Bellingham Castle

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

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameBellingham Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishBellingham

The castle and manor of Bellingham gave name to an ancient family and was held by Robert De Bellingham and 2 Richard II (1379) & 3 Henry IV (1401) and by Richard De Bellingham 33 Henry VI (1455). The castle, which stood near the village, is now in ruins (Makenzie 1825).

The artificial mound at the east end of Bellingham village, nearly opposite the railway station, is all that remains of the Motte and bailey castle, built in all probability by the Bellingham family in the early 12c. All traces of a stone castle which must have existed by the late 13c have disappeared, leaving only the mound (Hunter Blair 1844).

All traces of the masonry of the castle at Bellingham have now disappeared. Its presumed site is marked by a mound near the Hareshaw Burn and this may be the motte of a motte-and-bailey fortress, built either during Stephen's reign, or at an earlier date (Dodds 1940).

A grass covered mound, irregular in shape situated at 400ft O.D. on the highest point in a pasture covered field.

General visibility is excellent along the valley of the North Tyne to the east and west, but the site is overlooked by higher ground to

the immediate NE.

A small mound exists on top of the main feature, the truncated top of this mound measures only 2.0m in diameter, and cannot have held a tower of any substantial dimensions. There are no traces of extant stone work or defensive ditches, a wide perambulation revealed no indication of a bailey.

Modern building encroaches upon the site to the north-east and east and the adjacent pasture bears strong rig and furrow plough lines (F1 FDC 9.7.56).

Apart from its truncated top, which has been reduced in size by obviously later digging on the SE side, the small mound (at NY84088328) appears to be an entirely natural feature. Its slopes merge smoothly, on all sides, with those of the hill-feature on which it stands

It is possible that the mound supported a tower, but it appears unlikely to have been the motte of a motte-and-bailey, due to the lack of an adequate site for a bailey. To the immediate W is a steep scarp, which appears to have been created by former river action, to the S and SE. the ground also falls away, while to the NE the site is overlooked by higher ground (F2 DS 23.09.70).

A fortified site at Bellingham did not exist at Bellingham before 1157, when the Scottish kings were granted Tynedale as a liberty. By 1180 enough people lived there to justify a church, and in 1250 it became manorial capital. By that time, Bellingham was granted to the Scottish King Alexander III's forester, who styled himself 'Bellyngiam of Bellyngiam', and lived in a motte and bailey there. Sir William de Bellingham lost possession at the end of the century, and moved his main residence to Burniside, the motte and bailey being deserted (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

It is possible that a motte-and-bailey castle was built at Bellinghamby the Bellingham familyin the early 12th century (Hunter-Blair1944, 162) perhaps during Stephen's reign (1135-54) or even earlier (Dodds1940, 234). Certainly by 1279 William de Bellingham, resident at Bellingham, was the sheriff of Tynedale and subsequently forester of the same district under the king of Scotland (Bulmer 1877, 564) which must indicate at least the presenceof a substantial fortified house at Bellingham by this time.

A low mound lying on the east side of the Hareshaw Burn about 350m from its confluence with the North Tyne is the generally accepted location of this defensible building. A stone structure on the mound was described as in ruinsin 1825 by Mackenzie (1825, 250), but any above ground traces of a structure have been eradicated for some time (Hunter Blair 1944,162; Dodds 1940, 234). There is even disagreement as to whether the mound is a natural feature or a motte; there is certainly no evidence for a lower bailey.

Demesne Farm lies immediately to the north east of the castle mound. (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey).

Documentary evidence suggested there was a castle or fortified house dating from at least the 13th century within Bellingham. Castle Mound has been linked with this site, although it seems unlikely that the feature was a purpose built motte and bailey. It is more likely that it is in fact a natural glacial mound utilised in the 13th century for the manorial seat. There is no evidence of a lower bailey and the mound itself is considered small for a motte. Remains of a stone building were described as ruinous in 1825, and these may relate to a castle or fortified house.

As a result of the removal of the topsoil and subsoil from the footprint of the barn the only archaeological feature to be revealed was the footings of an early 19th century dry-stone wall, presumably a farm enclosure or boundary wall, that was built into a layer of post-medieval subsoil. The groundworks did cut into the base of the Castle Mound, confirming that it was natural feature formed by glacial deposits. (Northern Archaeological Associates)

Gatehouse Comments

Jackson writes this was a towerhouse site although the evidence for that is unclear. Demense Farm is on the likely site of the bailey and its development has destroyed whatever earthworks there were around that possible bailey.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY840832
Latitude55.1436614990234
Longitude-2.25149989128113
Eastings384080
Northings583280
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Les Hull and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

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.

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Books

  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 284-6
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 114 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 137
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 7, 41
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 327
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 57
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 61
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1940, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 15 p. 234
  • Bulmer, 1877, Directory of Northumberland p. 564
  • Mackenzie, E., 1825, A historical and descriptive view of the county of Northumberland: and of the town and county of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with Berwick upon Tweed, and other celebrated places on the Scottish border Vol. 2 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 250 online copy
  • Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 139

Journals

  • Hunter Blair, C.H., 1944, 'The Early Castles of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 22 p. 116-70 esp 162
  • Charlton, E., 1859, 'Notes on North Tynedale in 1279' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 3 p. 151 online copy

Other

  • Blackburn, R., 2010, Demense Farm, Bellingham, Northumberland (Northern Archaeological Associates NAA10/34) (watching brief) online copy
  • Northumberland County Council, 2009, 'Bellingham' 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=Bellingham]
  • 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