Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Location: Northumberland  Co Map

Found: 5th century


Description of Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle was constructed on a picturesque basalt outcrop by the native Bretons in the 5th century.  The original name of the Bamburgh citadel was Din Guarie. Invading Anglo-Saxons under leadership of king Ida of Bernicia (died c. 559 AD) captured Bamburgh Castle in the middle of the 6th century during intermittent warfare with the native population. About this time the castle got its name of Bebbanburgh after Anglo- Saxon queen Bebba. The Bamburgh sword that you will in a castle museum date back to this period (7th century). It was found in 1960 by Brian Hope-Taylor during archeological excavation on a site. Vikings finally captured and destroyed the fortifications in 993.

Ruins of the former Bamburgh Castle were not abandoned for long. Due to strategic location Normans under William the Conquer rebuilt a castle in 1095 on the same location. It is still a major part of the structure we see today. The keep of Bamburgh Castle was built by Henry II and further renovations in the 18th and 19th century did little to change its overall fortifications.



The site on a diabase outcrop originally housed a British fort called Din Guarie and was believed to have been the capital of the British kingdom of this region (see Gododdin, Bernicia and Hen Ogledd)[2] from ca. 420 to 547, the year of the first recorded mention mention of the castle. In that year the citadel was conquered by the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia and became his seat of power. It was briefly recaptured by the British in the time of his son Hussa in the War of 590, but was relieved again the same year.

The grandson Æðelfriþ bequeathed the castle to his wife Bebba, hence the early name Bebbanburgh. The Vikings destroyed the original fortification in 993.

The Normans built a new castle on the same site, which forms the core of the current castle. William II unsuccessfully besieged it in 1095 during a revolt supported by the lord of the castle, Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumbria. After Robert de Mowbray was imprisoned, his wife defended the castle until she was forced into surrender by the king's threat to blind her husband.

Bamburgh then became the property of the reigning monarch of England. Henry II presumably had the donjon built. As a key English outpost, the castle was the target of occasional attacks from the Scots. In 1464, during the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh Castle became the first English castle to be defended by artillery at the end of a nine-month siege by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

The Forster family of Northumberland[3] maintained the Crown for 400 years, with twelve successive governors of the castle, until the Crown finally gave it ownership to Sir John Forster. The family remained owners of the castle until Sir William Forster was posthumously declared bankrupt on his death in 1700 and his estates including the castle were sold by Act of Parliament to Lord Crew, Bishop of Durham and husband of his sister Dorothy, to settle his debts.

The castle fell into disrepair and was restored by various owners in the 18th and 19th centuries. Eventually she was bought by Victorian tycoon William Armstrong, who completed the restoration.

During World War II, the Royal Navy corvette HMS Bamborough Castle was named after the castle.

The castle is still owned by the Armstrong family but is open to the public. Weddings and corporate events take place there. The castle has been used as a film set since the 1920s, e.g. B. for the films Ivanhoe (1952), El Cid (1961), Mary Queen of Scots (1971), Elizabeth (1998), Macbeth (2015) and Transformers: The Last Knight (2017).



About 14 km south of Bamburgh Castle on the coast is the ancient fortress of Dunstanburgh Castle and about 8 km north of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island.



The air quality around Bamburgh Castle is excellent as there is no industry in the area. According to the June 2003 Northumberland Sound Mapping Study, daytime noise levels on the north-south link road at Bamburgh Castle range from 59 to 63 dB(A). Nearby there are breeding colonies of arctic and common terns on the inner Farne Islands and puffins, cormorants and razorbills on Staple Island.


Archeology in Bamburgh

Since 1996, the Bamburgh Research Project has been excavating and investigating the history of the castle and the area around Bamburgh.[4] The project focuses on the fortress and the early medieval burial ground in the bowl hole south of the castle. The first excavations were carried out in the 1960s by Brian Hope-Taylor, who also found the gold plaque called the Bamburgh Beast and the Bamburgh Sword. Part of the project is an eight-week training dig each summer for students to learn archaeological techniques and further study at the castle.


Armstrong and Aviation Artefacts Museum

The castle's former laundry houses the Armstrong and Aviation Artefacts Museum, with exhibits on Victorian tycoon William Armstrong and the Armstrong Whitworth company he founded. Machines, artillery and weapons as well as Luftwaffe parts from two world wars are on display.


Bamburgh Castle in Film, TV and Books

The late medieval British writer Thomas Malory used Bamburgh Castle as a model for Joyous Gard, the castle of Lancelot in Arthurian legend.

Bamburgh, under its Saxon name of Bebbanburg, is the seat of Uhtred, the main character in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales. It serves as either an important plot location or inspiration for the protagonist in all of the books in the series. It begins with The Last Kingdom (2004) and continues with The White Rider (2005), The Lords of the North (2006), Swordsong (2007), The Burning Land (2009), The Dying King (2011), The Heathen Prince (2013 ), The Empty Throne (2015) and The Dark Warriors (2016), as well as 2017 The Flamebearer, 2019 Wolf War, 2020 The King's Sword and 2021 The Lord of Battle.

The castle also features in Anne Thackery's book Ragnarök, where it is the home of the protagonist and heroine, the wife of the ruler of Din Gardi. In the book, the castle is called Din Gardi and is then renamed Bebbanburgh after the heroine's daughter-in-law, Bebba.

Bamburgh Castle has been the location for a number of films and television series.

In film, television and literature (selection)
1890: The Laidly Worm of Spindleston Heugh
1927: Hunting Tower
1949: Knight Hank, The Terror of the Round Table
1964: Beckett
1971: The Devils
1971: Macbeth
1984-1986: Robin Hood
1998: Elizabeth
2001: Revelation
2006: Most Haunted
2010: Robin Hood
2011: Time team dig at Bamburgh Castle at UK Channel 4
2015: The Last Kingdom
2017: Transformers: The Last Knight
2023: The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings must die
Bamburgh Castle makes an appearance in the open-world racing game Forza Horizon 4, which is set in Great Britain.


Hauntings in Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle is said to be haunted by several ghosts. One of these spirits is a figure of a woman in a green cloak. Many eye witnesses reported seeing her fall from the Bamburgh citadel walls. She disappears in the mid air just before she hits the ground.

Another full body apparition that is common in the area of Bamburgh Castle is that of a "Pink Lady". Locals claim that this Northumbrian Princess who fell in love with a common soldier. Her father, the king of the area, disapproved of their love and decided to send young man away to far lands to fight some pointless war. Shortly thereafter king lied to his daughter that her loved one fell in love with someone else and got married. Princess became depressed and start to avoid her family by taking long walks at the beach. Her father made her a pink dress to cheer her daughter up. Young princess put it, got on top of the tower and threw herself to the ground. Local legends claim that she returns every seven years, dressed in a same pink dress. She wanders down the walls of the castle waiting for her love to return.