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Historic castles of England and Harry Potter!
The Northumberland coast
The Northumberland coast in north England holds secrets that the casual passer by would not be privy to, but, if you're not in a hurry then there is much to discover. There are villages every few miles along the coast offering accomodation. However, the weather along the coast can change rapidly and become very chilly if the wind gets up from the sea. It is important to remember this when planning a trip as appropriate clothing is essential.
Berwick upon Tweed
Berwick lies on the river Tweed on the border between England and Scotland. Although in England it is a very Scottish town and has changed hands between the kingdoms thirteen times up until 1482. As a border town Berwick has its own unique flavour.
Berwick Castle dates back to around 1150 to the time of Edward 1 and stands on a mound at the top of the town, overlooking the town and the river. It was supported by the Elizabethan fortifications but suffered when the railway was built through it. If you continue along the riverside towards the road bridges, on the left among the trees, the natural walls and banks rise up to the fortifications. Its history literally shaped the town. Apart from being walled there were 19 towers along its length which stood at 6.7 metres.
The Old Bridge
The old bridge consists of 15 arches across the river and dates back to 1611-24. It is reputed to have been built after James 1 had to cross the previous rickety wooden bridge on his way to take up the throne of England.
Standing 40 metres high and overlooking the sea Bamburgh castle has been fortified since Ida, king of Northumbria, raised a wooden fortress surrounded by a hedge. Eventually the Viking raids brought destruction to the fortress. Henry 1 first rebuilt it and it remained in royal hands, having an active history in the border wars! Queen Margaret the wife of Henry sixth used this as her fortress during the War of the Roses. Eventually James 1 gave it away to the Forsters of Addlestone who hung onto it for another 100 years.
The bishop of Durham, Lord Crew who married Dorothy Forster bought it in 1704 and began restoring the castle. He established a trust for the work so that it could continue after his death.It was eventually bought by Lord Armstrong, the Tyneside inventor who improved it to its present day condition.
Warkworth is a beautiful unspoilt, tranquil town, one of Northumberland's treasures. It sits on the River Coquet with a castle at the top of the street. The river provides good protection on three sides while the castle potects the southern approach. There is a riverside path which runs around the town. It is a charming walk in any season and one which I've taken many times.
The castle has existed since at least 1139. It was a great symbol of national power and a bastion against the Scots. Henry, the son of the king of Scotland, was made earl of Northumberland and later it became the property of the Percy family. This is the castle of Harry Hotspur, featured in Shakespear's Henry fourth part 1 (This was one of my study subjects whilst in my last year at school) and so a little extra special for me.
The castle declined during the Percy family's absence from Northumberland, but they did give it attention again in the 18th century before finally choosing Alnwick as their retreat.
Alnwick is a magnificent castle in its own right, in a beautiful landscape setting and with a fascinating history all of its own.
The Percy family were to become one of the most powerful families in northern England up until 1670 when Earl Joceline Percy died and ended the male line of the Percys. The the castle was passed by marriage to Henry Earl of Ogle who assumed the name Percy.
A visitor to the castle in 1745 wrote 'After I had fully surveyed these ruins by walking round the walls, I found it was formerly the most strong building that I ever saw.All around the battlements is full of effigies which the weather and great length of time has now quite defaced. The grand port, or gateway, as you enter, is as strong as any I have seen in Flanders, with everything belonging to modern fortification'
The castle remained in a semi-neglected state until c.1766, when it was renovated by Duke Hugh. This included remodelling the keep, the removal of various buildings from both baileys, rebuilding the curtain wall, and building the domestic blocks against the south curtain. Between 1854-65 there were more extensive alterations and additions. Another visitor to the castle in1890 notes that the first banquet prepared in the kitchen was 'for the regalement of the 600 workmen who had assisted in the great works' and continues his description of the castle with the fact that 'there about 400 apartments in the castle. In the stable courts are many chambers for coach-men, grooms, and stablemen, and a large coach-house with an open timbered roof, which also serves as a guest-hall upon occasions'.
Today Alnwick castle is one of the most visited in England and has been one of the most important places in Northumberland for nearly a thousand years. Recent work on the gardens have turned these into a popular tourist attraction in their own right, and the castle has achieved fame with a new generation through its role as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films..
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