Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle is a ruined castle in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England (gbmapping|NT994533).

It was founded in the 12th century by the Scottish King David I. In 1296-8, the English King Edward I had the castle rebuilt and the town fortified, before it was returned to Scotland. In 1330 "Domino Roberto de Lawedre" of The Bass, described as Custodian or Keeper of the Marches and the Castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed, received, apparently upon the termination of his employment there, £33.6s.8p, plus a similar amount, from the Scottish Exchequer. [ Stuart, John, LL.D., and Burnett, George, Lord Lyon King of Arms, "The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland", vol.1, 1264-1359, Edinburgh, 1878, pps 279,313,339] The town and castle changed hands several times during the English-Scottish conflicts.

In 1464 the "Exchequer Rolls of Scotland" record that Robert Lauder of Edrington was paid £20 for repairs made to Berwick Castle. In the 16th century, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the walls were strengthened with the addition of two semi-circular artillery flanking towers, one at the rivers edge and the other on the angle of the curtain wall.

The castle's geographical location in the hotly disputed border country between England and Scotland made it one of the most important strongholds in the British Isles. Over the best part of five hundred years, the castle enjoyed an eventful history. As a major tactical objective in the region, the castle was captured by both the English and Scots on a number of occasions and frequently sustained substantial damage; it served as the headquarters of Edward I, during the course of his invasions of Scotland. The castle also changed hands in less violent circumstances when the English King Richard I (the Lionheart), sold the castle to the Scots in order to help fund the Third Crusade.

The construction of modern ramparts around Berwick in the sixteenth century finally rendered the castle obsolete and its later history is one of steady decline. Large parts of the structure were simply used as a quarry, while in the nineteenth century, the Great Hall and much of what remained was demolished to make way for a railway station in 1847. Indeed it is claimed that where King Edward took oaths of allegiance from the Scots nobility in 1296 is where the platforms now stand.

The principal surviving part of the structure is the late thirteenth century White Wall and the steep and long flight of steps known as the Breakneck Stairs. It is now administered by English Heritage.

Most of the Castle, including the Great Hall, was destroyed in 1847 to make way for Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station and the new track.

Governors, or Keepers, of the castle

*Sir William Douglas the Hardy, 1294-1296 surrendered to Edward I of England following the Massacre of Berwick
* Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass, to circa 1330.
* Robert Lauder of Edrington (later Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass, Knt.,), 1461/2-1474.
* David, Earl of Crawford, 1474-1478.
* Robert Lauder of Edrington, (again), 1478-1482.
* Sir Patrick Hepburn, 1st Lord Hailes, 1482 (last Scottish governor).
* Sir William Drury (d.1579), Marshal of Berwick-upon-Tweed, before 1564.
* Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, appointed 1564
* Sir George Bowes of Streatlam, co.Durham (d.1580), Marshal of Berwick. In 1568 he escorted Mary Queen of Scots from Carlisle to Bolton. His sister Margery married John Knox.


* [ Images of Berwick upon Tweed Castle]
* [ Berwick Castle]
* "The David & Charles Book of Castles", by Plantagenet Somerset Fry, David & Charles, 1980. ISBN 0-7153-7976-3
* "The History of Scotland", by John Hill Burton, Edinburgh, 1874: vols: iv. p.364-5, v. pps: 68, 71, 73, 115, 120, 257, and 365, for Sir William Drury.
* "John Knox", by Lord Eustace Percy, London, 1937, p.165.

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