From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Warkworth Castle

55°20'43.9"N 1°36'42.3"W
Pre 1157

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Warkworth Castle is a ruined medieval castle, located on a loop of the River Coquet, less than a mile from the north-east coast, in Warkworth, Northumberland.

Although the settlement of Warkworth dates back to at least the 8th century, the first castle was not built until after the Norman Conquest. The castle was built at the south end of the town, guarding the narrow neck of the loop. A fortified bridge also defended the approach to the town.

It is uncertain when the castle was founded, although traditionally it is thought that Prince Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria built the castle in the mid-12th century, but it may have been built by King Henry II of England when he took control of England's northern counties. Warkworth Castle was first documented in a charter of 1157 – 1164 when Henry II granted it to Roger fitz Richard. The timber castle was considered to be feeble, and was left undefended when the Scots invaded in 1173.

Roger's son Robert inherited and improved the castle and he hosted King John in 1213. The castle remained in the family line, with periods of guardianship when heirs were too young to control their estates. With the outbreak of the Anglo-Scottish Wars, Edward II invested in castles including Warkworth where he funded the strengthening of the garrison in 1319. Twice in 1327 the Scots besieged the castle without success.

Edward III granted the castle to the 2nd Baron Percy of Alnwick, who took control in 1345. Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, added the imposing keep overlooking the village in the late 14th century. The fourth earl remodelled the buildings in the bailey and began the construction of a collegiate church within the castle, but work on the latter was abandoned after his death.

The 10th Earl of Northumberland supported Parliament during the English Civil War and the castle was damaged during the conflict. The last Percy earl died in 1670. In the mid-18th century the castle found its way into the hands of Hugh Smithson, who married the indirect Percy heiress. He adopted the surname Percy and founded the dynasty of the Dukes of Northumberland, through whom possession of the castle descended.

In the late 19th century, the dukes refurbished Warkworth Castle and Anthony Salvin was commissioned to restore the keep. The 8th Duke of Northumberland gave custody of the castle to the Office of Works in 1922. Since 1984 English Heritage has cared for the site, which is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.