Friday, 6 July 2012

Warkworth Castle

Warkworth, from the website

John Goodall suggests in his giant book The English Castle that “about 1203, Warkworth Castle underwent a complete redevelopment. The bailey was entered through an imposing twin-towered gatehouse and possessed substantial residential buildings in stone.” The earl’s bed chamber was above the gatehouse.

The motte was probably crowned by a walled enclosure or shell keep, which was replaced about 1380 by a great tower of cut stone. The service, public and withdrawing chambers are lit by different forms of window, and the earl’s bedroom is marked externally by a sculpture of a rampant lion, the heraldic emblem of the family. It was almost certainly designed by John Lewyn, who worked on Durham Cathedral in 1353 and was responsible for the great kitchen with its fine star vault. In 1368 he worked on Bamburgh Castle, and probably oversaw the erection of the Neville screen in the Cathedral in 1380. The screen was designed and built in London from Caen stone and shipped to Durham via Newcastle, and probably gave Lewyn the idea for the decorative crown of the great tower and watch tower at Warkworth.

The tower forms a Greek cross with four polygonal wings radiating from the central block. (In simple terms, imagine a small square surrounded by a larger square. Then visualise four small squares projecting outwards, one from each of the four sides of the larger square.) It was planned using a unit of measurement sometimes called a rod, a pole or a perch – 16feet six inches.

In 1471 Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, ordered another re-organisation. Splendid porch towers were built over the hall and great chamber, the one over the hall bearing the modern and ancient arms of the family. The masons involved had also worked on York Minster. Work was interrupted by the murder of the earl in 1489. It seems the earl’s decision not to commit to the Battle of Bosworth until a winner had emerged so disgusted his household that they abandoned him to a mob during a tax riot.

The main entrance was through the tower porch, decorated with family heraldry. The hall was divided by an arcade and there was an adjoining building with service and lodging chambers at its low end. Two stairs at the opposite end of the hall gave access to the great chamber, which was enclosed within a second tower porch that also gave access via stairs to the courtyard. There was an upper chamber above the great chamber, at the level of the hall roof, possible a banqueting chamber. The household chapel stood at right angles to the hall range and had a large balcony or closet that opened off the great chamber and overlooked the chapel.
For more information, try the website: Warkworth

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