Norham Castle

Norham Castle, Northumberland

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Norham, Berwick-upon-Tweed


Off B6470


TD15 2JY

Norham Castle commands a strategically important crossing of the River Tweed, between England and Scotland, and its fascinating history reflects the struggles between the two Kingdoms. 

The castle is well signposted with parking towards the rear of the castle.

~ History ~

1121 ~ Ranulph Flambard, Bishop of Durham, builds a castle at Norham to guard a strategically important ford over the River Tweed, and road into Scotland.

1136 ~ King David of Scotland besieges and captures the castle as part of his claim to the earldon of Northumberland. A subsequent treaty gives the earldom of Huntingdonto David's son Henry.

1138 ~ King David returns and again captures the castle despite it being bravely defended by just nine English knights. He then sets out its distruction.

Later the same year after King David's defeat to the English at the Battle of Standard, Norham is returned to Bishop Geoffrey Rufus.

1157 ~ King Henry II of England regains possession of Northumberland and he orders Bishop Hugh de Puiset to rebuild the defences of Norham in stone.

1174 ~ Rebuilding of the castle is finally completed. Doubting the Bishop's loyalty King Henry takes possession of the castle.

1197 ~ King Richard I restores the castle to Bishop Philip of Poitou.

1208 ~ Upon the death of Bishop Philip King John takes possession of the castle.

1209 ~ King John of England is in Norham Castle to receive homage and tribute by King William the Lion of Scotland. 

The significant sum of money spent by KingJohn on the castle improving its defences, accomodation and garrison providing a powerful message to the Scottish King and his claim on Northumberland.

1215 ~ Sir Robert Clifford successfully defends Norham Castle against a forty day siege by King Alexander II of Scotland.

1217 ~ King Henry III of England restores the castle to Bishop de la Marsh.

1291 ~ Bishop Anthony Bek entertains King Edward I and his court at Norham.

1292 ~ King Edward I returns to Norham Castle toreceive homage from the John Balliol for the Kingdom of Scotland, having already chosen him out of thirteen candidates.

1315 ~ King Edward II takes the castle back into temporary control of the English Crown at the threat of invasion from Scotland by King Robert the Bruce.

1318 ~ Bishop Lewis Beaumont appoints Sir Thomas Grey as constable of thecastle and and sheriff of Norhamshire

Thomas holds the castle against against constant attacks and sieges by the Scots for almost the next two years.

The castle is battered by siege engines and on more than one occassion the Scots overun the outer bailey but the castle holds out and repels the invaders. Sir William Marmion joins the garrison in what is considered to be the most dangerous place in all of the Kingdom. He charges the enemy single-handed and has to be rescued  by the garrison sallying out with levelled lances after he is unhorsed and wounded,

1322 ~ The Scots return and again lay siege to the castle.

1327 ~ Following weeks of ravaging the North of England the Scots storm and take the castle on their victorious return to Scotland. It is soon after returned to the Bishop of Durham.

1355 ~ Thomas Grey II, constable of Norham Castle, is ambushed and captured whilstchasing a party of Scottish spearman on a raid within sight of the castle. He is sent to Edinburgh Castle where he is imprisoned for the next two years.

1463 ~ The castle is attacked for eighteen days by a Lancastrian army led by King Henry VI and Queen Margaret, but it holds out until relieved by the Earl of Warwick and Lord Montagu.

1464 ~ The castles garrison declare for the Lancastrian cause but surrender without a fight after the Yorkist victory at Hexham. Both Yorkist Kings Edward IV and later his brother Richard III are careful to see the castle is properly maintained, garrisoned and provisioned, so vital they considered it to secure the Border with Scotland.

1497 ~ Bishop Fox has the castle made secure when he repels King James IV two week artillery siege, ending only when the Earl of Surrey's forces arrive to relieve the garrison. Considerable repairs and rebuilding of the battered walls are undertaken.

1513 ~ King James IV returns and again lays siegeto the castle whilst King Henry VIII is away campaigning in France. After two days of heavy bonmbardment the outer wall is breached and the outer bailey stormed by the Scots. The garrison, finding themselves out of ammunition are forced to surrender the castle. Just two weeks later King James is killed at the Battle of Flodden fighting the English. Bishop Thomas Ruthal immediately rides to Norham to view the wrecked castle, of which only the keep and west wall are left standing. Rebuilding work is begun straight away and completed over the next two years.

1523 ~ A further threat of invasion by the Scots led by the Duke of Albany leads to the castle receiving gunners sent from Portsmouth to strengthen the garrison. The Scots decide not to attack Norham Castle.

1530 ~ The Duke of Norfolk fortifies the castle and equips it with artillery.

1542 ~ Sir Robert Bowes reports the castle to be in a good state of repair, "well furnyshed and stuffed with artillery, munitions, and other necessaries".

1545 ~ The captain of Norham, Sir Brian Layton, is killed at the Battle of Ancrum Moor, but the Earl of Hertford ensures the castle is not endangered.

1571 ~ Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, complains to Lord cecil about the decayed state of the castle and repeats this concern some years later, but Queen Elizabeth refuses to spend any money on repairing the castle.

1605 ~ King James I sells Norham Castle to the Earl of Dunbar. It later passes to other families as its terminal decline continues into ruin.