Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle, County Durham

~ History ~

1095 ~ Following King William II's crushing of the rebellious Earls of Northumberland, the lands are forfeit to the Crown, who in turn grant it to Guy de Baliol, a loyal supporter of King William II from Picardy in north-eastern France. The Church protest as they believe the land rightfully belong to them.

1125 ~ Guy's nephew Bernard succeeds his uncle.Together with his younger son, they rebuild and expand the original earthwork and timber castle. During this period the town is founded.

1138 ~ Bernard leads his army against the Scots led by King David I at the Battle of Cowton Moor.

1155 ~ Bernard dies and is succeeded by his eldest son Guy, who only holds the castle for seven years until his own death when his brother Bernard II inherites the estates.

1199 ~ Bernard II dies leaving no male heir. He is succeeded by Eustace de Helicourt, from a local tenant family who changes his name to Baliol.

1212 ~ Following the castle being held by the Bishop Pudsey of Durham in security for a loan made to Eustace, who could not afford to keep castle, King John orders the castle to be returned to Eustace's son Hugh, who is a close ally to the King.

1216 ~ Hugh defends the North against the Northumberlan baron's uprising in alliance with King Alexander I against the Crown. King John rides north to restore order, but after he leaves King Alexander's Scottish army advances and beseiges the castle. Eustace de Vesci, Alexander's brother-in-law, is killed by a crossbow bolt in his forehead fired from the defending castle walls. The castle holds out long enough to allow King John to return on the offensive.

1228 ~ Hugh dies and is succeeded by his son and heir, John de Baliol. Through his marriage to Devorguilla of Galloway, he gains lands and titles, becoming one of the most wealthiest men in Britian. He ruthlessly imprisons her brother Thomas in the castle for sixty-one years to ensure his grip on her lands and titles are absolute and without challenge.

1264 ~ John is a loyal supporter of King Henry III and fights for him against the rebellious baron's at the Battle of Lewes. He is captured and held by the barons to ensure King John keeps his promises.

1269 ~ John dies. His widow remains devout to his memory, embalming his heart in a casket, constantly at her side, even at meal times when food would be served at the high table as if he were still alive.

1278 ~ John's youngest son succeeds the titles and lands of his father, which inturn see's him contender to the throne of Scotland. A council of Scottish and English lords, convened by King Edward I of England, chose John as the new King of Scotland, ahead of other contenders such as the powerful Bruce family. John swears loyalty to Edward as his overlord, until taking the Scottish throne and then rejecting his oath.

1296 ~ War is declared between England & Scotland. Edward marches on Scotland. John, fearing for his life, surrenders his right to the throne and is imprisoned in the Tower of London. All his estates are forfeit to the Crown. During this turmoil, the Church under Bishop Anthony Bek, take possession of the castle, pushing forth their long claim to the lands of Barnard Castle.

1306 ~ Edward's tolerance of the Church's claim to Barnard Castle comes to an end. The following year, on his deathbed, Kind Edward grants the castle and lands to Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, his most trusted and capable lieutenants. Importance of the castle is vastly reduced. The outer wards fall into decay, whilst the inner ward is modernised & improved.

1314 ~ Following the Scottish victory over King Edward II at Bannockburn, the castle is kept on a war footing for the next eight years.

1315 ~ Guy's death see his titles, lands and castle succeeded by his infant two year old son Thomas. During his minority, the church again press their claim on the castle and its lands, which King Edward III denies them.

The castle remains in Beauchamp hands until the line of succession fails in 1449, which then see's the castle pass to the powerful Neville family through Richard Neville's marriage to Anne Beauchamp. Richard Nevillel becomes the most powerful magnet in the land, becoming 'Kingmaker' for his role in the Wars of the Roses.

1471 ~ Following Richard Nevillel's death at the Battle of Barnet, the bishops once again try to recover possession of the castle and its lands. Instead, completely disregarding the rightful claims by Anne, the lordship pass to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, her son-in-law.

1483 ~ The popular Richard becomes King Richard III and so the castle and its lands revert to the Crown. Plans to improve the castle are never followed through due to the early death of Richard in Battle.

1485 ~After King Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, Anne Nevill is restored to her estates, but she grants them to King Henry VII for his lifetime, on the understanding they are restored to her family upon his death. The agreement is never respected and the castle stays in the hands of the Crown, being allowed to decay.

1536 ~ Following years of the new Protestant religion imposed in the North, open rebellion breaks out, leading to the constable of the castle forced to surrender it, primarily due to his own men sympathising with the local rebels. The rebellion is short-lived, ending with its leader hanged in Richard in 1537.

1569 ~ The Catholic 'Rising of the North' to depose the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, in favour of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, once again threatens the castle with 5,000 rebels at its gates. The nearest relief army was stilled being assembled at York. The castle defenders retreat to the inner ward upon the outer walls being breached. The water supply to the inner ward is cut off, leading to many of the defenders to jump over the walls in mutiny or to their deaths. This forced the remaining four hundred defenders to surrender but be allowed to march out of the castle on promise to disband. This gave sufficient time for the royal army being mustered at York to grow in sufficient strength to crush the rebellion.

The castle and lands are leased to the Bowes family which see's further decay of the castle due to the expense it would take for its repairs and upkeep. The following centuries see's the castle repeatedly sold and it stripped of its lead, glass, timbers and masonary.


Scar Top, Barnard Castle




DL12 8PR

Barnard Castle is attractively situated on the bank of the River Tees, best viewed from across the river.

Access to the castle is a short walk from the town centre, where there is on the road parking.

Walking through the gates located in low walls and small towers, first impressions are that this is a small ruinous castle of limited interest. However, once inside, the castle really does open up with a great deal to see and explore. A worthwhile visit to any castle-finder.

The foundations of Barnard Castle dates back to the twelth century, when Guy de Baliol built a timber castle here. Naturally defended on two sides by steep cliffs and the River Tees, while access from the north was via a ford and road laid by the Romans.