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Historic England Research Records

Dunstanburgh Castle

Hob Uid: 8243
Location :
Northumberland
Craster
Grid Ref : NU2574021920
Summary : Dunstanburgh Castle was built for Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster in 1313-25. The castle was remodelled as was the keep in three phases in the 14th century. The castle's curtain wall encloses 4ha, but field survey confirmed the existence of a 13.3ha outer ward enclosed by earthen defences and 3 meres. Thomas of Lancaster's Gatehouse is situated at the SW corner backed by a small inner ward, directing towards a harbour. John of Gaunt's Gatehouse is situated on the west curtain beyond the inner ward, approached by a barbican with a mantlet wall running to Lancaster's Gatehouse. Constable's Tower, the commanding officer's residence, lies midway along the south curtain. Behind this are buildings for him and his staff. At the SE corner is Egyncleugh Tower which commanded a third gate with a drawbridge across the moat. Lilburn Tower stands at the north end of the west curtain. This was a watchtower and a residence for soldiers, with a postern accessing the northern perimeter. The castle was built from sandstone with a whinstone rubble core, with limestone in the east curtain. The newly recognised meres surrounded the castle were defences, fish stores, and had ornamental value. Lancaster may have been using Arthurian mythology through this watery landscape. Earl Thomas, who may have built the castle as a political statement against Edward II's weak rulership, was executed in 1322 and the fortress passed to royalty. John of Gaunt, as lieutenant of the Marches towards Scotland, ordered the late 14th century alterations. Before completion, the castle withstood a Scottish attack in 1384. Held for the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses, Dunstanburgh fell to the Earl of Warwick after a siege. In WW2 a pillbox was built and a corps of the Royal Armoured Corps installed amongst the ruins. Finds of Romano-British pottery indicate earlier occupation. The south curtain wall may have followed the line of a promontory fort rampart. In the care of English Heritage.
More information : Dunstanburgh Castle is a 14th century castle situated on a coastal headland in Northumberland. The castle was built for Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster, with the first phase of construction taking place between 1313-1325. The gatehouse was remodelled as the castle's keep in the early 1380s, with a new gatehouse built. This remodelling was undertaken by Henry of Holme for John of Gaunt. The site of the castle encloses an area of 11 acres. Thomas of Lancaster's Gatehouse is situated at the south west corner backed by a small inner ward. John of Gaunt's Gatehouse is situated on the west curtain immediately beyond the inner ward, approached by a barbican with a mantlet wall running to an outer gate adjoining Lancaster's Gatehouse. Constable's Tower, the residence of the castle's commanding officer, lies midway along the south curtain. Behind the tower is a complex of buildings for his own use and that of his staff. At the south east corner is Egyncleugh Tower, an important tower which commanded the 'clough' under its east wall. Lilburn Tower stands at the north end of the west curtain. This was a watchtower and a residence for soldiers, with a postern at its foot. The castle was built from sandstone with a whinstone rubble core, except for limestone in the east curtain. Earl Thomas, who seems to have built the castle as a refuge rather than a residence, was executed in 1322 and the fortress passed into royal hands. John of Gaunt, as lieutenant of the Marches towards Scotland, ordered the late 14th century alterations. Before the alterations were complete the castle withstood a Scottish attack in 1384. Held for the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses, Dunstanburgh fell to the Earl of Warwick after a siege. In the Second World War a pillbox and foxhole was built and a corps of the Royal Armoured Corps were installed amongst the ruins. Finds of Romano-British pottery indicate earlier occupation of the headland. Scheduled and listed.

[NU 25742192] Dunstanburgh Castle GT (Remains of). (1)

See Guidebook. (2)

The only extant earthwork is a stretch of rock-cut ditch at the south-east angle of the curtain. Surveyed at 1/2500. (3)

NU 2582 2165. Dunstanburgh Castle: Romano-British settlement, 14th century enclosure castle and harbour, and World War II pillbox and foxhole. Scheduled RSM No 23231. Evidence for Roman occupation was found during partial excavations carried out within the castle in 1930 and 1931, when fragments of imported Rhenish millstones were found in addition to sherds of samian pottery. Although the precise nature of the occupation is not yet fully understood, the site is a likely setting for a small fort or signal station since the Roman frontier during the second half of the 2nd century AD ran from the Forth to the Clyde.

The enclosure castle was begun in 1313 and work on its walls and gatehouse appears to have been complete by 1316 when Edward II granted licence to crenellate. The gatehouse became the keep of the later castle and comprises two D-shaped drum towers separated by a rib-vaulted gate-passage. An outer barbican was removed in the later 14th century. Between 1372 and 1383 the gatehouse became the keep and a new gate-tower was built in the W curtain, protected by a barbican to which a screen wall or mantlet was later added. This wall ended in a second gateway which adjoined the SW tower of the keep. In 1382-83 an inner ward was created by the construction of narrow building ranges round a small courtyard. A large oven indicates that the N range included a bakehouse and the W range a kitchen. The inner ward, keep and gate occupy the SW angle of a much larger enclosure, bounded on all four sides by curtain walls and containing the remains of further defensive and domestic structures, including the buried remains of the castle's home farm, recorded as having an oak barn between 1454 and 1470. Only the W, S and E curtain walls are upstanding, the N having been greatly damaged by the sea from 1543. Included in the W curtain is the Lilburn Tower, built circa 1325 for John Lilburn, constable of Dunstanburgh. It is a three storey building with tall corner turrets projecting above its flat roof. Two further towers, Egyncleugh Tower and Constable's Tower, exist in the S curtain, both dating from the later 14th century. The remaining E curtain was originally a flat topped earthwork faced with stone, with three inserted garderobe chambers. A wall was constructed on top of this earthwork in the 15th century.

Approximately 500m S of the castle and NW of the inlet called Nova Scotia is an area formerly occupied by the castle harbour. In 1314 a ditch was dug from the harbour to Embleton Bay, N of the castle. This ditch, which measures circa 4m deep and 24m wide, made the castle and the area lying between it and the harbour into an island, with access via a drawbridge. The area enclosed by the ditch contains post medieval ridge and furrow beneath which possible medieval building foundations were found in 1949. In addition, circa 50m S of the castle keep are the earthwork remains of a roughly square enclosure flanked to the N by the foundations of a range of buildings forming two sides of a courtyard. These remains have been interpreted as an outwork commanding the approach to the castle but may alternatively be the site of a later farmstead (see NU 22 SE 1).

A World War II pillbox [indexed as a Type FW3/22] and foxhole lie just N of where the ditch and harbour joined.

From early in the Norman period Dunstanburgh was part of the barony of Embleton but no castle was built there until Thomas Earl of Lancaster, High Steward of England, ordered its construction in 1313. Unusually for the area and the time, the castle was not built to defend the Scottish Marches nor was it the centre of the baronial fee. Rather, it appears to have been intended as a bolt-hole for Lancaster, who spent most of his life in opposition to King Edward II and his favourites, even to the point of unlawfully executing Piers Gaveston. It did not serve him, however, and he himself was executed in 1322 after the Battle of Boroughbridge. For four years the castle continued under its constables, providing horsemen for the army that invaded Scotland in 1322 and, in 1326, ships to protect the king against Queen Isabella. In the same year the castle returned to the heirs of Earl Thomas and, in 1362, was succeeded to by John of Gaunt who ordered the repairs and alterations in the 1380s, in response to Scottish raids. John died in 1399 and was succeeded by his son, Henry Bolingbroke, who in the same year usurped the throne of Richard II to become King Henry IV. In this way Dunstanburgh became a royal castle governed by constables and appears to have been allowed to decay. However, annual expenditure reports made to the Duchy of Lancaster from 1436 show that large-scale repairs were being carried out in the years leading up to the Wars of the Roses when, but for a brief period in 1462, Dunstanburgh remained a Lancastrian stronghold. It was finally taken in 1464 in a Yorkist victory that, together with those at the recent battles of Hedgeley Moor and Hexham, ended the Lancastrian cause in the north. From that time it fell into ruin and in 1604 was sold to the Crown. In 1885 the original gate-passage through the keep was reopened and the gate arch that can be seen today was added to the front. The castle has been in State care since 1930 and is a Grade I Listed Building. (4)

Additional references. (5,6)

Listed. (7-9)

Analysis of Dunstanburgh Castle as part of the Earl of Lancaster's estates. (10)

An examination of the accounts of John of Gaunt's building accounts and of the surviving structures at Dunstanburgh suggests that the work was a response to the Peasants' Revolt or Rebellion of 1381. Gaunt's works created an inner defensive work behind the main gate and gave greater security to the lord's apartments. (11)

Dunstanburgh Castle was mapped as a part of the Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey for the North East. The castle and internal banks are visible on air photographs as structures and earthworks. The features are still extant on the latest 1999 Ordnance Survey vertical photography.
(12)


Between 2003 and 2005, English Heritage's Archaeological Survey and Investigation Team lead a multidisciplinary investigation of Dunstanburgh Castle and its environs, in Northumberland. In addition to a Level 3 analytical field survey at 1:1 000 scale covering 36 hectares, the project also comprised documentary research, rapid architectural investigation of the standing remains, environmental sampling of waterlogged ground outside the Scheduled area, and the gathering of oral testimony from local people. The earthwork survey was carried out using survey-grade GPS and extensive ground modelling was undertaken to answer various questions relating to water management. A study of Dunstanburgh's place in local folklore was undertaken by local resident Katrina Porteous, and incorporated into the final report. Geophysical survey was subsequently targeted at three areas to follow up specific questions raised by the field survey, and a separate report on this was produced. The project was undertaken in partnership with The National Trust, in order to inform conservation and management of the castle's environs through a Higher Level Stewardship scheme, and the re-presentation of the Guardianship area. It was carried out concurrently with an investigation of Craster radar station c.1km to the south, also undertaken by the Archaeological Survey and Investigation Team (Event record 1501045). The location, scale and daring architectural style of the castle may have been partly intended to challenge Bamburgh Castle and Edward II's weak rulership. This is supported by the grand scale of the castle, the use of architectural motifs which recall the Welsh castles of Edward I, and the designed landscape setting which includes a series of three meres (NU 22 SE 44; NU 22 SE 46; NU 22 SE 52). Lancaster may have been drawing on Arthurian mythology through the use of a watery landscape. The harbour at Novia Scotia (NU 22 SE 48) may help explain the positioning of Lancaster's gatehouse, which is directed towards this. The discovery of a possible promontory fort underlying the castle may be the source of the `burgh' element of the castle's name (NU 22 SE 54). The possible outwork mentioned in the Scheduled Monument Notification (4) is thought to be a post-medieval farmstead (NU 22 SE 51). A full report, part of the Research Department Report Series, is available from the NMR, reference RDRS 26/2006. (13)

The Dunstanburgh Castle English Heritage Guidebook, published 2007 includes a "tour" of the remains of the castle and an overview of its history. There are features on the medieval harbour associated with the castle, along with discussion of the site before the castle and the later role of the area around the castle in World War Two. There are additional features on historical personalities associated with the Castle. (14)

Multi-disciplinary survey report on Dunstanburgh Castle , published in 2006- see also source 13 above. (15)

Article on the building of the great gatehouse of Dunstanburgh Castle by Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who was a cousin, and rival, of Edward II. The gatehouse was built to make a statement about the earl's perceived power: its facade gives the illusion that it is five storey's high. it does not face any of the landward approach routes but rather looks out tot sea above the man made harbour, presumably as a challenge to Royal authority. (16)

Further article on the Authurian imagery utilised in the setting of Dunstanburgh Castle. (17)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 6" 1926
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : Ministry of Works. 1955. Dunstanburgh Castle Guidebook
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 139-44
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 23, 1995
Source Number : 12
Source : Oblique aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR NU 2521/40 (17676/7) 01-AUG-2001
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : ENGLISH HERITAGE: DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE SURVEY
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : Dunstanburgh Castle
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 15
Source : Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland: archaeological, architectural and historical investigations; English Heritage Research Department report series 26/2006
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 15
Source : English Heritage Historical Review
Source details : Article by Jeremy Ashbee: "Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and the great gatehouse of Dunstanburgh Castle"
Page(s) : 28-35
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1, 2006
Source Number :
Source : Research News
Source details : Article by Alastair Oswald and Jeremy Ashbee: 'Dunstanburgh Castle: Northumberland's own Camelot?'
Page(s) : 34-37
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, 2006
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 25/03/1969
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 4
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 05-Jul-94
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 5
Source : Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland [guide]
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Alnwick, 01-SEP-1998
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1399
Source Number : 7
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) : 332
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : Feb-83
Source Number : 8
Source : Bastions and Belligerents: Medieval Strongholds in Northumberland
Source details :
Page(s) : 125-7
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 9
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 642-3
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Archaeologia Aeliana : or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity
Source details :
Page(s) : 223-34
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 29, 2001

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Settlement, Fort, Signal Station
Evidence : Find, Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : castle built
Monument End Date : 1325
Monument Start Date : 1313
Monument Type : Castle, Gatehouse, Curtain Wall, Postern, Bank (Earthwork)
Evidence : Ruined Building, Demolished Building, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Altered 1372 to 1383
Monument End Date : 1383
Monument Start Date : 1372
Monument Type : Castle, Gatehouse, Keep, Barbican, Wall
Evidence : Ruined Building, Structure
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Ruinous by 1538
Monument End Date : 1538
Monument Start Date : 1538
Monument Type : Castle, Keep, Gatehouse
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : World War II
Monument End Date : 1945
Monument Start Date : 1939
Monument Type : Pillbox (Type FW3/22)
Evidence : Documentary Evidence

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Settlement, Fort, Signal Station
Object Type : VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 110930
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : ND 3
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 23231
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : NBR Index Number
External Cross Reference Number : 79101
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 236942
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 126
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1153477
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1007507
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : NU 22 SE 2
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1470191
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1106463
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1417824
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503195
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503196
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503197
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503210
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503230
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503222
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503207
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503204
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503202
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1503194
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1930-01-01
End Date : 1931-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON NU 22 SE 2
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1969-03-25
End Date : 1969-03-25
Associated Activities : Primary, INVESTIGATION BY RCHME/EH ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Activity type : ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-11-14
End Date : 1995-11-14
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2003-01-01
End Date : 2005-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: NORTH EAST COAST NMP RAPID COASTAL ZONE ASSESSMENT SURVEY
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2007-03-01
End Date : 2008-07-22
Associated Activities : Primary, DUNSTANBURGH/EMBLETON BAY
Activity type : MANAGEMENT SURVEY
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, DUNSTANBURGH CASTLE
Activity type : THEMATIC SURVEY
Start Date : 2010-01-01
End Date : 2011-12-31