Bolam Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are earthwork remains

NameBolam Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishBelsay

The defended settlement near Bolam Hall is well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. Remains of the square building noted on the site in the 1920's will also survive and it will be possible to confirm its nature and data. The importance of the monument is enhanced by the survival of two contemporary settlements nearby. Taken together they will contribute to any study of the wider settlement pattern at this time.

The monument includes a defended settlement of Iron Age date situated on the summit of Bolam Hill. The roughly oval enclosure measures a maximum of 100m east to west by 72m north to south within two ramparts of stone and earth. The outer rampart has been levelled on the eastern side of the enclosure and only the inner one is visible here. Elsewhere the inner rampart is the most substantial, being on average between 8m and 10m wide and standing to a height of up to 2m. An original entrance 5m wide is visible through the centre of the south side of the enclosure. A well worn trackway or hollow way is situated immediately outside the enclosure to the south west; although this is no longer visible on the surface, it survives as a buried feature which has become infilled. This is thought to represent the remains of an original track giving access into the main south entrance. It is reported that several quern stones, implements used for the grinding of corn, were discovered in the settlement during the 19th century but their present location is unknown. A medieval tower is thought to have been situated within the prehistoric enclosure and as late as 1920 the foundations of a square building were still visible. Today, however, it is not possible to detect any surface indications of this structure. It is thought that the tower was demolished to provide stone for the construction of the present Bolam Hall in the 19th century

(Scheduling Report)

An oval-shaped earthwork, 349 ft E-W and 282 ft N-S, with two ramparts, the outer on the south side only. A gap at the SE corner is probably the original entrance. Inside, there are the foundations of a medieval tower (Ball 1922).

Many querns found pre 1827 (Hodgson 1827).

Listed as possible pre-Roman Iron Age multivallate {forts, settlements and enclosures} (Jobey 1965).

A well-defined enclosure now heavily overgrown with trees and shrubs. Dimensions are as given by Ball, but the outer rampart is extant on the west and south sides, and the entrance approximately central to the latter. The site is of no great natural strength, but the defences suggest an Iron Age origin, and the work is a likely fort, or defended settlement. There are no surface indications of the tower apart from a slight platform, and a scatter of stone near the centre of the interior (F1 BHP 10-OCT-68).

The tower house was built in the mid 12th century, but early in the 13th century was dilapidated and abandoned (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

The tower of the castle was about 40 feet long, and 30 wide on the outside, and of strong masonry: some of it, and of walls of other buildings, over-grown with turf, remained till the late Mr Horsley built Bolam-house, when a considerable quantity of hewn stones, red with fire, were quarried out of these hard cemented walls. The entrenchment in which it stood caps the top of the bol, called Bolamhill: it is oval, has a double vallum and ditch on the south, west, and north, and single ones on the east, through which there is "a raised port-way leading to it." Including the walls and ditches, it contains about 7 roods. Many querns and hewn stones were found in different parts of its area when the plantation, which now covers it, was made. There are no grounds for supposing, with Gale and Hutchinson, that these works were of Roman origin. The entrenchment, I think, belongs to times previous to the conquest, the masonry to the barons of Bolam, who, in seating themselves here, chose a strong and a commanding spot, surrounded with rich pasturage; and, before the desolating wars with Scotland began, probably well replenished with wood (Hodgson 1827)

Gatehouse Comments

Jackson writes settlement was possibly adapted, in C12, into a motte and bailey castle (although he does not identify a mound). He dates the tower to late C13 and built by Robert de Reymes. This was burnt by the Scots in early C14 and described in 1323 as 'the site of an ancient manor the capital messuage worth nothing owing to the destruction of the Scots'.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ086823
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  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 263
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 28
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 33-4
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 7, 71
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 328
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 76
  • Hedley, W. Percy, 1968-70, Northumberland Families Vol. 1 p. 19, 22-4
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 71-2
  • Sanders, I.J., 1960, English Baronies. A study of their origin and descent 1086-1327 p. 17
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 268
  • Hodgson, J., 1827, History of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Part 2 Vol. 1 p. 336-7 online copy
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1778, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 2 p. 284-5 online copy


  • Jobey, G. 1965, 'Hill Forts and Settlements in Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 43 p. 61 no. 13
  • Hunter Blair, C.H., 1944, 'The Early Castles of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 22 p. 116-70 esp 146
  • Ball, T., 1922, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser3) Vol. 10 p. 238, 240 online copy


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online