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Bywell Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Baliols; Biwell; Binwell

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ04946178
Latitude 54.95068° Longitude -1.92434°

Bywell Castle has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Castle gatehouse, early C15 for Ralph Neville, second Earl of Westmorland. Squared stone (with re-used Roman material). Rectangular tower-house/gatehouse, with principal apartments above central gate passage and flanking chambers. Original external elevation to south 3 storeys. Chamfered plinth and 1st floor set back. Central 4-centred gateway arch of 2 chamfered orders with portcullis slot between, with old pegged and panelled double doors, that to left with small porter's door; small square-headed post-medieval openings to either side. 1st floor has 2 windows of 2 trefoil-headed lights under Tudor arches, and square- headed chamfered window to left; 2 more similar 2-light windows on 2nd floor. Most 2-light windows have lost their mullions. Embattled parapet, oversailing a hollow-chamfered course, has central section set forward on 5 moulded corbels. Taller angle turrets have corbelled-out octagonal tops with machicolations. To right, attached curtain wall (q.v.).
Left return shows corbelled-out garderobe projection and small chamfered windows. Right return shows partly-blocked 2-light window on 1st floor and blocked doorway to wall walk on left. Rear elevation shows similar detail to front; parapet partly fallen.
Interior: Barrel-vaulted gate passage and flanking chambers. Tudor-arched doorways, that to mural stair with old iron yett. Newel stair from 1st floor north-west corner. 1st- and 2nd-floor garderobes in north-east and south-west corners. Chamfered-arched fireplaces(one 2nd-floor fireplace with shoddered lintel) and segmental rear arches to windows. Cross wall with doorway divides 1st floor into hall and solar.
2nd floor and roof missing.
Historical notes: Henry VI sheltered here on his flight after the battle of Hexham Levels in 1464, abandoning his sword, helmet and crown which were found by the victorious Lord Montagu who captured the castle soon afterwards. Apart from the tower-house/gatehouse (cf. Dunstanburgh, Bothal, Willimoteswick) the castle appears never to have been completed. (Listed Building Report)

This consists of a gatehouse, measuring 59ft by 38ft, of three stories, with walls almost intact, and considerable portion of the curtain wall between the tower and the modern house. The gate tower was no doubt built by RALPH NEVILL, who succeeded as 2nd Earl of Westmorland in 1426 (Hodgson 1902).
The earliest reference to the castle is in 1464, when Henry VI fled there after the Battle of Hexham. A survey of 1570 refers to the gate-tower, and to foundations 'the height of a man' as being never finished. A survey of 1608 refers to the castle as being in decay (Bates 1891).
Gate-tower as described by Hodgson in good condition, with a stretch of curtain wall extending from the E side, and now utilised for the S face of the west wing of the modern house, the basement of which is contemporary with the tower, and is vaulted. There are no traces of the former extent of the site to the north; the ground now laid out as private gardens.
The Castle stands above a double bend in the River Tyne, upon a gentle south slope, from which position, from the top of the tower, a considerable stretch of the Tyne valley may be surveyed to east and west (F1 ASP 14-MAY-56). (PastScape)

An archaeological assessment was carried out by P Ryder in June 1995 ahead of a new opening being made in an internal wall (detailed description). The origin of Bywell Castle House might lie in adaptation of part of the unfinished buildings of the 15th century castle or, more likely, as a defensible strong house of the early 17th century. The lower part of the tower is probably medieval, with the upper had not been built over the height of man. The masonry could therefore be reused. The thickest walls in the house are in the dining room: the north and east are probably later 18th century and the west wall (1m thick) might be medieval or 17th century. Structural or architectural features might be revealed if any further openings are made. (Northumberland HER ref. Ryder 1995)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:10

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