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Twizell Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Twyzell; Twysill; Twizel; Twisle; Twisell

In the civil parish of Duddo.
In the historic county of Durham; North.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NT88294340
Latitude 55.68394° Longitude -2.18778°

Twizell Castle has been described as a certain Tower House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


The castle was first recorded in 1415 as the castle of 'Twysill' held by Sir John Heron, but it was destroyed by the Scots in 1496 and abandoned. A survey made in 1561 notes 'there has been one tower, or pele, which is of ancient time decayed and cast down, and there remains one part or quarter thereof, and a barmkin about it'.

Twizel medieval tower house, the probable village remains, 18th century folly and garden earthworks are well preserved and will retain significant archaeological deposits. The monument includes a medieval tower house incorporated into a ruined 18th century folly and the earthwork remains of a probable medieval village and former garden located above a river cliff on the north bank of the River Till. The ruins of Twizel Castle, which are Listed Grade II-star, comprise a roofless rectangular building of ashlar and squared stone, 29m by 9.5m, standing two storeys high with two wings on the north side and circular towers at each corner. Internally, there are four vaulted rooms along the south front, all of fine ashlar construction. The wings and towers are part of an incomplete 18th century folly, built over 50 years from about 1770 by Sir Francis Blake with the assistance of Nesbit of Kelso. It originally stood five storeys high and was stone or brick-vaulted throughout as a precaution against fire. At the core of the building is a medieval house with walls about 1.5m thick whose structure is partly revealed in the collapse of the north wall. Several pre- folly features are visible in the north wall and include blocked windows, a chamfered doorway and original north east angle quoins. To the north of the folly are a series of earthworks comprising terraces, banks, hollows and mounds which are interpreted as the remains of a garden. Amongst these features at the east and west ends of the monument are probable house platforms from a medieval village. (Scheduling Report)

Ruined house. Begun c.1770 by and for Sir Francis Blake with the assistance of Nisbet of Kelso, but incorporating some of the masonry of a medieval castle. Ashlar and squared stone; roofless. Gothick style. Rectangular with 4 round corner towers. Two storeys, though the house was originally five storeys high. Seven bays. Pointed windows with brick arches, the central window in a semicircular projection. Much taller pointed windows on 1st floor. On returns large blank quatrefoils. The original north wall, between the towers, has gone. The present north wall was formerly internal and is partly medieval with openings of the C18 and blocked earlier openings including large segmental arches and a 2-light mullioned window. This wall is c.70 inches thick. Interior: the ground floor has 4 large vaulted rooms along the south front. Three are tunnel vaults, the fourth, behind the central bow has a central groin vault with 2 flanking tunnel vaults. All of these are in fine ashlar. The west vault has holes for a timber floor. The angle towers were also vaulted on ground floor; of these the south-west tower has a shallow stone dome and the south-east tower a brick dome. In the north towers only the springing of the vaults remain. There are also 2 corridors with pointed brick tunnel vaults and two small rooms whose vaults have collapsed. On the present north wall the springing of a groin vault can be seen at 1st-floor level. Building on the house was continued for almost 50 years and never completed. The house was to be vaulted throughout as a precaution against fire. (Listed Building Report)

An assessment of the building by P. F. Ryder for Northumberland County Council showed that the castle was an upper-floor hall house of the mid 14th century; the principal hall may have been at second-floor level. A projecting tower housed the solar. (Med. Arch.)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 31-3
      Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 99
      Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 118
      Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 10, 11, 15-6
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2
      Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 329-31
      Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 164
      Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London) p. 299
      Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 206-7
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 552
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 424 online copy
      Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 14, 22, 38, 52 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
      Raine, J., 1852, History and Antiquities of North Durham (London) p. 313-4
      Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 226
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 4 p. 141-3
      Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 2 p. 23-4 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Nenk, B.S., Margeson, S. and Hurley, M., 1994, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 38 p. 239 view copy
      Aiken, 1912-15, History of the Berwickshire Naturalist Club Vol. 22 p. 175-6 online copy
      Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 14, 22, 38, 52 online copy
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 1561, The Survey Booke of Norham and Ilandshire, taken and made in the 3rd year of our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England, etc. Survey of Norham and Islandshire
      Sir Robert Bowes, 1550, A Book of the State of the Frontiers and Marches betwixt England and Scotland taken from Brit. Mus. Cotton. MS. Titus, F.13, a copy of the original (see Bates, 51, n185). Printed in Hodgson, pt.3, ii, 187, 204
      1541 View of the Castles, Towers, Barmekyns and Fortresses of the Frontier of the East and Middle Marches Survey of the East and Middle Marches
      1415 Nomina Castrorum et Fortaliciorum infra Comitatum Northumbrie online transcription
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 344
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 66 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 13, 23 online copy
      English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 13, 25 online copy
      English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 28 online copy
      English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 28 online copy
      English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 26 online copy
      Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 2 Berwick District p. 14-15
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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