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History & Hauntings of Barnard Castle

Updated on May 23, 2014

Market Place


The Town

The town today is built around the castle and the Roman road that ran through the centre. Galgate is the modern road that follows this route then turns onto Horse Market, the main street. The main roads are lined with stone houses and at the bottom of the main road are the Market Place and the Butter Market, an octagonal building built by Thomas Breaks. It received its name, as it was the spot where the farmer’s wives sold dairy products each Wednesday would sit, though it has also served as a fire station and even a courthouse.

The town has received some famous visitors over the years, none more so than Charles Dickens who stayed in the Kings Head while researching his novel Nicholas Nickelby. Other notable visitors have included William Wordsworth, Daniel Defoe and Bill Bryson.

Nearby to the town is the Bowes Museum, a chateau style building founded by John Bowes and his wife, Josephine. It has paintings from artists such as El Greco, Goya and Canaletto as well as a decorative art collection. John Bowes lived at Streatlam Castle that was also nearby and has now been demolished. His horse stud bred four Derby winners across a 20-year period and the last of these, West Australian, was the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 1853.

Between 1861 to 1964, the town was connected to the rail network by the Barnard Castle railway station. Today, the nearest station is at Bishop Auckland 15 miles away.

Barnard Castle


History of the Castle

The area that later came to be Barnard Castle was originally part of an Anglo-Norse estate centred around the village of Gainford and mortgaged to the Earls of Northumberland. In 1080, the first Norman bishop of Durham, Bishop Walcher, was murdered the surrounding countryside was laid waste by the Normans in retaliation. This led to the breakup of the Earldom of Northumberland in 1095 by William II and the Lordship of Gainford was given to Guy de Balliol.

The first earthwork fortifications on the castle site were placed by Bernard de Balliol I during the latter part of the 12th century and the castle continued to be passed through his family. This later included the most famous member, John Balliol, King of Scotland, before coming into the hands of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.

It was inherited by Richard III through his wife Anne Neville when he was still the Duke of Gloucester and became one of his favourite residences. The Neville family continued to improve the estate and add to the castle but when Charles Neville, 6th Earl of Westermorland, was involved in the Rising of the North, the family’s estates were taken by the crown. The crown sold the castle in 1626 along with nearby Raby Castle to Sir Henry Vane who moved into Raby but allow Barnard Castle to fall to ruin.

The remains that still stand of the castle are Grade 1 listed and the chapel in the outer ward is Grade II* listed, both of which are owned and operated by English Heritage.

show route and directions
A markerBarnard Castle -
Barnard Castle, County Durham DL12, UK
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B markerMarket Place, Barnard Castle -
Market Place, Barnard Castle, County Durham DL12, UK
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C markerbowes museum -
The Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham DL12 8NP, UK
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Bridge from the Castle


The Bridge

Just below the castle, over the River Tees, is a 16th century bridge which became known as a County Bridge because it spanned two counties – the Palatinate of Durham on the east bank and on the west side Yorkshire. Because of this if any of the locals wished to marry against the wishes of either bishop, they were wed on the bridge, as it was a no man’s land where neither had power.

The Bridge is also famous for its part in the haunting of Lady Ann Day. This was a lady who lived in the castle and was murdered by being flung into the river below, right beside the bridge. Her ghost is seen repeating her fall, vanishing into the churning waters of the river as it did when she died.

Barnard Castle


Ghost Survey

A recent report in the local Teesdale Mercury did a survey of local residents and uncovered a surprising 87 different haunting reports. The largest number came from the cemetery on Victoria Road, attached to the chapel.

Another regular in one of the village pubs stated that every night at closing time when he was in the building, his watch stopped. Ghostly pool and snooker players were also reported on the same site.

Old Well Inn

The Old Well Inn is on a street known as Galgate, which follows the line of the Roman road through the town to where it crossed the River Tees. It backs onto the castle itself and was known as the Railway Hotel. Its history as a pub probably had something to do with a well on the property supplying fresh water and is now occupying what would have once been five properties.

The hauntings in the pub seem to centre around Room 7 and there at least two different stories. One guest left the room in the middle of the night when something pulled back the covers on her bed and climbed in beside her. When she turned on the light, no one was there.

The second story was in the same room but this time the woman woke in the middle of the night to see a child standing at the bottom of the bed, just staring at her. She too left the inn during the night. The manager did admit that there are guests who stay at the inn who still specify not to be put in Room 7.

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    • brutishspoon profile image

      Amy 3 years ago from Darlington, England

      I love Barnard Castle and have spent a lot of time there through work. It is a lovely town with some great history to boot. I last visited 2 years ago when the Olympic torch relay went through.