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Bellingham Castle

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY84088328
Latitude 55.14366° Longitude -2.25150°

Bellingham Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a probable Pele Tower.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.


The castle and manor of Bellingham gave name to an ancient family and was held by Robert De Bellingham and 2 Richard II (1379) & 3 Henry IV (1401) and by Richard De Bellingham 33 Henry VI (1455). The castle, which stood near the village, is now in ruins (Makenzie 1825).
The artificial mound at the east end of Bellingham village, nearly opposite the railway station, is all that remains of the Motte and bailey castle, built in all probability by the Bellingham family in the early 12c. All traces of a stone castle which must have existed by the late 13c have disappeared, leaving only the mound (Hunter Blair 1844).
All traces of the masonry of the castle at Bellingham have now disappeared. Its presumed site is marked by a mound near the Hareshaw Burn and this may be the motte of a motte-and-bailey fortress, built either during Stephen's reign, or at an earlier date (Dodds 1940).
A grass covered mound, irregular in shape situated at 400ft O.D. on the highest point in a pasture covered field.
General visibility is excellent along the valley of the North Tyne to the east and west, but the site is overlooked by higher ground to
the immediate NE.
A small mound exists on top of the main feature, the truncated top of this mound measures only 2.0m in diameter, and cannot have held a tower of any substantial dimensions. There are no traces of extant stone work or defensive ditches, a wide perambulation revealed no indication of a bailey.
Modern building encroaches upon the site to the north-east and east and the adjacent pasture bears strong rig and furrow plough lines (F1 FDC 9.7.56).
Apart from its truncated top, which has been reduced in size by obviously later digging on the SE side, the small mound (at NY84088328) appears to be an entirely natural feature. Its slopes merge smoothly, on all sides, with those of the hill-feature on which it stands. It is possible that the mound supported a tower, but it appears unlikely to have been the motte of a motte-and-bailey, due to the lack of an adequate site for a bailey. To the immediate W is a steep scarp, which appears to have been created by former river action, to the S and SE. the ground also falls away, while to the NE the site is overlooked by higher ground (F2 DS 23.09.70).
A fortified site at Bellingham did not exist at Bellingham before 1157, when the Scottish kings were granted Tynedale as a liberty. By 1180 enough people lived there to justify a church, and in 1250 it became manorial capital. By that time, Bellingham was granted to the Scottish King Alexander III's forester, who styled himself 'Bellyngiam of Bellyngiam', and lived in a motte and bailey there. Sir William de Bellingham lost possession at the end of the century, and moved his main residence to Burniside, the motte and bailey being deserted (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

It is possible that a motte-and-bailey castle was built at Bellinghamby the Bellingham familyin the early 12th century (Hunter-Blair1944, 162) perhaps during Stephen's reign (1135-54) or even earlier (Dodds1940, 234). Certainly by 1279 William de Bellingham, resident at Bellingham, was the sheriff of Tynedale and subsequently forester of the same district under the king of Scotland (Bulmer 1877, 564) which must indicate at least the presenceof a substantial fortified house at Bellingham by this time.
A low mound lying on the east side of the Hareshaw Burn about 350m from its confluence with the North Tyne is the generally accepted location of this defensible building. A stone structure on the mound was described as in ruinsin 1825 by Mackenzie (1825, 250), but any above ground traces of a structure have been eradicated for some time (Hunter Blair 1944,162; Dodds 1940, 234). There is even disagreement as to whether the mound is a natural feature or a motte; there is certainly no evidence for a lower bailey.
Demesne Farm lies immediately to the north east of the castle mound. (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey).

Documentary evidence suggested there was a castle or fortified house dating from at least the 13th century within Bellingham. Castle Mound has been linked with this site, although it seems unlikely that the feature was a purpose built motte and bailey. It is more likely that it is in fact a natural glacial mound utilised in the 13th century for the manorial seat. There is no evidence of a lower bailey and the mound itself is considered small for a motte. Remains of a stone building were described as ruinous in 1825, and these may relate to a castle or fortified house.
As a result of the removal of the topsoil and subsoil from the footprint of the barn the only archaeological feature to be revealed was the footings of an early 19th century dry-stone wall, presumably a farm enclosure or boundary wall, that was built into a layer of post-medieval subsoil. The groundworks did cut into the base of the Castle Mound, confirming that it was natural feature formed by glacial deposits. (Northern Archaeological Associates)

Jackson writes this was a towerhouse site although the evidence for that is unclear. Demense Farm is on the likely site of the bailey and its development has destroyed whatever earthworks there were around that possible bailey.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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