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Warkworth Castle motte and bailey castle, tower keep castle and collegiate church

A Scheduled Monument in Warkworth, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3452 / 55°20'42"N

Longitude: -1.6119 / 1°36'42"W

OS Eastings: 424708.582831

OS Northings: 605752.53917

OS Grid: NU247057

Mapcode National: GBR K65M.TQ

Mapcode Global: WHC1T.6XN5

Entry Name: Warkworth Castle motte and bailey castle, tower keep castle and collegiate church

Scheduled Date: 9 July 1915

Last Amended: 1 September 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011649

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23234

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Warkworth

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Warkworth St Lawrence

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument lies at the neck of a loop of the River Coquet and includes the
early 12th century motte and bailey castle, the mid-12th to 16th century
tower keep castle, and the 14th century collegiate church. To the north of the
castle, occupying the loop of the river, is the town of Warkworth which
developed with the castle as one of the planned boroughs of the Middle Ages.
Further remains, preserving the relationship between the castle and borough,
will survive in this area. However, aside from Warkworth bridge and gatehouse,
which lie c.400m to the north and are covered by a separate scheduling, these
have not been included in this scheduling as their extent and state of
preservation are not sufficiently understood.
The motte or castle mound stands at the south end of the main street through
Warkworth, at the highest point of a steep incline. The bailey occupies a
levelled and scarped area to the south and is roughly triangular in plan with
a diameter of c.100m or a hundred paces. It is separated from the motte by a
ditch which also encircles it to the east and south. The river flanks the
castle to the west at the bottom of a steep bank. The origins of the earliest
castle are obscure but it would have included a timber keep on the motte and a
palisade round the bailey. The bailey enclosure would have contained a wide
range of timber-built ancillary features such as accommodation for the lord's
family and men-at-arms, workshops, stables, service buildings and corrals for
stock and horses. At some point in the mid-12th century, the castle was
strengthened by the addition of a stone curtain wall which reduced the maximum
width of the bailey to c.80m. The unused portion of the earlier bailey lies to
the east of the latter. At about the same time, the lord's accommodation was
replaced by a stone hall and solar, built against the inside of the west
curtain. The south and west walls of the hall survive and, together with a
section of the east curtain, are the only upstanding remains of the earliest
stone castle. In the late 12th or early 13th century, the timber keep was
replaced by the first masonry tower keep. Only the foundations of this
structure survive, the upstanding remains being those of its early 15th
century replacement.
The walls and structures of Warkworth Castle show evidence of many phases of
reconstruction and modification. Aside from the sections of mid-12th
century masonry already noted, the earliest surviving standing remains are
found along the south curtain and the south-west corner of the monument. These
include the gatehouse, at the centre of the south curtain wall, built in
c.1200, which consists of a vaulted gate-passage flanked by guardrooms with
projecting semi-octagonal bays at the front. The recess for a drawbridge
survives around the gate arch below a machicolation, or projecting parapet,
added in the later 13th century when both the gatehouse and the walls
were heightened. In the gatehouse walls, near to the machicolation, are square
holes which formerly carried the timber brackets for hoards: covered wooden
galleries from which the castle could be defended by archers and crossbowmen.
The gate passage was also protected by a portcullis and an inner iron gate,
both covered by arrow slits in the walls of the guardrooms. Further arrow
slits overlook the ditch along the south side of the castle.
Also dating to the early 13th century is a building range of uncertain
purpose along the eastern half of the south curtain. Of similar date, and
situated at the junction of the south and west curtain walls, is Carrickfergus
Tower: a semi-octagonal projecting tower of three storeys, with arrow slits at
ground floor level overlooking the ditch. To the north of this is the hall and
solar. The solar, or private chamber of the lords of Warkworth, lay above an
undercroft or cellar and shows evidence of reconstruction in both the
13th and 14th centuries. The same is true of the hall or public chamber which
was rebuilt in the 13th century when the north or 'low' end was subdivided to
create a buttery and pantry. In the late 14th or early 15th centuries, towers
were built at the south-east and north-east corners of the hall; the latter
creating a porch at the entrance and known later as the Lion Tower because of
the lion, an emblem of the Percy family, carved on the central boss of its
vault. To the south-east of the hall, adjacent to the solar block, is the
early 14th century chapel while, to the north, lay the kitchen, separated from
the buttery and pantry by a larder fronted by a small courtyard and rebuilt in
the 15th century. To the north of this lies the 13th century west postern
tower and, to the north-east of this, in the ditch separating the motte and
bailey, is a 14th century building interpreted as either a brewhouse or a
laundry. Along the east curtain wall are a series of buildings dating to
c.1300 which include a stable-block with a first floor granary and the
projecting semi-octagonal Grey Mare's Tail Tower which, in the 16th century,
was used as a prison and contains wall carvings that may have been executed by
prisoners. South of the stables is the east postern which, in its present
form, is 16th century. Also of 16th century date is the square Amble or
Montagu Tower, located at the junction of the east and south curtain walls. To
the west of the stables are the remains of the castle well-house. The well
itself has been cleared to a depth of 18m without reaching the bottom. Water
would have been raised either by a treadmill or by a horse or donkey wheel.
The early 15th century keep is unroofed but largely complete. Its well-
preserved external appearance is due to its continued upkeep during the
15th and 16th centuries, and the restoration of the south bay and south-west
corner, which were reroofed and made habitable by the fourth Duke of
Northumberland between 1853 and 1858. The plan of the keep is of a square
tower with mitred corners, with projecting pentagonal bays at the centre of
each face. It has three storeys, the ground floor being taken up by service
rooms, a guardroom with an oubliette or pit-dungeon, and a chamber identified
in records as the pages' room. These are arranged round a central light well
which is open to the sky. A wide flight of stairs leads up to the first floor
which is completely domestic in character, its rooms comprising a hall,
chamber, chapel, kitchen, buttery and pantry, and its walls containing
closets, ventilation shafts and cupboards. The second floor too is non-
military, consisting of the upper levels of the hall, kitchen and chapel and
two private rooms, including a solar. Rising high above the second floor, at
the centre of the keep, is the Lookout Turret which houses a further three
apartments, one above the other.
To the south of the keep, on the opposite side of the ditch between the motte
and bailey, are the foundations of an early 15th century church. This
church, which extends the full width of the bailey, was intended as part of a
college of secular canons endowed by the first Percy earl of Northumberland.
It appears, however, that the plan was never realised and that the upper part
of the church was never built. Vaulted cellars under the east arm and north
transept of the church remained in use as stores and survive together with the
ground-plan of the church and a passage built to connect the bailey to the
south with the area to the north.
The first stone castle at Warkworth is believed to have been built by Henry,
son of King David I of Scotland, who was created Earl of Northumberland in
1139. It is not known who was responsible for the construction of the earlier
motte and bailey castle. In 1157, Northumberland was taken by King Henry II of
England who, in 1158, granted the castle and manor of Warkworth to Roger
fitzRichard. Despite being beseiged and sacked in 1174 by William the Lion of
Scotland, formerly Earl of Northumberland and lord of Warkworth, the castle
remained with Roger until his death in 1177. At that time, Roger's son,
Robert, was still a minor and was not confirmed in his Northumberland estates
until 1199. By 1203 he was Sheriff of Northumberland and, as a wealthy and
powerful man, was responsible for the strengthening of the castle by the
construction of the gatehouse and Carrickfergus Tower, and also the rebuilding
of the earlier stone buildings, including the reconstructed hall and solar. It
was probably also he who built the first stone keep.
Throughout the 13th and early 14th centuries, Warkworth continued in the hands
of Roger fitzRichard's descendants who, from 1310, took the surname de
Clavering after their estates in Essex. In 1323, following the Scottish
campaign of 1322, Edward II ordered John de Clavering to provision and
maintain the castle against an expected attack from Scotland. The assault
came in 1327 when, twice, the Scots beseiged the castle and both times were
defeated. After peace was signed in 1328, the castle continued to house a
small royal force in addition to its own garrison, in order to help safeguard
the border. John de Clavering died without male heir in 1332 and the castle
was granted to Henry, second Lord Percy of Alnwick. Under him, the curtain
walls and gatehouse were heightened and strengthened and Grey Mare's Tail
Tower constructed. Improvements were also made to the domestic arrangements of
the castle which became the chief residence of the lords of Alnwick. It also
became the setting for a number of historically important events, including
the conspiracy to depose Henry IV formed between the third Percy lord of
Warkworth and his son, Harry Hotspur. Hotspur was defeated and killed at the
battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 and, in 1405, his father joined a second
conspiracy, led by Archbishop Scrope. This plot too failed and Percy escaped
to Scotland. The king laid seige to Warkworth with cannon, forcing its rapid
surrender. In the same year, he granted the forfeited Percy baronies of
Alnwick, Prudhoe and Langley to his younger son John, Lord Warden of the East
Marches. Warkworth became John's headquarters until, in 1416, Henry, son of
Hotspur, did homage to Henry V and was restored to his lands and the earldom
of Northumberland.
No documentary evidence exists for the castle during the late 14th and
early 15th centuries, though it was during this period that the present
keep was built and the collegiate church begun. During the Wars of the Roses
it was held for the Lancastrians but, in 1461, was lost to them due to the
death of the third earl of Northumberland at the battle of Towton. In 1462, it
was granted by the Yorkist King Edward IV to his brother, the Duke of
Clarence. From it, the 'kingmaker' Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, directed
the sieges of Bamburgh, Alnwick and Dunstanburgh castles. In 1464, John
Neville was made Earl of Northumberland and Lord Warden of the Marches, and
adopted Warkworth as his northern home. In 1471, Henry Percy, eldest son of
the Lancastrian third earl, was appointed earl and Lord Warden of the East and
Middle Marches following his release from the Tower of London and his oath of
fealty to Edward IV. He too lived at Warkworth and records of numerous general
repairs exist from the period leading up to his death in 1489. Further repairs
and improvements were carried out during the lifetime of his son and grandson
who held the castle until 1538, when the latter gave his estates to Henry
The king's commissioners reported the castle in good repair and, between 1538
and 1557, it became the residence of two successive royal officials. In 1557,
together with the earldom of Northumberland, it was restored to Thomas Percy
by Queen Mary Tudor but, in 1569, after the earl joined the Rising of the
North, it was taken for Elizabeth I by Sir John Forster and again became a
residence for royal officials. The earl was executed in 1572 and was succeeded
by his brother in 1574. By this time, however, the castle had been plundered
for materials by Forster and was in a worsening state of repair. It ceased to
be the earl's residence and was leased in c.1585, together with its estates,
to Sir Ralph Grey, who allowed it to decay even further. In 1622 it was leased
to Sir Francis Brandling and, between 1644 and 1645, was captured and occupied
by the Scots. In 1648 it was occupied by soldiers of the Commonwealth and,
after their withdrawal, was leased to Ralph Milbourne of Newcastle upon Tyne
by Joscelin, the eleventh and last earl of the second house of Percy. In 1672,
Earl Joscelin's widow allowed John Clarke to remove any remaining building
materials for the construction of his house at Chirton. The castle remained
untended until the mid-19th century when the fourth Duke of Northumberland
restored part of the keep and carried out repairs to the rest of the castle to
prevent its further decay.
The castle has been in State care since 1922 and is also a Grade I Listed
Building. All English Heritage fittings and fixtures are excluded from the
scheduling though the ground underneath is included.

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

Warkworth Castle is a well-documented example of a 12th century tower keep
castle which developed from an earlier motte and bailey castle and remained in
use till the end of the 16th century. It was one of the strongest castles
in the north of England and part of its importance lies in its association
with the Percys, historically one of the most important medieval families in
Britain. Not only are its standing remains in a good state of preservation,
but a wide range of ancillary features survive within its walled bailey and
include an unfinished collegiate church. In addition, the buried remains of
structures associated with the motte and bailey castle will survive in the
bailey area outside the east curtain wall which has remained undeveloped since
it went out of use in the mid-12th century. The 15th century keep of the
present castle illustrates well the trend in the later Middle Ages to move
away from buildings of purely military character to ones with greater thought
for domestic comfort.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Honeyman, H L, Hunter Blair, H, Warkworth Castle and Hermitage, (1954)
Honeyman, H L, Hunter Blair, H, Warkworth Castle and Hermitage, (1954)
'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Archaeologia Aeliana, , Vol. 9, (1932), 194-7
'Medieval Archaeology' in Medieval Archaeology, , Vol. 11, (1967), 285
'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Archaeologia Aeliana, (1967), 105-121
'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Archaeologia Aeliana, (1967), 105-21

Source: Historic England

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