NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE

Northumbria

Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumbria

This must surely be the most Urban of all England's Castles...not many Castles, after all, have the keep and the gatehouse separated from each other by a Railway Viaduct!  The fact that so much of Newcastle's wonderful Castle has remained is a tribute to the people of the City which took its name from this very construction.

The first Castle here, a ringwork which is believed to have existed where the "Half Moon Battery" now stands (or what is left of it does) was the furthest north of all of William I's Castles built on his "round trip" of England subduing his new subjects; although it was Robert Curthose (the Conqueror's son) who was actually in charge of its construction around the year 1080.

The Castle passed to Robert de Mowbray, who lost it when he rebelled in 1095 and the Castle remained Royal until the 17th century.  The Scots gained control of all of Northumbria between 1138 and 1157 and they occupied Newcastle (a legacy of King Stephen's weak reign).

Henry II, not a weak King by anyone's standards, retook Northumbria and set about strengthening Newcastle and it was he who had the massive great keep built, as well as curtain walling.  The work was carried on by King John.  Between 1247 and 1250 the Castle was greatly remodelled and the new Gatehouse (today named the "Black" Gate because the Black family briefly occupied it during the Commonwealth) was constructed with rounded towers. Expansion work carried on throughout the 13th century, but during the following century the Castle began to decay.

In 1334 the Sheriff, Robert Mauduit, petitioned the King about the Castle's poor condition.  A few years later the Castle was completely overhauled and the townspeople were ordered to desist from dumping their refuge in the Castle's ditch!  This was a brief respite and by 1604 the Castle became the County Gaol and houses were erected within its walls.  Still it was refortified and garrisoned for the King in 1644 and the Half Moon Battery was strengthened to carry heavy artillery.  After a few days of siege the Castle was captured and slighted.

It was not restored until the early 19th century when the Corporation of Newcastle bought the ruin and set about "restoring it to pristine form".  One visitor, as early as 1827, wrote "it is much to be regretted that this ancient Norman structure has been repaired in such bad taste".  Perhaps a rather harsh judgment when most other industrial towns of the North were simply knocking their Castles down (for instance, Manchester, Liverpool and Bury).

The Castle is open to the public and a superb view of the Cityscape of Newcastle can be had from atop the keep.

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© Text copyright - Raving Loony Productions, Andrew J. Müller and Roy Barton
© Photos and Artwork - Andrew J. Müller and Roy Barton
© Web Design and Layout - Andrew J. Müller
2009


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