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Bamburgh castle

Bamburgh castle in Northumberland is sited on an outcrop of basalt rock, overlooking the North Sea. A citadel of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Bernicia, it was close to their palace at Yeavering and the royal monastery of Lindisfarne. Later the site became a centre of power of the earls of Northumbria. Between the 10th and 12th cents. control of the north of England was disputed between the kings of England and of Scotland, the earls being a powerful independent force. In 1095 William Rufus took it by force from the then earl, Robert Mowbray, as part of his bid to control the north. After that the castle remained in royal hands until the 16th cent., except when held by Henry, earl of Northumberland, son of King David of Scots, during the reign of Stephen, when Scottish influence in Northumberland was in the ascendant. It is likely that the keep was begun by David and Henry, and completed by Henry II of England, after he recovered the castle in 1157; and that the castle had achieved its full extent, of three wards each with its own gate, by 1250. It was allowed to fall into decay after being severely damaged in the siege of 1464, when held by the Lancastrians against Edward IV. Warwick the Kingmaker pounded it with heavy guns, despite the king's wish that it be taken ‘whole, unbroken with ordinance’. Its present condition is due to modern restorations, especially by Lord Armstrong.

Lynda Rollason

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