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Historic England Research Records

Harbottle Castle

Hob Uid: 1855
Location :
Northumberland
Harbottle
Grid Ref : NT9322004820
Summary : An early twelfth century motte and bailey castle later modified by the construction of a shell keep, defended by a curtain wall and tower, the bailey being used as a barmkin. In 1318 the castle was captured by Robert Bruce, was restored in 1336, but in ruins by 1351. It was repaired at the end of the 14th century. Further building work took place between 1541 and 1551 and further repairs were made in 1563. Artillery fortifications were erected in the 16th century. The castle was quarried for stone in the 17th century. The motte, 14 metres high, is 65 metres in diameter at the base and 30 metres at the top. There are 16th century buildings on top. At the foot of the motte on the south side is a mass of fallen masonry said to be of 13th century date. The motte ditch is up to 2 metres deep with traces of a counterscarp bank 0.3 metres high. The bailey was surrounded by a ditch 11 metres deep internally and 3.5 metres deep externally, with a counterscarp bank 0.3 metres high. The curtain wall survives intermittently as an earthwork with some standing masonry.
More information : (NT 9322 0482) Harbottle Castle (NR) (Remains of) (1)

The castle started as a Motte and Bailey built by one of the Umfravilles in the 12thc. A stone castle was ordered by the King after 1157, but in 1173-4 the place was taken by the Scots (probably before the stone-work started). The stone castle was (probably) started soon after and comprised a shell-keep on the Motte and a castleyard occupying the western half of the bailey and defended by a curtain wall and tower, the eastern half of the bailey being cut off by a massive wall and used only as a barmkin. In 1318 the Castle was captured by Robert Bruce. It was ordered to be dismantled in 1319 but was restored in 1336. It was in ruins in 1351 but defensible again at the end of the century. Much work on it was done between 1541 and 1551 when the western and northern sides of the shell-keep were rebuilt in the present form. Further repairs were made in 1563, and in 1585 the inner ward was 'reasonable' but the outer 'almost down'. There were no further repairs and the site was used as a quarry, suffering particularly when the new house 'Harbottle Castle' was built in the 17thc. There was possibly a pre-Conquest fortress on the site. (2)

The siting at one of the easy crossings of the Cheviots, was of critical importance for the control of the middle Marches. (3)

OS 25" survey revised and annotated. Nothing seen to bear out the supposition that there was a "pre-Conquest fortress'. (4)

OS 1:2500 survey revised. Building foundations on inner west side of curtain wall no longer visible. (5)

The stone foundations of a probable rectangular building, maximum measurements 22.0m by 6.0m, divided into 3 units are traceable inside the west curtain, and a small rectangular stone-founded enclosure measuring 7.0m by 5.0m is evident in the south east of the motte. Surveyed at 1:2500. (6)

Harbottle Castle, centred at NY 9322 0482, was surveyed by RCHME in 1990. The castle is a well preserved motte-and-bailey probably dating to the early- or mid-twelfth century, with fragmentary remains of later stonework, including sixteenth-century artillery fortifications. It occupies an east-west ridge in the Coquet valley; the defensive position is good and the outlook is extensive, especially towards Clennel Street, one of the principal routes over the Border. The early castle consisted of a large motte and kidney-shaped bailey, the latter subsequently sub-divided by a north-south wall. A field to the east, which contains earthworks, may have been enclosed as a barmkin (7a) but this is by no means certain.The motte, 14m high, is 65m in diameter at the base and 30m at the top. It is crowned by the earthwork remains of various buildings and fragments of standing masonry dated to the mid-sixteenth century by two gun-loops of distinctive type (7b). At the foot of the motte on the south side is a mass of fallen masonry said to be of thirteenth-century date (Authority 2). The motte ditch is up to 2m deep with traces of a counterscarp bank 0.3m high. The bailey was surrounded by a ditch 11m deep internally and 3.5m deep externally, with a counterscarp bank 0.4m high. The curtain wall survives intermittently as an earthwork with some standing masonry. Within the west part of the bailey are traces of buildings and a well. The wall dividing the bailey is well preserved. At its north end was the North Tower and at its south end a gatehouse, both excavated by Honeyman (Authority 2). There are fewer features in the eastern part of the bailey but there are traces of ridge-and-furrow cultivation here and in the area immediately to the east (centred NT9340 0475), where there are also lynchets, banks, trackways and other features of uncertain date and purpose. To the west of the castle also, beyond a low platform containing some worked stone (NT 93150480), are further traces of cultivation and there are some clearance cairns on the steep slope to the north.Further details, and references, are contained in the archive account which accompanies the 1:500 survey . (7)

NY 9325 0481. Motte and bailey castle and shell keep castle at Harbottle. Scheduled RSM No 20959. The conical motte stands to a height of approximately 10m and measures 90m across at its base and 22m across its circular top. It is surrounded by a ditch which is on average 18m wide and has a maximum depth of 1.8m. The bailey lies to the N, E and W and is delineated by a massive rampart 2.4m wide standing 10m above the bottom of a ditch 12m wide. The bailey measures a maximum of 140m E-W by 100m N-S. Parts of the curtain wall stand to over 6m on the W. (8)

Events in the Castle's history are listed by Cathcart King and Dodds. (9-10)

This castle of the Umfravilles passed by marriage to the Tailboys family in 1437. It was recognised as a major defence against not only the Scots, but also the men of Redesdale. When the last Tailboys male died in 1541, the King obtained it in exchange for lands in Warwickshire. Repairs were put in place and included gun loops. But by the end of the century, it was again in poor repair, and with the union of the Crowns in 1603, it lost its significance, being sold to the Earl of Dunbar in 1605. (11)

Additional reference and photograph. (12)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1925
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Source Number : 2
Source : Northumberland County History
Source details : (ed M Hope Dodds)
Page(s) : 480-7
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Vol(s) : 15 - 1940
Source Number : 9
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Volume II : Norfolk-Yorkshire and the islands
Source details :
Page(s) : 334
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Vol(s) : Feb-83
Source Number : 10
Source : Bastions and Belligerents: Medieval Strongholds in Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 180-3
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Source Number : 11
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 3 : 1485-1660 (part 1)
Source details :
Page(s) : 253-4
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Source Number : 12
Source : England's Landscape: The North East
Source details :
Page(s) : 58
Figs. : 45
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Source : Harbottle Castle, heights plot
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Source : Harbottle Castle
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Source : Harbottle Castle, sheet 1/pencil survey
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Source : Harbottle Castle
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Source : Harbottle Castle, sheet 2/pencil survey
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Source : Harbottle Castle/ink survey
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Source Number : 3
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details : (air-photo)
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Vol(s) : 28-1950
Source Number : 4
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 ASPhillips/07-MAY-1957/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigation
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Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 DSmith/17-JUN-1970/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigation
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Source Number : 6
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F3 SAinsworth/11-DEC-1976/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigation
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Source Number : 7
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : Mark Bowden/08-JUN-1990/RCHME: Harbottle Castle Survey
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Source Number : 7a
Source : Externally held archive reference
Source details : Ryder, PF 1990 Harbottle Castle: a short historical and descriptive account. Unpublished.
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Source Number : 7b
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 3 : 1485-1660 (part 1)
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Source Number : 8
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : English Heritage Scheduling Amendment 16/8/94
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built early C12th
Monument End Date : 1132
Monument Start Date : 1101
Monument Type : Motte And Bailey
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Later in C12th
Monument End Date : 1200
Monument Start Date : 1133
Monument Type : Shell Keep, Wall, Tower, Barmkin
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Repairs 1563
Monument End Date : 1563
Monument Start Date : 1563
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Quarried for stone C17
Monument End Date : 1700
Monument Start Date : 1601
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Captured by Robert Bruce
Monument End Date : 1318
Monument Start Date : 1318
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Restored 1336
Monument End Date : 1336
Monument Start Date : 1336
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : In ruins by 1351
Monument End Date : 1351
Monument Start Date : 1351
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Refortified late C14th
Monument End Date : 1400
Monument Start Date : 1367
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Artillery fortifications added C16
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1501
Monument Type : Artillery Castle, Fortification
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Built in C16th
Monument End Date : 1600
Monument Start Date : 1501
Monument Type : Artillery Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Artillery fortifications added C16
Monument End Date : 1600
Monument Start Date : 1540
Monument Type : Fortification, Artillery Castle
Evidence : Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Further building work 1541-1551
Monument End Date : 1551
Monument Start Date : 1541
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 236160
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 20959
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NT 90 SW 3
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, HARBOTTLE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1930-01-01
End Date : 1939-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NT 90 SW 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1957-05-07
End Date : 1957-05-07
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NT 90 SW 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1970-06-17
End Date : 1970-06-17
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NT 90 SW 3
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1976-12-11
End Date : 1976-12-11
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: HARBOTTLE CASTLE SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1990-04-04
End Date : 1990-06-08
Associated Activities : Primary, HARBOTTLE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1999-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, REAY CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT HARBOTTLE CASTLE
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2015-01-01
End Date : 2015-12-31