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Bothal Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bothall; Bothale; Bothalle; Bothalla; Bottle; Bottel

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ23998649
Latitude 55.17240° Longitude -1.62481°

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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

Description

Castle gatehouse, probably c.1343 when Robert Bertram obtained licence to crenellate, restored from ruin 1830-31: adjacent wing c.1858, incorporating some medieval walling, extended and heightened 1909; C19 and early C20 work for Sample family, agents for Duke of Portland. Squared stone with cut dressings; gatehouse roof leaded, Lakeland slates on wing. Gatehouse rectangular in plan, with semi-octagonal turrets flanking entrance on north, and rectangular south-west stair turret.
North elevation: Gatehouse 3 storeys, 3 bays and 2-bay right wing. Moulded pointed central arch with portcullis slot, 1st floor window of 2 trefoiled lights with quatrefoil in spandrel, 3-light square-headed window with transom above. Flanking turrets have 3-light windows, mostly C19, except for single- light loops to ground floor left. Crenellated parapet with gargoyles, important display of contemporary heraldry and 2 worn stone figures (cf. Alnwick Castle). Inner return of each turret shows blocked shoulder-arched door, probably early C19. 2-bay wing to right has 3-light mullioned windows (those on 2nd floor blocked) and crenellated parapet. Left return of gatehouse shows original 2-light lst-floor window and 3-light transomed window above.
South elevation, to bailey: Gatehouse has double-chamfered arch; original 2-light window above with C15 transomed 2-light window with panel-traceried head on right, brought from Cockle Park Tower in 1830-31 restoration. 3- and 4-light transomed windows to 2nd floor, the latter a late C19 insertion. Small loops to right and in taller projecting stair turret on left. Wing to left 4 storeys, 3 bays; projecting embattled porch with moulded arch, 2- 3- and 4-light mullioned windows, some transomed. 2-storey extension on far left projects beyond line of curtain wall.
Interior: Gate passage has pointed rib vault with 4 murder-holes. Blocked shouldered doorway in each wall, and 2 chamfered loops on west. Ground floor chambers have round-arched rib vaults. 1st floor chamber has segmental ribbed rear arches to original windows, some with window seats. Newel stair capped by ribbed umbrella vault; shoulder-arched doorways. Wing has open- well closed-string stair with turned balusters. 1st floor drawing room has C15 fireplace with embattled lintel, brought from Cockle Park, and oak panelling originally from East-Indiaman ship. One wall, and stair, have plasterwork in imitation of panelling.
Historial Note: The Bertrams were lords from the late C12 until 1406, when the estate passed to the Ogles. Sir John Ogle was besieged here by his elder brother Sir Robert, who took the castle but was later compelled to return it to Sir John. (Listed Building Report)

Built c.1150 AD. A promontory level towards N, but the other three sides are protected by steep slopes to the river & a ravine in the E. There is no sign of a mound & there may never have been one, but only an enclosure protected by stockaded ramparts of earth & a fortified gateway on the N protected by ditch & mound. There is no masonry now visible earlier than C13th (Hunter-Blair 1944).
License for crenallation granted to Sir Robt de Ogle in 1343, heraldic arms carved in the battlements substantiate this date (Hodgson 1832; Hugill 1939).
Bothal Castle which is still known as such was extensively restored about 60 years ago. It is scheduled as an ancient monument and is the property of the Duke of Portland.
Bothal Castle is situated at the end of a natural spur with steep slopes on all sides except the north. The castle consists of the original gatehouse with modern buildings to the west and fragments of the old curtain wall to the south. It is an excellent repair and is used as a private residence and as offices of the agent of the Duke of Portland. Lack of literary evidence and the extensive renovations make it difficult to date this castle. The architectural features of the gatehouse indicate a probable 14th c date. There are no traces of any 12th c building or of the ditch and mound mentioned in Hunter-Blair (F1 EG 18-MAR-54). (PastScape)

There was almost certainly a C12 manor house here of some size and status but the actual form is unknown and this was, at that time, actually a detached part of the Barony of Bywell rather than being a caput. However the site, a natural knoll, is defensible and it would be entirely likely there were additonal earthworks making the site a timber castle. Did Hunter-Blair see something the field investigator EG missed in 1954 or was he somewhat carried away by his expectations of what 'should' have been here?

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1343 May 15 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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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, July 26, 2014

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