The fourteenth century saw a dramatic upsurge of new castle building in northern England. Not unreasonably, historians have associated this with the Scottish wars, seeing this proliferation as a direct response to Scottish raiding, and assuming that these castles were designed and built solely to perform a defensive military function. However, recent work on castles has questioned such purely functionalist interpretations. This article examines the castles built in the fourteenth century by the gentry of Northumberland, the most exposed of all the border counties to Scottish attack, and sets them in their local and national contexts. Were these castles just built as defensive fortresses, or did they also serve a more symbolic role, in a society which had rapidly become militarised with the onset of war in 1296? Were they in fact intended as much to keep up with the neighbours as to keep out the Scots?
Rich with evidence and a fine example of the new thinking on castles.