Wark on Tyne Castle

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Pele Tower

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameWark on Tyne Castle
Alternative NamesMoat Hill; Mote Hill
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishWark

Mote Hill, a relatively flat-topped plateau with steep edges to all sides, lies immediately to the south of the village of Wark and the bridging point of the river. The Warks Burn runs into the North Tyne a little to the south of the hill, a confluence which may have provided the name of the feature "mote? is Anglo Saxon for a meeting place, possibly of the waters. Mote Hill Farm, mostly of 18th and 19th century date but with one building in its ranges dating to the 17th century covers the north-west quarter of the plateau and succeeds a post-medieval manor house constructed by Francis Radcliffe in the 1660s and 1670s. The hill, and specifically the area around the farm, is thought to be the location of a motte and bailey castle, or at least a motte, possibly constructed as the seat of Prince Henry of Scotland who was created Earl of Northumberland in 1139 and presumably utilised as a defensive work during the time Wark was within the Liberty of Tynedale after 1157, although of the medieval references to defensive works at Wark, none specifically mention Mote Hill. Two modern published accounts describe earthworks on Motte Hill surviving around the mid-20th century; Dodds mentions 'parts of an outer rampart still to be traced in short sections on the north and south' (Dodds 1940, 37) amplified by Hunter-Blair who ...two fragments of banks are still visible, one on the north side against the wall surrounding the stockyard, and the other at the south-east corner of the hill-top and also mentioned that "the ditch between motte and bailey can...be traced as a shallow depression crossing the farmyard? (Hunter Blair 1944, 141-2). None of the earthworks or depressions described is necessarily associated with a motte or a motte and bailey. The elusive nature of the earthworks is reinforced by the absence of any rendition of them on the series of 25” to One Mile Ordnance Survey maps, the surveyors for which were normally so assiduous in recording earthworks

A general assessment of the site by Ryder in 2002 concluded that the evidence for the castle was not certain. Archaeological evaluation prior to conversion of the farm ranges on the hill to residential use, and an archaeological watching brief during these redevelopments between 2003-2005 also failed to locate any earthwork build up or artefactual evidence to confirm the interpretation of the site. It is possible that the motte has now been completely levelled, or that it lies elsewhere on the plateau. Terraces on the south slope of the hill could possibly be of some age. (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey)

Gatehouse Comments

There is some confabulation in sources between this possible C12 motte and the certain C15-C16 Tower House which may, or may not, have been on the same site.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY861768
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 356-7
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 103
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 200 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 125-6
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 7, 11, 41
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 343
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 688-694
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 335
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 167-8
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 852-3
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin)
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1940, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 15 p. 37,282
  • Hodgson, John Crawford (ed), 1902, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 6 p. 61-2 online copy
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 11, 18, 49 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Tomlinson, W.W. 1888, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle) p. 204
  • Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 138
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 1 p. 179 (mention) online transcription


  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, 'A list of Castles 1154-1216' in Brown, R.Allen, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 120
  • Haigh, D. and Savage, M. 1984, 'Excavations at Sewingshields' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 12 p. 33-147
  • Hunter Blair, C.H., 1944, 'The Early Castles of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 22 p. 116-70 esp 141-3
  • 1935-6, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Northumberland (ser4) Vol. 7 p. 99-100
  • Ball, 1923, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser4) Vol. 1 p. 60-3
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 11, 18, 49 online copy
  • Charlton, E., 1859, 'Notes on North Tynedale in 1279' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 3 p. 147 online copy


  • Northumberland County Council, 2009, 'Wark-on-Tyne' Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey doi:10.5284/1000177 [download copy > http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/northumberland_eus_2011/downloads.cfm?REDSQUIDARCHIVES_7_799BB461-A0C4-488C-B90DF1259EFE2DA8&area=Wark]
  • 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