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Prudhoe Castle tower keep castle

A Scheduled Monument in Prudhoe, Northumberland

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Latitude: 54.9652 / 54°57'54"N

Longitude: -1.8583 / 1°51'29"W

OS Eastings: 409167.875649

OS Northings: 563403.218098

OS Grid: NZ091634

Mapcode National: GBR HCG0.GX

Mapcode Global: WHC3M.FG9G

Entry Name: Prudhoe Castle tower keep castle

Scheduled Date: 9 July 1915

Last Amended: 12 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011647

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23228

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Prudhoe

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Prudhoe St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The castle at Prudhoe is a tower keep castle and includes two baileys or
courtyards, containing the keep and numerous other medieval buildings, a
gatehouse, barbican and curtain wall, and the castle's outer defences which
incorporate two ditches on the south and west sides. A medieval bridge outside
the outer defences and to the east of the main gatehouse is also included. The
earliest upstanding feature of the stone castle is the lower part of the
gatehouse. This dates to the early 12th century and indicates that the
castle's inner defences, which would initially have comprised a timber
palisade, had begun to be replaced in stone by c.1100.
The massive curtain wall built at this time is over 1.5m thick and nearly 8m
high. It includes a wall walk from which the castle could be patrolled and
defended, a projecting tower on the east side, and semi-circular bastions at
the north-west and south-west corners. The remains of arrow loops and a number
of small mural chambers can also be seen, the latter including a garderobe or
latrine on the south side. The lower part of the gatehouse incorporates a
single round-arched passageway and would originally have been approached by a
timber bridge across the defensive ditch on the south side of the monument. In
the 14th century, the bridge was replaced by a narrow stone barbican
incorporating a drawbridge and flanked by crenellated walls equipped with wall
walks. Prior to this, probably in the 13th century, the upper storeys of
the gatehouse were rebuilt. On the first floor was a chapel and, on the second
floor, a guardroom. A crenellated fighting platform existed at roof level.
Within the castle, in the bailey west of the gatehouse, stood the keep. The
original timber structure was replaced by a stone tower keep in the mid- to
late-12th century. Much of the upper part of this building no longer
survives, but enough remains to show that it was originally two-storeyed and
that a third storey was added later. A forebuilding lay on the west side and
is now partially incorporated in the late-Georgian manor house, built within
the castle in the early 19th century. The forebuilding linked the ground
floor of the keep to a range of service buildings that formerly stood on the
site of the manor house, and also contained the spiral stair that provided
access to the roof and upper floors of the keep. The ground floor, or
undercroft, would have been used for storage while the upper floors would have
contained the private apartments of the lords of Prudhoe Castle and possibly
also a guardroom. Prior to the construction of the tower keep, both the lord's
private and public chambers would have been included within the hall, recently
discovered by excavation to have stood against the north curtain in the
eastern bailey of the castle. The hall was a rectangular building of two
storeys, the ground floor undercroft being used for storage and the first
floor including a large communal chamber in addition to the smaller, private
solar. The building may have retained its public functions after the tower
keep was built. East of it, following the east curtain wall, the remains of a
number of service buildings have been found including a kitchen and a
brewhouse, the latter below the east tower. Additional service buildings would
have existed all round the inside of the curtain wall and would have included,
for example, a bakehouse, lodgings for servants and men-at-arms, a guesthouse,
stabling and workshops. On the right of the gatehouse are the remains of the
castle mill and, on the left, the pond which fed it. The medieval buildings
along the west curtain wall have been replaced by a range of 19th century
outbuildings, but the earlier remains will survive underneath.
The castle was built by the barons of Prudhoe, the de Umfravilles. It
commanded the middle stretch of the Tyne valley and controlled one of the
principal north-south routes across the river, making it an obstacle to
Scottish armies invading England. In addition to its formidable stone
fortifications, the castle relied for its defence on its position on a
steep-sided natural mound. These were supplemented by deep ditches on the
weaker south and west sides. Its strength was such that it successfully
withstood the besieging army of King William of Scotland in both 1173 and
1174. In 1381, the castle passed by marriage to the earls of Northumberland,
the Percys, and is still owned by the Percy family. It has been in State care
since 1966 and, together with the later manor house, is a Grade I Listed
Excluded from the scheduling are all English Heritage fixtures and fittings,
the modern surfaces of the barbican and baileys, and the 19th century manor
house and outbuildings, but the ground underneath these features is included,
together with the medieval structures incorporated within the excluded
buildings, namely the west curtain wall and the forebuilding of the keep.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the
principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a
defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes
are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of
various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be
defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into
the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a
gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops,
may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout
the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid-
15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were
constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new
creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading
families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are
widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh
border. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining
significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Prudhoe Castle is a well preserved and typical example of a small, powerful
Border castle of the tower keep variety. Its importance lies not only in the
good state of preservation of its standing remains, in particular its curtain
walls which largely survive to their full height, but also in a number of rare
architectural details and wide range of ancillary features which survive both
as upstanding and buried features within its two baileys. Equally important
are its associations with the de Umfravilles and the Percys, two of the most
important families in English medieval history.

Source: Historic England


Keen, LJ, Prudhoe Castle, 1993, Monograph, forthcoming
Saunders, A D, Prudhoe Castle, 1986, English Heritage leaflet

Source: Historic England

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