Bywell Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBywell Castle
Alternative NamesBaliols; Biwell; Binwell
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishBywell

Castle gatehouse, early C15 for Ralph Neville, second Earl of Westmorland. Squared stone (with re-used Roman material). Rectangular tower-house/gatehouse, with principal apartments above central gate passage and flanking chambers. Original external elevation to south 3 storeys. Chamfered plinth and 1st floor set back. Central 4-centred gateway arch of 2 chamfered orders with portcullis slot between, with old pegged and panelled double doors, that to left with small porter's door; small square-headed post-medieval openings to either side. 1st floor has 2 windows of 2 trefoil-headed lights under Tudor arches, and square- headed chamfered window to left; 2 more similar 2-light windows on 2nd floor. Most 2-light windows have lost their mullions. Embattled parapet, oversailing a hollow-chamfered course, has central section set forward on 5 moulded corbels. Taller angle turrets have corbelled-out octagonal tops with machicolations. To right, attached curtain wall (q.v.).

Left return shows corbelled-out garderobe projection and small chamfered windows. Right return shows partly-blocked 2-light window on 1st floor and blocked doorway to wall walk on left. Rear elevation shows similar detail to front; parapet partly fallen.

Interior: Barrel-vaulted gate passage and flanking chambers. Tudor-arched doorways, that to mural stair with old iron yett. Newel stair from 1st floor north-west corner. 1st- and 2nd-floor garderobes in north-east and south-west corners. Chamfered-arched fireplaces(one 2nd-floor fireplace with shoddered lintel) and segmental rear arches to windows. Cross wall with doorway divides 1st floor into hall and solar.

2nd floor and roof missing.

Historical notes: Henry VI sheltered here on his flight after the battle of Hexham Levels in 1464, abandoning his sword, helmet and crown which were found by the victorious Lord Montagu who captured the castle soon afterwards. Apart from the tower-house/gatehouse (cf

Dunstanburgh, Bothal, Willimoteswick) the castle appears never to have been completed. (Listed Building Report)

This consists of a gatehouse, measuring 59ft by 38ft, of three stories, with walls almost intact, and considerable portion of the curtain wall between the tower and the modern house. The gate tower was no doubt built by RALPH NEVILL, who succeeded as 2nd Earl of Westmorland in 1426 (Hodgson 1902).

The earliest reference to the castle is in 1464, when Henry VI fled there after the Battle of Hexham. A survey of 1570 refers to the gate-tower, and to foundations 'the height of a man' as being never finished. A survey of 1608 refers to the castle as being in decay (Bates 1891).

Gate-tower as described by Hodgson in good condition, with a stretch of curtain wall extending from the E side, and now utilised for the S face of the west wing of the modern house, the basement of which is contemporary with the tower, and is vaulted. There are no traces of the former extent of the site to the north; the ground now laid out as private gardens.

The Castle stands above a double bend in the River Tyne, upon a gentle south slope, from which position, from the top of the tower, a considerable stretch of the Tyne valley may be surveyed to east and west (F1 ASP 14-MAY-56). (PastScape)

An archaeological assessment was carried out by P Ryder in June 1995 ahead of a new opening being made in an internal wall (detailed description). The origin of Bywell Castle House might lie in adaptation of part of the unfinished buildings of the 15th century castle or, more likely, as a defensible strong house of the early 17th century. The lower part of the tower is probably medieval, with the upper had not been built over the height of man. The masonry could therefore be reused. The thickest walls in the house are in the dining room: the north and east are probably later 18th century and the west wall (1m thick) might be medieval or 17th century. Structural or architectural features might be revealed if any further openings are made. (Northumberland HER ref. Ryder 1995)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ049617
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 331, 346
  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 20
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 453-6
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 30
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 62
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 178
  • Dixon, P.W., 1993, 'Mota, Aula et Turris: the manor-houses of the Anglo-Scottish border ' in G.E. Meirion-Jones and Michael Jones (eds), Manorial Domestic Buildings in England and Northern France (Society of Antiquaries) p. 22-48 (reprinted in Liddiard, Robert (ed), 2016, Late Medieval Castles (Boydell Press) p. 127-156)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 36-7
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 86-88
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 329
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 197-8
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 85-8
  • Hedley, W. Percy, 1968-70, Northumberland Families Vol. 1 p. 26, 203-8
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 76-7
  • Sanders, I.J., 1960, English Baronies. A study of their origin and descent 1086-1327 p. 25-6
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 109
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 54-5
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Hodgson, John Crawford (ed), 1902, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 6 p. 75-8, 84 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 370 online copy (Repeated from Bates 1891)
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 372-9 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 202 online copy
  • Scott, W., 1814, Border Antiquities of England and Scotland Vol. 115-6 online copy


  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 339
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 57 online copy


  • Neil Guy, 2016, 'Lancaster Castle The Gatehouse Revealed' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 30 p. 168-217 (comparative gatehouses p. 214)
  • Milner, L., 1976, 'Bywell Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 133 p. 205
  • Honeyman, H.L., 1942, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser4) Vol. 9 p. 192
  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 163
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 372-9 online copy
  • Dwarris, 1886, 'Notes on Bywell' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 11 p. 16-17 (slight) online copy


  • Ryder, P.F., 1995, Bywell Castle House. An Archaeological Assessment