The work which began in 1277 when he took on Llewelyn ap Gruffyd and then continued in 1282 when Llewellyn rose again. The Treaty of Rhuddlan in 1284 effectively crushed the Welsh and Edward’s castles meant that it made future rebellion more difficult. The treaty took all the land of the Welsh princes into English royal ownership at a stroke. The castles built after 1282 were overseen by Edward’s architect James of St George. James’s castles are concentric castles – they were of a new design based on concentric rings- so a series of walls and towers rather than just relying on the defensive nature of a keep. The advantage of a series of rings is that not only can you defend the building you can also attack more effectively.

Conwy Castle – the castle and walls of Conwy Castle and the town are amongst my favourite locations to visit. Historically speaking, this was where Richard II found himself outmanoeuvred by his cousin henry of Bolingbroke in 1399. In 1646 it was slighted by Parliamentarian troops having held out for the king.

Conwy Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Harlech Castle – These days more associated with stunning scenery Harlech was completed by 1330. It’s another fine example of a concentric circle, walls, towers and a rather fine gatehouse.

Cadw, . “Plan of Harlech Castle.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 27 Nov 2019. Web. 09 May 2020.

Denbigh Castle

Beaumaris Castle

Rhuddlan Castle

Flint Castle

Aberystwyth Castle

Harwarden Castle

Mold Castle

Chirk Castle

And let’s not forget the castles built by the Welsh in response to their hostile neighbours. Dolbadarn was built by Llewellyn the Great as was nearby Dolwyddelan. The circular tower must have been very impressive.

Welsh Castles built by the Welsh

Essentially native Welsh Castles make use of the landscape to create a defensive structure – even today they are isolated. Welsh castles tended to have one tower which was circular or D shaped.

There are hundreds of castles built along the borders between Wales and England. It doesn’t help that the area isn’t particularly well defined. The number of castles and their varied sizes reflects the hostilities that existed not only between the English and the Welsh but between the Marcher Lords themselves. It was only in 1536 that the semi-independent jurisdiction of the marcher lords was abolished. It may be helpful when thinking about the region to think of the Earldoms of Cheshire, Shrewsbury and Hereford – all three having a castle once upon a time. Goodrich Castle springs to mind as does Ludlow Castle and the wonderful Stokes Castle which was actually constructed by a merchant rather than a baron.

Yes – I know I’ve missed places like Powis Castle but in all honesty there are enough castles in Wales and the borders to populate an entire blog let alone a post. If i’ve missed your favourite then I can only apologise – and try and make the challenges a bit more manageable!

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/33-welsh-castles-pretty-much-10312436

http://www.castlewales.com/native.html

History Jar Challenge 7 – Castles of Wales and the marches

Harlech Castle

The Welsh Marches are the borderlands between England and Wales – they are not a precise area – so there is room for flexibility here. March comes from the Anglo-Saxon mearc which means boundary. Although there was a Norman presence in the marches the Welsh did not take kindly to yet another invader. William the Conqueror created marcher lordships to control the area. This mean that the barons who had their castles on the margins between England and Wales had much more autonomy over their tenants than elsewhere in the country.

The three key towns/cities that demarcate the line of the marches are Chester, Shrewsbury and Hereford. The area saw centuries of conflict and as a consequence is heavily fortified with motte and bailey castles – their current condition varies!

And then of course there are the castles of Wales – there are about 600 of them – that’s more per square mile than anywhere else in the country and I certainly shan’t be attempting to name them all – some castles were built by the Welsh themselves but the ones which tend to stick in our imaginations are the ones that make up Edward I ‘s so-called ring of steel.

Your challenge this week is to name as many Welsh and Welsh March castles as you can.

Store cupboard of quotes castles 1

How did you do? I hope that you realise that there’ll be at least two more castle themed challenges – next week’s History Jar Challenge will be Welsh castles.

Ivanhoe is associated with Conisburgh Castle created by Sir Walter Scott.

2. 

Peveril Castle in Castleton, Derbyshire, is part of the title of another Sir Walter Scott Novel.

3.

Ian Flemming the creator of 007 described Dover Castle as “the wonderful cardboard castle” in Moonraker.

4.

Brave Dame Mary, a novel by Louisa Hawtry featured Mary Bankes defence of Corfe Castle for the Royalists against the Parliamentarians.

5.

Men of Harlech was sung by the defenders of Rorkes Drift in the film Zulu which starred Michael Caine.

And just to finish – Victor Hugo said that “if we don’t build castles in the air we don’t build anything on the ground” – Fictional Castles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_castles

History Jar Challenge 6 – Northern Castles

All I can say is that there are a lot of castles in this country and I’m sure I haven’t got them all. I have tried to remember some of the differences between a tower house or pele tower and a castle when I’ve made my list. A pele tower was not designed to be lived in the whole time – it was more of a refuge when reivers and clan enemies arrived on your doorstep. Aydon Castle is actually a fortified manor house rather than a castle but it’s on the list because it’s such a lovely example. The list is in no particular order and I have missed a particular favourite of yours I can only apologise. Please add it to the comments section. I have written about rather a lot of castles over the years. If you select “castles” from categories on the right hand side of the blog you will be able to find them.

Cumberia and Westmorland:

Naworth Castle is actually a pele or peel tower depending on how you would like to spell it. https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/05/11/naworth-castle-and-the-dacres/ Highead Castle and Thistlewood Tower, both in Cumbria are also peel towers. Thistlewood was in the possession of the Dacre family as was Naworth. https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/05/16/highead-castle-and-thistlewood-tower/

Naworth Castle

Carlisle Castle – first built in 1092 by William Rufus. I don’t think I’ve ever written specifically about the castle although it has turned up in quite a few posts including about Andrew de Harcla who was besieged by the Scots.

Askerton Castle – a fortified manor house rather than a castle. Now a farm.

Dacre Castle – it’s actually a tower house rather than a castle but it looks remarkable like a castle from the exterior.

Rose Castle – the home of the Bishops of Carisle https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/05/22/rose-castle/

Greystoke Castle I know I’ve visited Greystoke but I think that I posted about the church at the time.

Egremont Castle https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/05/15/egremont-castle-the-de-lucys-and-the-de-multons/

Corby Castle

Cockermouth Castle

Penrith Castle

Brougham Castle

Newcastle Castle

Armathwaite Castle

Appleby Castle

Brough Castle

Pendragon Castle https://thehistoryjar.com/2016/06/28/pendragon-castle/

Kendal Castle

Muncaster Castle

Egremont Castle https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/05/15/egremont-castle-the-de-lucys-and-the-de-multons/

Dalton Castle

Piel Castle

Lowther Castle isn’t a medieval castle its a much later build as is Wray Castle.

Sizergh Castle

Lancashire: Lancaster Castle and Clitheroe Castle spring immediately to mind. Then, Hornby Castle due to the Wars of the Roses – I think.

Yorkshire – north of Pontefract Castle which was often described as the “Key to the North.

Spofforth Castle

Skipton Castle

Knaresborough Castle

Clifford’s Tower

Helmsley Castle

Pickering Castle

Scarborough Castle

Middleham Castle

Bolton Castle

Richmond Castle First built by Alan the Red after the Norman Conquest.

County Durham and Northumbria

Castles, peel towers and fortified manors sprout like mushrooms in the NorthEast and I suspect this is one of the reasons why I love visiting the area.

Thirlwall Castle – built close to Hadrian’s Wall from dressed stones quarried from the wall. It’s also a tower house rather than a castle proper.

Aukland Castle

Barnard Castle https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/10/31/barnard-castle-anne-beauchamp-and-oriel-windows/

Raby Castle

Walworth Castle

Bowes Castle

Durham Castle

Hylton Castle

Newcastle Keep

Aydon Castle

Lumley Castle

Tynemouth Castle

Belsay Castle

Bothal Castle

Bywell Castle

Mitford Castle

Warkworth Castle https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/07/15/warkworth-castle-hotspur-and-rebellion-against-henry-iv/

Edlingham Castle

Preston Tower – looks like a keep but is actually a peel tower.

Alnwick Castle https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/07/05/alnwick-castle/

Dunstanburgh Castle

Chillingham Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Etal Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

Norham Castle

Berwick Castle

Featherstone Castle

And that is, as they say, that! If this has wetted your appetite to visit a few castles when we’re all allowed out then I would recommend the Collins English Castles from its Little Books series. Others of you may have your Observers Book of Castles on your bookshelves. It has been very pleasant thinking of all the castles that I have visited – less pleasant trying to identify my photographs!

History Jar History Challenge week 6- castles north of Pontefract

Carlisle Castle – plus comment overheard during a visit there.

Pontefract Castle is often described as the “Key to the North.” With that in mind, how many castles can you identify in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria, Westmorland and Northumbria. I shall list my thoughts in alphabetic order next week but must admit that I’m taking a will leap into the dark- or even oubliette- with this particular challenge.

I will be returning to the Midlands, Wales and the rest of England in due course but we might take a break from wall to wall castling in between times.

If you’re looking for a good book on the architecture and history of castles then Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain is the book for you.

Preston Tower and it’s builder – from murderer to warden of the east march

preston towerIn 1415 there were about 78 peel or pele towers in Northumberland.  These towers were essentially private fortifications for protection in the event of Scottish raids – or neighbours you  didn’t necessarily agree with.  The idea was that you could secure your family and portable valuables until it was safe to emerge or help arrived – beacons were kept on the top of the towers which could be lit to summon help and to worn the surrounding countryside of danger. Preston tower 1

Peel towers were an architecture that resulted from the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Some of the peel towers were not ordinarily used as dwellings – rather they should be considered refuges in times of trouble whilst at the other end of the spectrum places like Aydon Castle near Hexham resemble castles.

Preston Tower was built by Sir Robert Harbottle at the end of the fourteenth century.  Sir Robert was a man of his time.  He was part of the affinity of Sir Mathew Radmayne of Levens and rose in Redmayne’s service.  When Harbottle murdered a man in Methley in Yorkshire in 1392 it was Redmayne and his successor who secured Harbottle’s pardon.

You’d have thought that Harbottle would have kept his head down but it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the law once again when he took part in a raid on the Yorkshire property of Isabel Fauconberg stealing her property as well as the property of her tenants.   A commission was set up to investigate but somehow or other Harbottle escaped the consequence of his crimes once more.

Henry IV,  having taken the crown from his cousin Richard II, made him constable of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1399 – clearly not having read his cv beforehand.  He even managed to acquire one of the wardenship of the east march – essentially turning Harbottle into the law.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that since he did so well from the Red Rose monarchs that Harbottle was loyal to both Henry IV and Henry V even when the Percy family rebelled against them.  Having bagged himself an heiress in the form of Isabel Monbourcher,  Harbottle had risen from henchman to man of wealth and influence.  When Hotspur rebelled against Henry IV, Harbottle was able to claim a better share of his wife’s inheritance  – so it would appear that luck was on his side as well.

In between times Harbottle had served in Henry IV’s army in 1400 against the Scots and became a member for parliament.  In short he had become part of the gentry in the north and had a good stout peel tower to prove it.

Preston Tower has walls which are over two metres thick, is three storeys high and has rooms off the main chamber at each level.  It was described by Pevsner as one of the best bits of medieval architecture in the country.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/harbottle-robert-1419

Political discord – 1647 style

charles i full lengthIn January the Scots handed King Charles I over to the English.  He had surrendered to the Scots int he hope that they would treat him better than the English and as a strategy for sowing political disharmony amongst his enemies.  The Scots sold him to the English for £40,000.

On the 15th March Harlech Castle surrendered after a ten month siege.  The constable of the castle had been in post since 1644.  His name was William Owen who originated from Shropshire. Harlech itself had always been in the possession of the king.  Perhaps because it wasn’t readily accessible to artillery it remained unchallenged until the final months of the civil war. This was probably just as well as Owen’s garrison comprised just fifteen men.  Owen took himself off to Scotland and after the Royalist defeat found himself in Nottingham Castle.  He was required to pay a fine of £400 before being allowed home. However he wasn’t required to pay one tenth of his income in tax as many other Royalists were required to do.

 

All that remained was to negotiate a settlement with the King and set up a series of laws for the good governance of the three kingdoms – even though no one could accuse what was happening in Ireland of being peaceful.  Generals Ireton and Lambert drafted something called the Heads of Proposals.  Essentially England would become Presbyterian, Parliament would have control of the armed forces and Royalists would not be allowed to hold office for five years.

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_CooperMany army officers and soldiers were unhappy about the fact that Parliament would even consider negotiating with the king. It was one of the causal factors that led to the Putney Debates.  The so-called “Grandees” who had negotiated with the king were seen as having failed the Parliamentarian cause.  By August five radical cavalry regiments had elected agitators to state their views.  One of their demands was for universal male suffrage, i.e. a levelling.  The Grandees, Cromwell amongst them, invited the radicals to debate their demands – resulting in the Putney Debates which started on the 28th October and lasted for three days.

Unfortunately Cromwell became alarmed at the extent of the radical ideas expressed so the debaters were ordered back to their regiments. A document was drawn up to replace the one which the Levellers had presented.  This did not go down well in the radical regiments. On the 15th November there was almost a mutiny which had to be suppressed before matters got out of hand.

Meanwhile – in June Parliament decided that Christmas was a nasty superstitious sort of event.  They also banned Easter and Whitsun. As a result when Christmas came around rather than conforming with the new rules there were riots in Kent which swiftly evolved into the Second English Civil War.

The king had decided that he didn’t like the turn of events, the Levellers’ plan didn’t leave much room for a king and he became convinced that he would be assassinated. So he decided to escape Parliament.  There was also the small matter of a constitutional monarchy.  On November 11th Charles escaped from Hampton Court in the direction of the New Forest – where he became lost.  He had aimed to make for Jersey but ended up on the Isle of Wight where he was recaptured.

Liddel Strength – John of Gaunt on the borders

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)John of Gaunt owned more than thirty castles – many came though his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, others came by gift from his father Edward III.  One of them, Liddel Strength, sitting on the banks of the River Liddel, quite close to the wonderfully named village of Moat in Cumbria, went through assorted hands until it came into the ownership of the Earls of Kent – John the 3rd Earl of Kent died in 1352.  He was twenty-two.   He died without children and his titles passed to his sister Joan.

Joan became the 4th Countess of Kent and Baroness Wake.  History, on the other hand, knows Joan as the Fair Maid of Kent.   Thomas Holland who married her secretly ultimately became the Earl of Kent when Joan extracted herself from a second bigamous marriage that her family had imposed upon her.

All of which was rather unnecessary in this post because John, Earl of Kent passed the castle to Edward III pictured at the start of this post who in turned passed it to John of Gaunt in 1357 after he had proved his martial ability. However, given that the Scots had destroyed the castle in 1346 and behaved rather unpleasantly to the chap responsible for the castle – one Sir Walter de Selby who according to one source was forced to watch two his his sons being strangled prior to his own beheading.

The castle was never rebuilt despite the fact that the area was prone to Scottish raiding given its position on the border.  Edward III’s plan seems to have been that John should become a northern magnate and the lordship gave him the necessary political importance in the region.  Edward was also in the middle of negotiations with King David of Scotland — so a handily placed son was not to be sneezed at in the eventuality of a substitution being required.

Certainly in the 1370s when the intermittent Anglo-Scottish war broke out once more Gaunt went north on Richard II’s behalf with the intention of ending them and had placed the Percy family in a position of greater power than ever on the borders by giving the earl of Northumberland the powers necessary to levy forces from across the marches to repel a Scottish army.

The  title to the Lordship would pass to Henry of Bolingbroke in 1380.

 

Bamburgh Castle – red rose or white – its changing ownership in the aftermath of Towton.

Bamburgh CastleBamburgh Castle perched on the edge of Budle Bay is another of the Percy castles but its history is much longer than that.  It was home to Gospatrick Earl of Northumbria at the time of the Norman Conquest.  He was eventually forced to submit to the Conqueror.  Bamburgh was handed over to the Bishop of Durham.  Sources differ as to whether it was William the Conqueror who built the first castle on the site or the bishop.  Suffice it to say that by the reign of Henry II after several changes of ownership it was in Crown hands – Henry II funded the great keep and it became a venue for a number of Plantagenet visitors.

Now is not the time to discuss the politics of the English East March or the rivalry between the Nevilles and the Percies.  Suffice it to say that Bamburgh was a Lancastrian Castle during the Wars of the Roses. Following the Battle of Towton in 1461 Bamburgh, Alnwick, Warkworth and Dunstanburgh  remained in the hands of the Lancastrians.  This meant that Edward IV was not secure from Scottish incursions or from Lancastrian forces landing along the coast.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick , a.k.a. The Kingmaker besieged Bamburgh and it surrendered in July 1462.  Unfortunately for the Yorkists Margaret of Anjou landed with troop in October with french mercenaries – the Yorkist garrison now promptly handed themselves and Bamburgh over to the Lancastrians. Edward IV now came north and Margaret decamped to Scotland leaving Sir Ralph Percy and Henry Beaufort (Duke of Somerset) in charge of the castle.  There was another short siege and in December the castle was once again in Yorkist hands.

Ralph Percy, the garrison commander, was allowed to swear allegiance to Edward IV. Edward wanted the Percy family on his side but by the new year Ralph had concluded that he preferred the Lancastrian cause to that of the Yorkists and the Nevilles who were, after all, long time enemies of the Percies.  In March 1463 Bamburgh was back in the hands of Margaret of Anjou.  In the North East of the country 1463 was a year of sieges and intermittent warfare orchestrated by Margaret and her Scottish allies but by the end of the year the politically savvy Scots had organised a truce with the Yorkists.

It says something that during 1462-1464 Henry VI was at Bamburgh at various times. In 1464 looked as though the Lancastrians might be on firmer ground when the Duke of Somerset changed sides once again.  John Neville, the Kingmaker’s younger brother now came north and a battle was fought at Hedgeley Moor in April 1464 followed dup by the Battle of Hexham the following month.  Neville defeated the Duke of Somerset who was captured and promptly executed. Henry VI left Bywell Castle the day after the Battle of Hexham and went into hiding in the uplands of Northumbria and Cumberland.

The Northumbrian castles that had remained Lancastrian now surrendered but Bamburgh in the hands of Sir Ralph Grey remained obdurate.  In part this was because he had been Yorkist in 1463 and having changed sides permitted the Lancastrians back into Alnwick – making this post feel rather like a game of musical castles.  The Yorkists told him that they would execute him just as soon as they could – oddly enough this did’t encourage him to surrender nor did the information that one man would be executed for every cannon ball fired at the castle –   Nine months, many canon balls and a collapsing tower later Bamburgh had no choice but to capitualte making it the first castle in England to be defeated by the power of artillery.  And it wouldn’t have surrendered even then, had Sir Ralph not been knocked senseless and his second in command taken the opportunity to surrender whilst Sir Ralph was out for the count.

The Earl of Warwick didn’t carry out his threat to execute one man per cannon ball but Grey was executed in July. After the fall of Bamburgh the Yorkists more or less controlled the whole country with the exception of Harlech Castle and a few isolated pockets.