Bowes Castle

Bowes Castle, County Durham

~ History ~

1171 ~ Earl Conan dies without any male heirs and so the castle passes to the Crown. King Henry II wastes no time strengthening the timber castle in stone within the ruins of the Roman fort, and in doing so, securing this key strategic against the threat of Scottish invasion.

1173 ~ The Great Revolt against King Henry's rule involves a coalition of rebel barons, bolstered by support from the King of Scotland and European allies. William the Lion pushes south from Scotland and besieges Bowes Castle. Upon his scouts seeing the advancing English army under the leadership of Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, to relieve the garrision, King William retreats back to the Scottish borders. King Henry is successful in quelling the Great Revolt, imprisoning William the Lion until a peace treaty is agreed, extending Henry's authority north into Scotland. In the subsequent years the security situation in the north of England improves significantly

1203 ~ King John gives control of Bowes Castle to Robert de Vieuxpont, an important administrator in the north.

1206 ~ King John stays at the castle on his tour of his northern lands.

1212 ~ King John returns to Bowes Castle where his niece Eleanor of Brittany has been placed under the custody of Vieuxpont.

1233 ~ King Henry III presents the Castle to William de Blockley and Gilbert de Kirketon and later to the powerful William de Valence.

1241 ~ The castle and manor of Bowes are given By King Henry III to Peter of Savoy, uncle to the King and also Earl of Richmond.

1322 ~ King Edward II grants the castle to John de Scargill, despite local resentment which in turn leads to the local tenants of the Earl besieging and capturing the castle whilst their Lord is away. They burn part of the hall, drink four tuns of wine and steal armour and other goods.

1340 ~ Conflict with Scotland lead to further raids against the castle and surrounding manor. The neighbouring fields are abandoned as a result, with the castle in ruins and manor worth nothing in value.

1361 ~ Still ruined, Bowes Castle is reclaimed by the Crown.

1444 ~ The castle is controlled by the powefull Neville Earls.

1471 ~ The castle once more becomes the property of the Crown.

1670's ~ Following the Civil War the abandoned castle is dismantled for its stone for use in the surrounding village.


South West of Barnard Castle




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The Roman camp at Lavatrae is built to guard the strategic route known as the Stainmore Pass connecting Luguvalium (Carlisle) to Eboracum (York) and points south. It guarded the Stainforth Pass through the Pennines.

The importance of this route and the crucial defensive position of the fort were recognised by Henry II who built the keep in the north-west sector of the fort.

The rebuilt castle featured a hall-keep, an uncommon design in English castles; built of stone, this was a three-storied structure some 50 feet high. The keep had architectural similarities to various nearby castles in the region, but in particular to those at Middleham.A ditch formed an inner defensive bailey around the keep, with the ramparts of the old fort forming a larger, outer bailey.

A mill, then an essential part of any castle, was built by the River Greta to supply flour for the garrison.

Access to the castle is very easy from the road as you approach the village. With consideration you can park by the stone wall which surrounds the castle grounds where a gate leads to the site.

The keep itself is ruinous inside, so the best views are by walking round the outside of the castle which can be done in just a few minutes. The walls still stand to an impressive height and gives a good indication of what the castle would have looked like, including its outer bailey and ditch in its hey-day.