Warkworth Castle when it was first built was considered “feeble” – the first and last time I expect to hear a castle described such! At this stage it was a timber castle and was left undefended when the Scots invaded in 1173.
|Little Stair Keep|
Although the settlement of Warkworth dates back to at least the 8th century, the first castle was not built until after the Norman Conquest in 1066.
The town and castle were built within the loop of the River Coquet, the castle occupying the southern end guarding the narrow neck of the loop.
|The loop of the river, with the main road running|
round the castle and through the loop
- the castle is marked
Bob Scotney gives an excellent account of Warkworth Castle for his W – and so please go over and read his historical record.
The Dukes of Northumberland eventually gained control and favoured Warkworth as their main residence – until they moved their allegiances to Alnwick Castle, when a slow decline set in.
The castle continued to languish ... but through the Bishop of Dromore (1729 – 1811), Thomas Percy’s poem “The Hermit of Warkworth” – the town and its historic ruins attracted interest as a tourist destination.
This Percy’s (no connection to the dynastic family) greatest contribution is considered to be his “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry” (1765) - the first of the great ballad collections, which was the one work most responsible for the ballad revival in English poetry that was a significant part of the Romantic movement.
As an aside – Dr Percy was the first person to publish (1761) in English a Chinese novel.
JMW Turner even travelled north to paint the ruins in 1799.
Nicolas Pevsner (1902 – 1983), best known for his 46-volume series of county-by-county guides, The Buildings of England, describes Warkworth thus:
“... of the imposing castle - that the military engineer (unknown) happened also to be a great architect.” He went on: “Warkworth must be approached from the north.
With its bridge, its bridge-tower, then Bridge Street at an angle, joining the main street up a hill to the towering, sharply cut block of the keep, it is one of the most exciting sequences of views one can have in England.”
|An English Heritage event at the Castle|
By 1984 the Castle was under English Heritage and is a scheduled monument, a nationally important historic building and an archaeological site, with a Grade 1 listed building status.
Warkworth Castle is a good example of a castle ‘surviving’ through numerous wars, rivalries, progenitor dying off, restoration by royals to ownership once again ...
... it has been Scottish and English, Catholic and Protestant, “feeble”, a ruin and now a national monument. What a history ... a potted history of England embedded within the fabric of the castle’s life ... it has it all, and has had it all.
St Lawrence’s Church (left) is unique in Northumberland in being a large and almost completely Norman building. The first record of a church on the site dates from 737 AD – historically interesting with impressive stained glass windows.
That is W for Warkworth Castle – a ruin of a castle yet recognised as an internationally important structure ... part of the ABC series of Aspects of British Castles.
Bob Scotney featured Belvoir Castle in the Vale of Belvoir yesterday;
today - his Warkworth Castle post can be found here.
Bob also recommended that we read The Hermitage of Warkworth ballad ... which begins:
Dark was the night, and wild the storm,
And loud the torrent's roar,
And loud the sea was heard to dash
Against the distant shore.
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