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Enclosure castle, two 16th century gun turrets and an early 17th century house

A Scheduled Monument in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.7739 / 55°46'26"N

Longitude: -2.0113 / 2°0'40"W

OS Eastings: 399386.962948

OS Northings: 653396.156507

OS Grid: NT993533

Mapcode National: GBR G1DP.B1

Mapcode Global: WH9YK.24HH

Entry Name: Enclosure castle, two 16th century gun turrets and an early 17th century house

Scheduled Date: 12 July 1965

Last Amended: 7 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015520

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28533

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Built-Up Area: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Berwick Holy Trinity and St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument is situated at the north west corner of the town of Berwick in a
commanding position on a steep rise above the estuary of the River Tweed. The
main part of the castle which remains standing above ground is in the care of
the Secretary of State and includes the west wall of the castle, the south
east angle tower known as the Constable Tower and the length of curtain wall
adjacent to it, as well as the flanking wall known as the White Wall. All
these structures are Listed Grade I. The monument is much more extensive and
in addition to the ruins held in Guardianship it includes the remainder of the
castle which having been levelled in the 19th century, survives below ground
as buried deposits.

The castle is one of the earliest surviving defensive features at Berwick upon
Tweed. A castle at Berwick is first mentioned in documents dating to the 12th
century, although most of the remains which are visible today date from a
re-modelling of the structure in the late 13th and subsequent centuries. When
Edward I captured the town of Berwick from the Scots in 1296 the existing
castle was strengthened by the replacement of the towers and the addition
of others. At this time an additional length of wall known as the White Wall
was constructed in order to prevent the castle from being outflanked. This
feature abuts the south west angle of the castle and descends the slope to the
river side. The castle was further defended on the east side by a deep natural
water filled gully. A stone causeway and at various times wooden drawbridges
gave access to the castle from a detached tower on the medieval town walls,
through the main eastern gateway of the castle which was flanked by two round
towers. Berwick and its castle were retaken in 1318 by Robert Bruce who
retained it during his lifetime but was lost to England once again in 1333 in
the reign of Edward III. The castle which had been damaged was repaired at
this time only to suffer further damage when it was occupied on several
occasions by the Scots during the 14th century, always to be retaken by the
English Crown. The castle and the town were given to Scotland by Queen
Margaret in 1461 but was retaken for the last time in 1482 after a long siege
and it has remained in English hands ever since.

The castle was garrisoned until the Union of the English and Scottish Crowns
in 1603 when the Scottish threat subsided and its military use was largely
abandoned. It had been joined to the medieval town of Berwick upon Tweed by a
linking wall but had already become separated from the town when the
Elizabethan walls were constructed. These defences enclosed a smaller circuit
than their predecessors, leaving the castle isolated some distance outside. It
is known from documents that new lodgings of a particularly grand design, were
constructed in the castle at the beginning of the 17th century. These
subsequently become the home of Lord Hume, Lieutenant of the three Scottish
Marches, to whom the castle was given in 1604. Documentary evidence shows that
the house was tall and square with turrets at each of the four corners or in
the centre of each side. It had a very ornate facade and a long west facing
upper gallery. Much of the stone and timber from the castle was removed in the
mid-17th century when it was used for the building of Holy Trinity, Berwick's
new parish church. The ruins of the castle passed from a sequence of private
individuals until it became the property of the North British Railway and
large areas were levelled in the mid 19th century in order to make way for the
railway which linked England and Scotland.

The castle as remodelled after 1296 was formed by an outer enclosing wall
strengthened with towers and turrets. Large sections of this wall have been
levelled and survive as masonry foundations beneath the current ground level.
However, the west wall and parts of the east wall of the castle survive as
standing structures. The latter is visible as a length of walling containing
four relieving arches surmounted by some modern walling. Attached to the
southern end of this wall is the south east angle tower, known as the
Constable Tower. The upper courses of this polygonal tower are constructed of
weathered ashlar blocks and are equipped with arrow slits suggesting a late
13th century date. A well preserved garderobe chute is visible on its western
side. The lower courses of the angle tower are rougher and less regular and
are thought to represent the base of an earlier 12th century tower. At the
northern end of this length of wall there is a second tower, partly obscured
by a deep build up of material. It is visible to a height of six courses above
the raised ground level and three visible faces suggest that this is also of
polygonal form. The lower part of a narrow arrow slit is visible in one of
these faces. The west wall of the castle, some 75m long, is also visible above
ground standing to a maximum height of 6m and up to 4m thick. It is faced with
roughly coursed ashlar blocks and internally it contains mortices for two
levels of timber floor joists. At its northern end are the remains of a semi-
circular tower visible as rubble core 12m high with some facing stones in
situ. This tower is known as Barmekin Tower. At the southern end of the west
wall there is a semi circular mid-16th century gun turret. This turret
comprises two floors and the lower level shows the remains of a vaulted
ceiling and the upper has the remains of a latrine. The addition of this gun
turret to the medieval walls of the castle in the 16th century represents a
transition from a medieval form of defensive structure with high walls and
flanking towers to one better equipped to deal with the threat posed by the
development of artillery warfare. Masonry from the south wall of the castle
has been incorporated into the Railway Station retaining wall rebuilt in the
19th century on the line of the castle wall.

Attached to the south west angle of the castle a length of wall, known
as the White Wall, descends the steep slopes to the River Tweed where it
terminated at a large wooden gate. The wall, 82m long and 6m high, is
stepped and contains several narrow arrow slits. A steep flight of steps
known as Breakneck Stairs have been constructed against its inner
side. During the 16th century the wall was reinforced with additional
masonry. A tower constructed at the same time on the site of its
medieval predecessor survives well at the present edge of the river. This
tower, also of two storeys contains three casements for small cannon.
The first floor has three emplacements for guns and the remains of a
fireplace. Within the interior of the castle numerous buildings are known to
exist from several centuries of use. Domestic ranges, now levelled, survive
beneath the ground set against the south and west walls of the castle.
Contemporary newspaper reports during the construction of the railway in 1844
describe the uncovering of masonry, some in the form of arches and gateways.
When the Royal Border bridge was under construction in 1847 it is reported
that a well and the face of a large tower were discovered immediately inside
the centre of the south wall of the castle.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the station
platforms and all structures erected upon them as well as all tracks,
sleepers, ballast and gantries for overhead power lines; the surfaces of
adjacent railway yards and all other structures contained within or associated
with them; also excluded is Station House and its outbuildings and the
outbuildings in the grounds of Castle Vale which abut the outer face of the
south wall of the monument; the surfaces of all modern roads and carparks, all
fence posts, walls and the surfaces of all paths and drive-ways; the ground
beneath all of these features is, however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but
this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there
are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they
developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive
experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The
majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were
built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier
medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were
new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or
leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure
castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration
in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration
along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward
I. They are rare nationally with only 126 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 with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples
retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

During the 16th century the new use of gunpowder artillery in warfare reduced
the effectiveness of traditional fortification. Direct bombardment from cannon
meant that even the highest and strongest walls could be demolished. The
fortifications of the 16th century accordingly reflect the considerable
technical improvements which led to artillery pieces becoming more mobile and
accurate combined with specialist roles and greater velocity. Provision was
made within existing walls and towers for weapons of heavy calibre to be
deployed. In the early forts and towers of Henry VIII firepower was arranged
systematically in tiers, in what were elaborate, centrally planned gun towers
for all-round defence.

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most
powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic
and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic
additions to an otherwise indefensible high status dwelling, giving a military
aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with
individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture
often reflects a high level of expenditure. Their buildings normally included
a hall used as a communal space for domestic and administrative purposes,
kitchens, services and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate,
private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural
emphasis. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily
between the 15th and 16th centuries although examples both before and after
this period are known.

Despite the fact that parts of the medieval and post-medieval castle at
Berwick upon Tweed were levelled in the 19th century significant
archaeological deposits survive below ground level as buried deposits and as
lengths of upstanding masonry. Due to its strategic importance the castle at
Berwick upon Tweed will contribute greatly to our knowledge of the
Anglo-Scottish border during the Middle Ages and beyond. Taken with the
medieval and post-medieval walls of Berwick upon Tweed it provides one of the
most complete overviews available for the understanding of the development of
military architecture in Britain.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
MacIvor, I, The Fortifications of Berwick upon Tweed, (1972), 28
DOE, Buildings of Special Hist & Arch Interest,
DOE, Buildings of Special Hist & Arch Interest,

Source: Historic England

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