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Prudhoe Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Prodhom; Prodhou; Prudhow

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ09166341
Latitude 54.96520° Longitude -1.85824°

Prudhoe Castle has been described as a certain 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. Largely C12 and C13. Barbican C14. Manor house early C19. Squared stone. Manor house dressed stone and stone slate roof. Inner and outer baileys now divided by Gothick manor house, keep and gatehouse with barbican. Castle approached by elongated barbican with outer pointed arch leading to round-headed tunnel-vaulted gate passage under rectangular tower. Chapel on 1st floor important early canted oriel window, lancet windows on east side; guard room above and external stair from ground to roof. Curtain wall largely intact with a variety of features connected with former internal buildings, the foundations of which have recently been exposed, and including shouldered- arched opening to well-preserved garderobe on south side. East tower, Gothicised in late C18. Manor house of 2 storeys, 5 bays, has to left a round-arched carriage entry to inner ward. 6-panelled door with four-centred head and fanlight in right bay. Similar heads to windows, sashes with intersecting glazing bars. Left return embattled and incorporating earlier masonry with two 2-light C15 windows. Right return apsidal and embattled. 3 stone ridge stacks.
Inner bailey has well-preserved curtain wall with round tower at north-west corner and base of another at south-west corner. Ruined keep, linked to Manor House by remains of forebuilding, is quite small, 41 x 44 feet. South-west corner intact with crenellated angle turret. Mural stair in west wall and 2 shouldered-arched openings in north wall. Well-preserved garderobe on north curtain wall.
Range of early and mid C19 outbuildings against west wall. (Listed Building Report)

Prudhoe Castle is a well preserved and typical example of a small, powerful Border castle of the tower keep variety. Its importance lies not only in the good state of preservation of its standing remains, in particular its curtain walls which largely survive to their full height, but also in a number of rare architectural details and wide range of ancillary features which survive both as upstanding and buried features within its two baileys. Equally important are its associations with the de Umfravilles and the Percys, two of the most important families in English medieval history.
The castle at Prudhoe is a tower keep castle and includes two baileys or courtyards, containing the keep and numerous other medieval buildings, a gatehouse, barbican and curtain wall, and the castle's outer defences which incorporate two ditches on the south and west sides. A medieval bridge outside the outer defences and to the east of the main gatehouse is also included. The earliest upstanding feature of the stone castle is the lower part of the gatehouse. This dates to the early 12th century and indicates that the castle's inner defences, which would initially have comprised a timber palisade, had begun to be replaced in stone by c.1100. The massive curtain wall built at this time is over 1.5m thick and nearly 8m high. It includes a wall walk from which the castle could be patrolled and defended, a projecting tower on the east side, and semi-circular bastions at the north-west and south-west corners. The remains of arrow loops and a number of small mural chambers can also be seen, the latter including a garderobe or latrine on the south side. The lower part of the gatehouse incorporates a single round-arched passageway and would originally have been approached by a timber bridge across the defensive ditch on the south side of the monument. In the 14th century, the bridge was replaced by a narrow stone barbican incorporating a drawbridge and flanked by crenellated walls equipped with wall walks. Prior to this, probably in the 13th century, the upper storeys of the gatehouse were rebuilt. On the first floor was a chapel and, on the second floor, a guardroom. A crenellated fighting platform existed at roof level. Within the castle, in the bailey west of the gatehouse, stood the keep. The original timber structure was replaced by a stone tower keep in the mid- to late-12th century. Much of the upper part of this building no longer survives, but enough remains to show that it was originally two-storeyed and that a third storey was added later. A forebuilding lay on the west side and is now partially incorporated in the late-Georgian manor house, built within the castle in the early 19th century. The forebuilding linked the ground floor of the keep to a range of service buildings that formerly stood on the site of the manor house, and also contained the spiral stair that provided access to the roof and upper floors of the keep. The ground floor, or undercroft, would have been used for storage while the upper floors would have contained the private apartments of the lords of Prudhoe Castle and possibly also a guardroom. Prior to the construction of the tower keep, both the lord's private and public chambers would have been included within the hall, recently discovered by excavation to have stood against the north curtain in the eastern bailey of the castle. The hall was a rectangular building of two storeys, the ground floor undercroft being used for storage and the first floor including a large communal chamber in addition to the smaller, private solar. The building may have retained its public functions after the tower keep was built. East of it, following the east curtain wall, the remains of a number of service buildings have been found including a kitchen and a brewhouse, the latter below the east tower. Additional service buildings would have existed all round the inside of the curtain wall and would have included, for example, a bakehouse, lodgings for servants and men-at-arms, a guesthouse, stabling and workshops. On the right of the gatehouse are the remains of the castle mill and, on the left, the pond which fed it. The medieval buildings along the west curtain wall have been replaced by a range of 19th century outbuildings, but the earlier remains will survive underneath. The castle was built by the barons of Prudhoe, the de Umfravilles. It commanded the middle stretch of the Tyne valley and controlled one of the principal north-south routes across the river, making it an obstacle to Scottish armies invading England. In addition to its formidable stone fortifications, the castle relied for its defence on its position on a steep-sided natural mound. These were supplemented by deep ditches on the weaker south and west sides. Its strength was such that it successfully withstood the besieging army of King William of Scotland in both 1173 and 1174. In 1381, the castle passed by marriage to the earls of Northumberland, the Percys, and is still owned by the Percy family. It has been in State care since 1966 and, together with the later manor house, is a Grade I Listed Building. Excluded from the scheduling are all English Heritage fixtures and fittings, the modern surfaces of the barbican and baileys, and the 19th century manor house and outbuildings, but the ground underneath these features is included, together with the medieval structures incorporated within the excluded buildings, namely the west curtain wall and the forebuilding of the keep. (Scheduling Report)

Prudhoe Castle is a tower keep castle and comprises two baileys, or courtyards, with the keep and other buildings, a gatehouse, barbican and curtain wall, and outer defensive ditches. Built by the barons of Prudhoe, the Umfravilles, it commanded the middle stretch of the Tyne valley and controlled one of the principal north-south routes across the river, a ford, making it an obstacle to Scottish armies invading England. The castle stands on a natural hill protected by a river cliff and a steep-sided dene and would originally have had a timber palisade. The earliest parts of the gatehouse show that stone had begun to replace the timber defences by AD1100. The castle is a well preserved and typical example of a small, powerful Border castle of the tower keep variety. Its importance lies not only in the excellent preservation of its standing remains, in particular its curtain walls which largely survive to their full height, but also in a number of rare architectural details and wide range of ancillary features which survive both as upstanding and buried features within its two baileys. Equally important are its associations with the de Umfravilles and the Percys, two of the most important families in English medieval history. Archaeological investigations have been limited, but in 1974 excavations in the outer ward found medieval layers surviving just below present ground surface and confirmed the below ground preservation of structural remains of various building including a hall dating to the 13th or early 14th century (Keen 1976, 206-8; Pevsner 1992, 546). More recently, tree-ring analysis of the castle gates has dated them to the mid-15th century (Arnold et al 2002; Dower et al 2004). (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 137-8, 246, 267-8, 277, 326, 366, 471
      Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 113
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 312 (1174 siege)
      Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 461-4
      Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 92-3
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 194-5
      Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 102-4 (plan)
      Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 284-5, 287-9
      Pevsner, N., 1992 (revised by Grundy, John et al), Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 545-6
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 186-7
      Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 7-9, 40, 55, 82-4
      Royal Historic Society, 1986 (3 edn), Handbook of British Chronology p. 475
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 340
      Keen, L.J., 1983, 'The Umfravilles, the castle and the barony of Prudhoe, Northumberland' in Brown, R.Allen (ed), Anglo-Norman studies V: proceedings of the Battle Conference 1982 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 165–84
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 282
      Keen, L.J. and Thackray, D.W.R., 1977, Prudhoe Castle' Archaeological excavations 1976 (HMSO) p. 30
      Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 298-304
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 269, 288
      Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 147-8
      Sanders, I.J., 1960, English Baronies. A study of their origin and descent 1086-1327 p. 73
      Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 186-9
      Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1926, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 12 p. 79-135
      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. 95-7
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 417-8 online copy
      Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 199-222 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
      Tomlinson, W., 1888, A Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (London) p. 95-6
      Hartshorne, C.H., 1858, Feudal and Military Antiquities of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders (London) p. 229-52 online copy
      Gibson, W., 1848, Northumbrian Castles, Churches and Antiquities part 1 p. 51-5 online copy
      Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1853, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 2 p. 206-7 online copy
      Scott, W., 1814, Border Antiquities of England and Scotland p. 89-92 online copy
      Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 168-70
      Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 221
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 4 p. 134-40
      Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 1 p. 121-7 online transcription
      Wallis, J., 1769, The Natural History and Antiquities of Northumberland Vol. 2 p. 162-6 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Dower, R., Geddes, J. and Sherlock, D., 2004, 'The Gates of Prudhoe Castle' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 33 p. 77-88
      Keen, L.J., 1976, 'Prudhoe Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 133 p. 206-8 (plan)
      Thackray, D.W.R. and Keen, L.J., 1975, CBA Group 3 Newsbulletin 10, 9-10
      King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Hunter Blair, C.H., 1944, 'The Early Castles of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 22 p. 116-70 esp 153-5 (plan)
      Knowles, 1912, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser3) Vol. 5 p. 151 (notice of repairs) online copy
      1893, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 6 p. 85-7
      1891, The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend p. 6-10
      Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 199-222 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1883-4, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 1 p. 281-8
      (Longstaffe, W. H. D.), 1865, 'Prudhoe Castle' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 6 p. 116-21
  • Guidebooks
    • West, S., 2006, Prudhoe Castle (London: English Heritage)
      1993, Prudhoe Castle Northumberland (London: English Heritage)
      Anon, 1986, Prudhoe Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
      Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 156, 338
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 49 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Northumberland County Council, 2009, 'Prudhoe' Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey doi:10.5284/1000177 download copy
      Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
      Arnold, A.J., Laxton, R.R. and Litton, C.D., 2002, Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers from Prudhoe Castle Gates, Prudhoe, Northumberland (English Heritage Centre for Archaeology Report 37/2002)
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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