Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland

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~ History ~

1139 ~ Henry, son of King David I becomes Earl of Northumberland as part of the Treaty of Durham signed between King Stephen of England and King David of Scotland.

The Scots, having been defeated at the Battle of Standard still posed a threat, whilst King Stephen faced another more serious threat to the South with the landing of Empress Matilda and fer forces to retake the crown of England, usurped by Stephen after the death of King Henry I.

1157 ~ King Henry II grants the castle and manor of Warkworth to Roger Fitz Eustace.

1173 ~ King William the Lion of Scotland invades Northumberland to press home Scottish claim to the earldom. Roger Fitz Eustace decides the defences of Warkworth are inadequate to rebel the Scottish and so retreats to the fortress of Newcastle to organise the English defence of the earldom.

1174 ~ The Earl of Fife leads a Scottish attack on Warkworth. The population is massacred, including those who take sanctuary within the church.

1178 ~ Roger dies, leaving his infanct son and heir Robert as Earl of Northumbland.

1199 ~ Robert begins the rebuilding of Warkworth castle.

1203 ~ Robert Fitz Eustance is awarded the title sheriff of Northumberland by King John.

1213~ King John visits Warkworth Castle. The following year Robert dies. His son John inherits his fathers estates. He completes his fathers building work to establish a formidable fortress.

1240 ~ John dies and leaves his young son Roger to inherit the castle and estates.

1249 ~ Roger is trampled to death during a tournament. His only son and heir Robert is just one and a half years of age.

William de Valence, half brother of King Henry III, takes the young Robert and his inheritance into his custody.

1292 ~ King Edward I stays at the castle.

1297 ~ At the English defeat at the Battle of Stirling against the Scots, Robert Fitz Eustace and his son John are both captured.

1310 ~ Robert's son, John de Clavering, takes control of his fathers estates. Due to mounting debts, he hands his inheritance over to the Crown.

1314 ~ The English are defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn, leaving Northumberland and northern England open to Scottish raids.

1317 ~ John is declared bankrupt after admitting to owing an Italian merchant the huge some of £600.

1319 ~ Forthe purpose of defence against the continued Scottish raids, the Crown increase the garrisons of many private castles, such as Warkworth.

1322 ~ The garrison of Warkworth Castle join the Royal Army's march against Scotland. John Clavering dies.

1327 ~ The Scots again invade Northumberland, laying siege to Warkworth Castle. Whilst the castle holds out, the town is sacked.

1341 ~ The Scots return and sack the town of Warkworth. The castle's garrison look on as the fires light up the sky unable to help.

1328 ~ King Edward III grants the castle to Henry Percy, following the Percy's aquisition of Alnwick Castle and its estates some nineteen years previously. Warkworth becomes the favoured residence of the Percy family. As a result the castle residential buildings are much improved.

1381 ~ Following years of close alliance between the powerful Percy family and the equally powerful John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III, they find themselves on opposing sides in the crisis of the Pesants Revolt. John of Gaunt makes his headquarters at nearby Dunstanburgh Castle. Building work is undertaken at both castles in readiness for war.

1399 ~ The Percy Earls of Northumberland play an active role in deposing King Richard II in favour of John of Gaunt's son, King Henry IV. However, their support soon turns to rebellion.

1403 ~ Harry 'Hotspur' Percy is killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury whilst in open rebellion against the King.

After victory against the Scots at Homildon Hill, Harry Percy issues proclamations accusing the king of 'tyrannical government'. He is joined by his uncle, Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, who marches to Shrewsbury to join the Welsh forces of Owain Glyndŵr who has declared his support to the cause. However Owain's forces are fighting in Camathenshire and are unaware the Percies have already made their move.

The northern Percy army is slow to move south, and it is without the assistance of his father that Henry Percy and his uncle Thomas arrive at Shrewsbury, where they encounterKing Henry IV with a large army. The ensuing Battle of Shrewsbury is fierce, with heavy casualties on both sides, but when Harry Percy himself is struck down and killed, his own forces flee the battlefield.

Shortly after Henry dies in battle, his uncle Thomas is executed.

King Henry, upon being brought Percy's body after the battle, is said to have wept, as they were once close allies. However, when rumours circulate that Percy is still alive, the king 'has the corpse exhumed and displayed, propped upright between two millstones, in the market place at Shrewsbury'. He then dispatches Percy's head to York, where it is impaled on the Micklegate Bar, and his four-quarters sent to London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Bristol, and Chester before they are finally delivered to his widow. She has him buried in York Minster. The Percy's are declared traitors and their lands forfeited to the Crown.

1404 ~ With increasing rebellions elsewhere, King Henry IV is unable to follow through on the Percy forfeiture and so restores their estates to Harry's fourteen year old son Henry, who declares himself a loyal subject to King Henry.

1405 ~ Henry Percy demonstrates his contempt for King Henry's rule by joining an unsuccessful rebellion led by Archbishop Scrope. Having crushed this further rebellion, King Henry acts decisively and amasses an army to march north against the Percy's. Henry Percy flees to Scotland as theRoyal forces approach Warkworth Castle. The castle only surrenders after the King cannon fire upon the castle walls.

The Percy castles and estates are onceagain forfeit to the Crown. Warkworth Castle is held for King Henry IV by his own son, John of Lancaster.

1413 ~ Following King Henry V's accession to the throne of England, the Percy's have their castles and estates restored to them.

1455 ~ Henry Percy is killed at the Battle of St Alban's fighting for the Lancastrian King Henry VI against the Yorkist King Edward IV.

1461 ~ Henry's son, also named Henry, meets the same fate as his father in dying in battle for his King, at the Battle of Towton, the most barbaric battle ever fought on English soil, resulting in a frenzied slaughter that leads to the crowning of King Edward IV.

1462 ~  Yorkist forces occupy Warkworth Castle astheir base upon which to besiege the Lancastrian castles of Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Alnwick Castles.

1485 ~ Following the Percy's refusal to commit to the Yorkist King Richard III's cause at the Battle of Bosworth, the Lancastrian King Henry VII is victorious and crowned King upon the death in battle of King Richard III.

As a result of the Percy Earl's lack of commitment and support to the Battle of Bosworth he is held in popular contempt and later murdered after his household abandon him to the mob.

The earldom passes to his son, Henry Algernon, as fifth earl of Northumberland.

1537 ~ The sixth Earl dies without any heirs. His brother having been executed for open rebellion against King Henry VIII. The states once again pass to the Crown.

1550 ~ Lack of maintenance of Warkworth castle reports the building as rapidly falling into ruin.

1557 ~ Queen Mary restores the estates to the Percy family descendants under Thomas Percy who makes repairs on the castle.

1569 ~ The Percy's are once again involved in rebellion against the Crown. This time supporting the re-establishment of a Catholic crown against Queen Elizabeth I.

Both Warkworth and Alnwick castles are filled with servants and tenants who support the pro Catholic cause. The swelling numbers give cause for Queen Elizabeth's Warden to order all to leave the castles or face charges of treason.

Queen Elizabeth's forces garrison Warkworth Castle to quell the Catholic rising, pillaging the castle during their stay.

1572 ~ The Earl of Northumberland, a prisoner during the rebellion against Queen Elizabeth, is sold to the English Crown and later executed in York. The castles and estates are once more forfeit.

1574 ~ Queen Elizabeth, in order to secure loyalty and support, overturns the forfeit and returns the castles and lands to the Percys. Warkworth is returned in a ruinous state.

1605 ~ Upon discovery of the Gunpowder plot the ninth Earl is arrested and imprisoned owing to his links with one of the conspirators. He is later fined an enormous some of £30,000 and confined to the Tower of London for the next seventeen years. Warkworth Castle is leased to Sir Ralph Gray, the owner of nearby Chillingham Castle. He inturn having no interest in the castle removes all the lead and stone of any value, allowing it to decay further.

1617 ~ King James I and his court visit Warkworth Castle on their way to Scotland, His courtiers are shocked at the state of the castle, seeing how the ruinous castle is being used for providing shelter for sheep and goats. A letter is written to Sir Ralph with no response or effect.

1644 ~ The ruinous castle is garrisoned for King Charles I on the outset of Civil War, but is surrendered to invading Scots.

1648 ~ Parliament install a garrision at the castle, but upon leaving they are instructed to remove all doors and iron so the castle cannot be held in war. Damage is also done to the walls of the castle.

Despite numerous recommendations and intentions to repair the castle, the significant costs mean no meaningful work is carried out and it is allowed to languish as a ruin until restoration work on the keep undertaken by the Percy's in the late eighteenth century.


Warkworth, South of Alnwick




NE65 0UJ

Warkworth Castle straddles the neck of a naturally defensible spur of land created by a tight loop in the River Coquet, protecting the ancient Anglo-Saxon town of Warkworth and dominating the surrounding countryside.

The castle was developed as a motte and bailey castle, with an unusually shaped stone tower upon the artificial mound, and strong thick walls and towers protecting its bailey. A deep ditch crossed by a drawbridge providing the first line of defence.

The gatehouse and protruding great towers of various designs that reflect its continued development over different periods, still look formidable even today.

There is plenty of parking directingly outside the castle with easy access to the castle and grounds.

A great castle to explore.