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Widdrington Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Widdringtons; Castrum de Wodryngton; Turris de Wodryngton; Withrington; Witherington; Woderington: Widringdun

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ25579576
Latitude 55.25552° Longitude -1.59885°

Widdrington Castle has been described as a probable Fortified Manor House, and also as a certain Pele Tower, and also as a certain Tower House.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.

Description

Widdrington Castle. Licence for crenellation granted to G de Widdrington in 1341. Its battlements were built on corbels, and it had a projecting turret at each corner with ornamental finials ... various additions were made at different dates - the house being demolished c.1770. (Hodgson 1832 - Plate shows this antiquity to be a fortified manor house rather than a castle)
Castle (Rather a tower, H L Honeyman) the seat of Gerald de Widdrington in 1272. (Hadcock 1939 - Widdrington Pedigree in Hodgson proves this to be the great-uncle of the a/m. G de Widdrington).
The only remains of this building is the mound on which it stood (PSANT 1903).
NZ 25569573. A ditchless circular mound with a diameter of 49m having a maximum height of 2.1m, the feature has a circular internal depression measuring 20m in diameter with a max depth of 1.6m below the top of the mound.
Building foundations are visible at NZ 25579574 consisting of unweathered worked stone and fragmentary early brick. Loose worked stones and fragments of early brick and also scattered throughout the internal depression of the mound.
No visible surface remains are to be seen at the published siting symbol, and there seems to be little doubt that the mound constitutes the remains of this antiquity (F1 EG 25-FEB-1954).
The National Coal Board, in August 1954 undertook to dig trenches south of the hollow mound. Digging was done by a mechanical navvy to a depth of 4ft. In only one place, the south edge of the mound, was there a trace of a building and this was the foundation of the mound itself. To the south the underground remains were limited to the foundations of a garden wall and a carriage-way, and to a few field drains and a certain amount of rubble (Bibby 1955).
Castle now vanished. Stone reputed to have been used to make workmen's homes. In old surveys it changes status from tower to castle.
James I of England/IV of Scotland, stayed at Widdrington on his way to London to be crowned. It was then held by Sir Robert Cary (Long 1967).
Widdrington Castle (site of). Scheduled monument Northum 308. All that now remains above ground is a mound and still foundations to the west. A licence to crenellate was granted to Ralph Widdrington in 1341. It consisted of a pele tower to which a wing was added to the north in the 16th century. The Widdringtons lost their lands after the 1715 rising and the castle was demolished in 1772. A gothic castle was erected on the site towards the end of the 18th century, this has also disappeared (Scheduling Report 03-Nov-1986).
Widdrington Castle and 18th century Gothic castle and gardens south of Widdrington Farm. Scheduling revised on 7th August 1996, new national monument number 24641.
The monument includes the site of a medieval tower house (Widdrington Castle) with later additions, part of its gardens, and the site of an 18th century Gothic castle. The site of the medieval building is in the north west corner of the monument. The site of the 18th century castle lies to the south east and is visible as a roughly circular mound 2.1m high and 49m in diameter, with an internal depression up to 1.6m deep and 20m in diameter. This is referred to as 'Castle Mound' on the 1: 10,000 map. Building foundations are visible in the side of the turf covered mound and consist of worked stone and 18th century brick. In 1954 several trenches were excavated to the south of the mound in an area measuring c.90m by c.73m. Building foundations were discovered on the south edge of the mound. Other features further south included the foundations of a garden wall and a carriageway and possible remains of garden paths and rubbish dumps.
The medieval tower house is documented in 1341 when licence to crenellate (ie erect a fortification) was granted to Gerard Widdrington. By 1592 the castle consisted of three parts: the original (south) tower, a great hall to the north and beyond that the north tower. Both towers projected eastwards from the hall leaving a recess containing the principal entrance. Between 1592 and the Civil War (1645-49) the hall was rebuilt and heightened. Between 1653 and 1676 projecting wings were added to the north and south from the two towers by William, second Baron Widdrington. He also laid out an enclosed forecourt and to the south of this, a walled garden. In 1720 the castle was bought by York Buildings Company and was described as in a very ruinous condition and in danger of falling. Some time after 1772 the Castle was demolished by Sir George Warren and then rebuilt, based on a drawing by S and N Buck made in 1728. This new structure burnt down before it was completed and was replaced, on a new site to the south east, by a Georgian Gothic castle designed by Thomas Sewell of Alnwick. Slight indeterminate earthworks are all that remain visible on the site of the tower house.
However, the foundations of the tower house and its various additions will survive well below ground. An engraving of the new Gothic building records it as having been built in 1772. It depicts a south facing rectangular building with a central octagonal tower, the whole situated on a slight mound. This house was uninhabited from 1802 and in 1862 was demolished leaving only the central tower standing. By 1903 the tower had also been removed leaving only the hollow mound which can be seen today. In the middle of the site is a line of twelve trees orientated north-south and called the Twelve Apostles. However, it is not clear which building their layout relates to.
The remains of Widdrington Castle and the 18th century Gothic castle survive below ground and as visible earthworks and will contain significant archaeological deposits. The continued use of the site from the 14th to 19th centuries will provide information on the development and evolution of high status residences in Northumberland where few comparable houses have been so completely abandoned. Evidence for the development of the gardens associated with these residences will also survive (Scheduling Report 07-Aug-1996).
An evaluation and watching brief were carried out by Lancaster University Archaeological Unit in December 1996 on land east of and adjacent to the scheduled monument at Widdrington Farm. This was associated with an application to construct agricultural buildings. The site consisted of improved pasture with slight earthworks of degraded ridge and furrow and an earthwork features comprising a bank and hollow continuing the line of the Druridge road towards the castle site.
Three evaluation trenches were dug and revealed evidence of ridge and furrow cultivation, a scatter of medieval pottery and a hollow way which had been infilled in the post-medieval period and lead towards the castle site. One trench revealed a curving gully that pre-
dated the ridge and furrow cultivation and which is interpreted as part of possible late prehistoric or Roman Iron Age round house; no dating evidence was recovered. The watching brief recovered no further information due to unfavourable conditions (LUAU 1996). (Northumberland HER)

The Buck's engraving of 1728 shows a house with two towers. attached to both ends of unfortified hall. One is a C14 three storey solar tower, probably built in association with the licence of 1341. The other is a larger tower of early C15 date resembling Belsay Castle. While the hall between the two towers was unfortified it may be that the house had a barmekin or enclosing curtain wall making it worthy of the castrum description given it in 1415.
N.B. Marked as 'castle mound' on OS map. There is no evidence of a motte here and this mound is made of demolition rubble.

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1341 Sept 10 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated on Saturday, July 26, 2014

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