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The History of Bamburgh

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Although there is no reference to Bamburgh in written history before the 6th century AD, archaeological evidence suggests that the site was occupied before this time. In the earliest modern archaeological. Signs of an Iron Age past include post-holes from buildings, probably roundhouses, animal bone and pottery shards found during an investigation of the Castle , by Dr Brian Hope-Taylor.

In pre Anglo-Saxon times Bamburgh was a tribal stronghold of an ancient British tribe called the Votadini. It was known then as Din Guyardi, an old name that has lead some to speculate that Bamburgh was the location of the historic `Joyous Guard'. This was the legendary castle of Sir Lancelot and Sir Gallahad of King Arthur ’s knights of the round table.

Bamburgh's location between Hadrian's Wall to the south and the Antonine Frontier to the north means that for periods of the Roman occupation of Britain, Bamburgh lay at times both within the Roman province and beyond its northern frontier. In 1960 Brian Hope-Taylor identified early and late Roman layers during excavations at Bamburgh castle.

In 6th century AD, in the work of a monk called Nennius, Bamburgh appears in written historical record. The monk notes it with the British name of ‘Din Guyardi’. Bamburgh passed into the hands of an Anglo-Saxon dynasty in the middle of the sixth century. Evidence such as the writings of the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and the burial cists exposed by storms in 1817 suggest Bamburgh had a royal connection in Anglo Saxon times. Jarrow monk Bede, writing in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, suggests Bamburgh enjoyed the very important ‘urbs’ or ‘civitas’ status. Bamburgh was the capital of an Anglo Saxon kingdom, until the coming of the Vikings who conquered York in 866 marking the end of a long period Saxon domination in England.

The squabbles between Saxons and Vikings soon became irrelevant when the mighty Normans stormed their way across the country. The Norman fought amongst themselves and in 1095 Earl Robert de Mowbray joined a conspiracy against King William II (Rufus). However, after a siege at Bamburgh, he was captured, deposed, and imprisoned. The immense strength of Bamburgh Castle made it perfect as a place of defence and refuge. This also helped it retain administrative status during Norman times and it retained the status of a royal castle.

At the time of the Wars of the Roses , the castle was a staunchly Lancastrian stronghold. In 1464, King Henry VI and his wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou fled to Bamburgh after defeat by the Yorkists at the Battle of Hexham . For a short time the dejected monarch held court at Bamburgh. The great building at that time represented the total extent of his much reduced kingdom. Henry was defeated when Bamburgh by the artillery of Edward IV and thus became the first castle in England to come under fire from cannons.


During the 18th century the estate passed into the ownership of Nathaniel Lord Crewe, Bishop of York. Upon his death it entered into a charitable trust, administered in the later 18th century by Dr John Sharp. The Doctor began an extensive restoration and created a school for girls and hostel for shipwrecked mariners there. At the close of the 19th century, the William 1st Lord Armstrong bought the castle. He immediately rebuilt the living quarters of the Castle, sparing no
expense to create luxury there. The result is that although the castle retains its historic magnificence when seen from afar, inside it is more representative of the Victorian age of Armstrong.

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William Wallace is hanged, drawn and quartered - 1305, LDV becomes Home Guard - 1940, Freckleton Tragedy - 1944
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