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Bamburgh Siege Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Malvoisin; Malveisin; Malueisin; novum castellum apud Bebbanburg

In the civil parish of Bamburgh.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NU182349
Latitude 55.60764° Longitude -1.71406°

Bamburgh Siege Castle has been described as a certain Siege Work.

There are no visible remains.


In the spring of 1095 Robert of Mowbray, the third Norman earl of Northumberland, refused to appear at the court of William Rufus to answer the charge of having, in company with his nephew Morel, violently plundered four large vessels, called canards, that had arrived from Norway. This refusal was construed into a definite act of rebellion, which the Red King marched north to chastise. Tynemouth, Newcastle, and Morpeth fell before the royal arms. The earl himself took refuge in Bamburgh, then so strongly fortified as to be pronounced impregnable. With him were his young bride Matilda de Aquila, and Morel, who was sheriff of Northumberland, and who had slain Malcolm of Scotland on the banks of the Aln two years previously. Finding it impossible to carry the castle by assault, the king built in front of it a castle of wood, to which he gave the name of Malvoisin, or Evil Neighbour. This he filled with soldiers, arms, and provisions for the purpose of defending the country and overawing the rebels.
'Munitissimum castrum, quod Babbenburg dicitur, obsederunt. Et quoniam ilia munitio inexpugnabilis erat, quia inaccessibilis videbatur propter paludes et aquas, et alia qutedam itincranlibus contraria, quibus ambiebatur, rex novam munitionem ad defensionem provinciae, et coartationem hostium construxit, et militibus, armis ac victualibus implevit.' Orderici Vitalis Hist. Eccl. lib. viii. cap. xxi. (Migne, Patrologiiae Cursus, vol. 188). At the present day, at any rate, waters and marshes do not constitute the principal defences of Bamburgh. It is Roger of Wendover, ii. 46, who tells us that the Malvoisin was 'castellum ligneum.' A probably genuine charter of Edgar, claiming to be king of Scots, to the bishop and monks of Durham, is stated supplementarily to have been confirmed in the churchyard of Norham 'eo anno quo rex Willelmus filius magni regis Willemi fecit nouum castellum ante Bebbanburghe super Robertum Comitem Northanhymbrorum.' Raine, North Durham. App. p. 2, vii.; p. 378. According to Gaimar, II. 6161, 6162, Rufus appears to have suffered from the sallies of the garrison:
'Li reis grant piece i demorad
E maint assaut i endurad.' (Bates 1893)

It is known from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that a siege of Bamburgh Castle was conduct by William Rufus in 1095. A siege castle, called 'Malvoisin' was constructed at that time (Garmonsway 1972, 231). The written history states that it lay within shouting distance of Bamburgh Castle as insults were exchanged between those within the castle and their besiegers. Two sites for the location of the feature have been suggested. The SMR provides a possible location immediately to the east of Armstrong House. The earthworks immediately to the north of the sports pavilion represent the second possible site. No archaeological evidence exists to support or refute either location. (Wood and Young 2006)

Possible site of a 1095 siegework built by William Rufus. The castle was called 'Malvoisin' and was built to besiege Bamburgh Castle. Its site is but thought to be in the vicinity of the Lord Crewe Arms Hotel. (PastScape)


Given map reference for Lord Crewe Arms Hotel. By analogue with other known siege castles (especially Danes Castle Exeter) one might have expected this to be a ringwork opposite the main entrance of the castle, however as their are two distinct entrances (north west and south east) it may be this siege work was sited on the south west of the castle with a view of both entrances.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

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