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Nafferton Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Lonkin's Hall; Nafertune

In the civil parish of Horsley.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ07276571
Latitude 54.98579° Longitude -1.88781°

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

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

The monument includes the remains of an enclosure castle and a later tower house, situated on the western edge of the steeply incised Whittle Burn. The castle is visible as a substantial rectangular enclosure, which measures a maximum of 45m east to west by 72m north to south within a rampart 6m wide and a ditch 10m wide on the northern and western sides; the eastern side of the enclosure is afforded natural defence by the steep slopes above the Whittle Burn and the south side is defended by a natural ravine, now partially infilled, with a substantial rampart to its south. There is a well preserved entrance through the centre of the northern and western ramparts. Documents record the existence of a castle at the site by 1218, when its owner Philip of Ulecotes was ordered to demolish a new wooden tower which was being constructed without licence. In 1221 the tower, which despite the earlier order was still standing, was ordered by the King to be dismantled and its timbers were removed to build a new gaol at Newcastle upon Tyne. The defensive earthwork enclosure remained. Minor excavation at the castle in the late 1950s revealed that the western rampart of the enclosure was surmounted by both a stone wall and a palisade which were thought to be contemporary with it. Immediately within the south western corner of the enclosure there are the remains of a stone built tower thought to be of 15th or 16th century date. The tower which is roughly 8.2m square is constructed of good quality squared sandstone. Its walls vary in thickness between 0.9m to 1.5m and its north eastern corner stands to a height of 6.5m. The east wall of the tower survives several courses high and contains the remains of two openings; the most northerly is a window which retains part of an internal splay and the most southerly is a door which retains drawbar tunnels. The lower courses of two additional stone walled buildings extend east from the tower, 12m and 10m respectively, and the low stony platform of a third structure is visible in the north western part of the enclosure. The late 1950s excavations at the monument suggested that the tower house was a later feature inserted against and partially cutting into the rear face of the earlier rampart. There is a tradition of the legend of Lang Lonkin associated with the tower, which is also known as 'Lonkin's Tower'. The tale of Lang Lonkin, a notorious pirate who murdered the lady and her child of nearby Welton Hall, is told in a well known border ballad. (Scheduling Report)

The remains of an enclosure castle and a later tower house, situated on the western edge of the steeply incised Whittle Burn. The castle is visible as substantial rectangular enclosure, which measures a maximum of 45m by 7m within a rampart 6m wide and a ditch 10m wide on the northern and western sides; the eastern side of the enclosure is afforded natural defence by the steep slopes above the Whittle Burn and the south side is defended by a natural ravine. Documents record the existence of a castle at the site by 1218, when its owner was ordered to demolish a new wooden tower which was being constructed without licence. In 1221 the tower, which was still standing, was ordered by the King to be dismantled and its timbers were removed to build a new gaol at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The defensive earthwork enclosure remained. Within the south western corner of the enclosure there are the remains of a stone built tower house thought to be of C15 or C16 date. (PastScape)

Rex Philippo de Ulecote salutem. Indicavit nobis Ricardus de Umframvilla quod vos castrum quoddam construitis contra lineam nostram apud Nafertune ubi numquam castrum ease consuevit, ad nocumentum terraum et castri de Prudeho quae sunt ipsius Ricardi. Et ideo vobis mandamus quatinus sine dilatione a praefati castri constructione desistatis et quod ibi edificatum est ad nocumentum praefati Ricardi occasione postposita dirui faciatis. Teste comite apud Neuwerc, xix die Julii. (Rot. Claus. 2 Hen. III. m.4. quoted in Hartshorne 1858)

Although called a castle, in the context of a complaint from Richard Umframvilla (trying to put some low born upstart in his place?) in 1218, this, then relatively new timber enclosure, was a minor fortification of a knight, not a baron. The C15/C16 hall and tower was also a gentry status building of relatively modest proportions being a chamber block tower attached to a hall (i.e. a pele tower) rather than a baronial status tower house.
There was no requirement for Philip Ulecote to obtain a 'licence' to build his castle. He was taking advantage of his increased position, as an advisor to King John, and the general disorder of the Baron War to increase his social status and power base. Henry III's council (notably Hugh de Burgh), at the start of his reign, took several actions to kerb the upper status gentry, particularly sheriffs (Goodall 2011 p. 178-80) and the order to demolish this timber tower was probably part of this more general imposition of central authority although, in this case, combined with some local jealousy. Had Philip requested and obtained a licence it would have offered him some protection from such local jealousy.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling        
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This record last updated on Sunday, October 19, 2014

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