Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

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~ History  ~

1093 - King Malcolm II of Scotland and his son are killed laying siege to Alnwick Castle. Scottish ambitions to annex Northumberland from Norman control is quashed. Within days the King;s influential Queen Margaret dies of her long standing illness.

1095 - A stone shell keep on a motte is built at Alnwick when Ivo de Vesci obtains the manor by marriage.

1136 - Alnwick is captured by David I of Scotland.

1138 - The 'strong castle of Annewic' passes by marriage to Eustace Fitz John. His son William rebuilds the castle in stone.

1172 & 1174 - The castle withstands sieges by William the Lion of Scotland. William sends most of his forces off to harry the surrounding countryside and is defeated and captured when an English army suddenly arrive through the fog.

1201 & 1209 - King John visits Alnwick castle.

1213 - Eustace de Vesci rebels against King John, the sheriff of Northumberland is ordered to destroy the castle, although this instruction is rescinded before it can be carried out.

1291 - William III de Vesci is a leading contender to the Scottish crown but dies 6 years later.

1309 - The castle is given to Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, who sells it on to Henry Percy.

1314 - William de Vesci's only heir, an illegitimate son, is killed at the battle of Bannockburn.

1315 - Henry Percy dies, but not before he has refortified the castle by providing the keep with seven round flanking towers, plus adding others to the outer walls.

1346 - His son, Henry, adds octagonal towers from the ransoms of captured Scottish nobles.

1377 - Henry, 4th Lord Percy is created 1st Earl of Northumberland. He and his son Hotspur support the deposition of Richard II in favour of Henry IV, but they rebel against the latter after differences about ransoms of prisoners taken at their victory over the Scots at Homildon Hill in 1402.

1403 - Hotspur is killed at the battle of Shrewsbury and the Earl is imprisoned.

1409 - Henry Percy rebels again and is killed at the battle of Bramham Moor.

1414 - The Percy heir, Hotspur's son, finds favour with Henry V and has his estates restored.

1424 - The town of Alnwick is attacked and burnt by the Scots.

1445 - The 2nd Earl of Northumberland is killed fighting on the Lancastrian side at St Albans.

1448 - The town of Alnwick is again attacked and burnt by the Scots.

1461 - The 3rd Earl of Northumberland is killed at Towton. The Earl of Warwick's brother Lord Montague is created Earl.

1462 - Sir Ralph Grey of Wilton surrenders Alnwick Castle to a Scottish force led by Henry VI's spouse, Queen Margaret. The Earl of Warwick besieges the castle when a Scottish army advance to relieve it. The Scots later withdraw.

1463 - The castle is betrayed to the Lancastrians.

1464 - It surrenders again to Warwick after the victory at Hexham.

1469 - Edward IV falls out with Warwick and decides to liberate Henry Percy from the Tower of London and restore him as 4th Earl of Northumberland.

1489 - Henry Percy is killed by a mob objecting to a new tax levied by Henry VII.

1537 - The 6th Earl dies in poverty, having left his estates to the Crown since he had no children.

1557 - Thomas, nephew of the 6th Earl, is restored by Queen Mary as 7th Earl of Northumberland.

1568 - He rebels and garrisons the castle, but it is surrendered to Sir John Forster without a fight. He is later beheaded.

1572 - Thomas's brother Henry becomes Earl of Northumberland.

1585 - Henry dies in suspicious circumstances in the Tower of London, being accused of supporting Mary, Queen of Scots.

His son Henry, 9th Earl also spends a long period in the Tower after he installs his Catholic cousin as constable at Alnwick.

1605 - Henry's cousin Thomas is hunted down and killed as one of the principle conspirators in the Gunpowder plot.

1632 - After the 9th Earl dies the family ceases to live in Northumberland and the earldom becomes extinct on the death of the 11th Earl in Turin in 1670.

1690's - The castle becomes a school.

1722 - After the heiress to the 11th Earl dies, her son Algernon is made Lord Lieutenant of Northumberland.

1766 - Sir Hugh Smithson, son-in-law to Algernon, takes the Percy name and is created Duke of Northumberland following a decade of work spent rebuilding the castle.

1850's - An equally thorough rebuilding was executed by Salvin for Algernon, 4th Duke of Northumberland.


Alwick town centre




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A short distance from the castle there is a stone which marks the spot where William the Lion was attacked by a party of English barons, unexpectedly and - according to a chronicler - at dinner without his helmet.   It is also near here that Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, had been killed in 1093. In this border country it is hardly surprising that a powerful stronghold such as Alnwick (pronounced 'Annick') was built and, together with its various owners, became the focal point for so many historical events between the English and Scottish kings, especially the mighty Percy dynasty who, in their day, were the most powerful magnates in the kingdom.

Access to the castle is very easy from the car park available. Alnwick is really popular with tourists, including Harry Potter enthusiasts, as Alnwick was used for the first Harry Potter film. Lots to see as you would expect, but do expect crowds.