Aydon Castle

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are major building remains

NameAydon Castle
Alternative NamesEydon; Ayden; Aidon
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishCorbridge

A medieval fortified manor house whose elements include a variety of upstanding domestic, ancillary and defensive buildings arranged within three courtyards surrounded by a curtain wall. Also included, due to the manor's conversion to a farmhouse in C17, is an orchard and a range of C18 farm buildings along the west side of the middle courtyard. The medieval defensive ditch outside the north west curtain wall is also included within the scheduling, together with the buried remains of a timber-framed hall which preceded the construction of the fortified house. Medieval documents indicate that a timber hall existed on the site prior to c1300. It was located in roughly the same area as the adjacent late C13 hall and its location has been partially confirmed by excavation. The later house was not originally intended to be fortified. Its construction began in the last quarter of C13, prior to C14 Border wars. By 1305, when most of the buildings were complete, Edward I granted its owner licence to crenellate. The earliest stone buildings are the hall, chamber block and the garderobe; dateable to between 1280 and 1300. Between 1300 and 1305, battlemented walls were built to the north, enclosing the buildings within an inner courtyard. Following the king's licence, parapets were added to the domestic buildings and the inner courtyard wall. The construction of the outer courtyard was begun and completed by 1315. The D-shaped tower probably dates to the mid-C14. Because the curtain wall appears never to have been a strong defensive line and because there was no gatehouse at the castle entrance, it was rapidly surrendered to the Scots in 1315. In C16 or C17, the eastern part of the outer courtyard was divided off to create an orchard. In C18 the manor became a farmhouse on the Matfen estate which saw the construction of farmbuildings in the middle courtyard

(PastScape)

The monument known as Aydon Castle, or sometimes Aydon Hall, is a medieval fortified manor whose elements include a variety of upstanding domestic, ancillary and defensive buildings arranged within three courtyards surrounded by a curtain wall. Also included, due to the manor's conversion to a farmhouse in the 17th century, is an orchard and a range of 18th century farm buildings along the west side of the middle courtyard. The medieval defensive ditch outside the north-west curtain wall is also included within the scheduling, together with the buried remains of a timber-framed hall which preceded the construction of the fortified house. Medieval documents indicate that a timber hall existed on the site prior to c.1300. A number of structural anomalies in the chamber block of the later residence show that it was located in roughly the same area as the adjacent late 13th century hall and that part of it may still have been in use for a time after the chamber block was built. Its location has been partially confirmed by an excavation carried out within the latter which uncovered the footings of a wall beneath the floor of the building, which belonged to an earlier structure on a slightly different alignment. The chamber block housed the private apartments of the later house and it is likely that it was built to replace the demolished building. The latter is likely, therefore, to have been the solar or private rooms of the earlier hall. Further remains of this structure and other contemporary buildings will survive beneath the later hall and service ranges. The later manor house was not originally intended to be fortified. Its construction began in the last quarter of the 13th century, prior to the Border wars that characterised the 14th century. Aydon, however, was in one of the first areas to be raided from Scotland and, by 1305, when most of the buildings were already completed, Edward I had granted its owner licence to crenellate; that is, fortify his house. The earliest stone buildings are the hall, chamber block and the garderobe or latrine wing which projects from the east side of the chamber block. The chamber block was built first, but all these structures are datable to the period between c.1280 and c.1300. Between 1300 and 1305, battlemented walls were built to the north, enclosing the buildings within their own inner courtyard. The west wall formed one side of a building range which, on the first floor, contained service rooms and a kitchen and, on the ground floor, store-rooms. This range projects northward from the west end of the hall range which has three storeys containing a store-room on the ground floor, a service room in the middle and a chamber on the top floor. The east end of the hall is two-storeyed and consists of a spacious room on the first floor and a less comfortable room of similar size below. The latter room, the lower hall, contains a fireplace and connects with the store-rooms of the manor, showing it to have been a servants' hall. The upper room, lit at the east end by tall windows equipped with seats, was the lords' hall or public chamber and had access, behind the high table, to the upper floor of the chamber block. This contains an original fireplace, moved from the east wall to the west wall in the 16th century, and opens onto the upper storey of the garderobe wing. The ground-floor of the chamber block contains an elaborate carved fireplace which suggests that this chamber also originally served as a private room, though, later, it seems to have functioned as a hall for the lords' personal attendants. Following the king's licence, parapets were added to the domestic buildings and the inner courtyard wall. The construction of the outer courtyard was also begun and was complete by 1315. It is not known precisely when the vaulted D-shaped tower at the north corner of the site was built but, owing to differences in the method of construction, it is believed to be later than the curtain wall and probably dates to the mid-14th century. The curtain wall appears never to have been a strong defensive line, heavier reliance being placed on the sheer slopes which encircle the manor on the south, west and east sides. The remaining north-west side was enclosed by a ditch that measures up to 15m wide and 5m deep. However, because there was no gatehouse at the castle entrance, merely a simple entrance arch apparently without drawbridge or portcullis, even this could not have satisfactorily protected the manor; a factor which may have contributed to its being rapidly surrendered to the Scots in 1315. Internally, the south-west corner of the outer courtyard was divided off to create the middle courtyard which contains, along the south curtain wall, the fragmentary remains of a two-storey range of buildings whose upper floor was lit by windows in the curtain wall and has been interpreted as lodgings for servants or guests, or possibly for men-at-arms. A similar arrangement existed on either side of the gate along the north-west curtain wall, and, in both cases, the unlit ground-floor rooms would have served as barns or shelter for livestock and horses. In the 16th or 17th century, the eastern part of the outer courtyard was divided off to create an orchard, and, also in the 16th century, the lower hall was partitioned to create several smaller rooms while the ground floor of the chamber block was converted into a kitchen; a function it retained into the 20th century. 17th century alterations include the subdivision of the east end of the hall to create new living quarters, and the conversion of the medieval kitchen wing or agricultural purposes. Further modifications were carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries when the manor became a farmhouse on the Matfen estate. These include the construction of a range of farm-buildings in the middle courtyard and the insertion of new windows in the living areas. In addition, the medieval hall was divided to create additional sleeping accommodation. These partitions, however, have since been removed. During the 10th and 11th centuries, Aydon was part of an important royal manor centred on Corbridge. By the 12th century, however, Corbridge's position had declined due to the rise of Newcastle upon Tyne and, by 1162, Aydon had been granted to the barons de Bolam, the last of whom, Walter fitzGilbert, married Emma de Umfraville. Walter died in 1206 and his estates passed to his widow and two daughters. Emma's portion appears to have been Aydon, and it is likely that the timber hall that predated the fortified manor was her home until her death in c.1235. After her death, her second husband, Peter de Vaux, continued to rent the hall from her daughters and, upon his death in 1256, it passed to Emma's granddaughter Margery. Margery's son, Hugh de Gosbeck, succeeded to it in 1284. The principal de Gosbeck estates lay in Suffolk and, together with the family's remaining share in the fitzGilbert barony, Aydon was sold between 1293 and 1295 to Hugh de Reymes. Because de Gosbeck failed to seek royal permission for the transfer, the estate was not released until 1296, having been taken into royal custody. By this time, Hugh de Reymes was dead and, instead, it was his son Robert who went north and undertook the construction of Aydon Castle. Although the de Reymes family remained owners of Aydon till the mid-16th century, during the preceding two hundred years they had declined both socially and financially, and, at some time in the early years of the 15th century, they retired to their seat at Shortflatt, letting the house at Aydon to tenants. A survey of 1450 described the house as being in a ruinous state and there is no sign that any repairs were subsequently carried out. In 1541, Robert Reymes IX exchanged his portion of the manor of Aydon, which included the castle, for lands belonging to Sir Reynold Carnaby of Hexham. Carnaby died in 1543, leaving the house to his brother Cuthbert who made it his home and carried out the alterations dating to that period. The house remained with the Carnabys until 1654 when it was sold to William Collinson. Collinson carried out the 17th century conversions and, together with his son, Henry, was the last owner-occupier. In 1702, Henry Collinson sold the house to William Douglas of Matfen, and it remained an estate farm until 1966 when it passed into State care. The entire monument is now managed by English Heritage and is a Grade I Listed Building. (Scheduling Report)

Fortified Manor house. Solar and east wing c.1280, hall (replacing earlier structure) slightly later. North-west range and courtyard wall probably associated with licence to crenellate granted to Robert de Raymes 1305. North- west range remodelled early C14, outer bailey later C14. Minor alterations in C16, C17 and C19. C13 parts good-quality squared stone, later additions coursed rubble with dressings; stone slate roofs.

Original C13 buildings cruciform in plan, on edge of steep valley side. North-west range and courtyard north of hall. Irregular outer bailey to north and west, with gateway to north-west and apsidal tower at north corner.

C13 parts have chamfered plinth, and eaves string with stone drain spouts. Stepped clasping buttresses to south and east, and garderobe projection at south-east corner of east wing. Early C14 crenellated parapets. Shouldered- arched doorways to hall block; door to solar undercroft dated 1653 with initials WC HC (William and Henry Collinson). Ground floor windows mostly chamfered loops; some inserted C19 sashes. External stone stair on north of hall to landing with balcony on moulded corbels; chases of 2 former canopies in stonework above. Hall doorway has double-chamfered pointed arch with moulded hood. Hall and solar have 2-light windows with twin lancet lights under pointed arches with moulded hoods; solar north window has quatrefoil in spandrel enclosing bearded mask. East wing has single-light windows, that to east with foliage hoodmould stops. Two projecting stacks on east of solar, upper parts rebuilt C20. Stack on south of hall has semicircular top with pointed vents and pyramidal cap at eaves level. North-west wing has scattered fenestration, with shouldered heads to several doorways and 2-light windows; doorway on north with lintel inscribed 1657 WC.

Interior: C13 parts have good contemporary fireplaces to solar and solar basement, simpler fireplace in hall basement. Barrel vault in north-west range is probably C17 insertion. Stone-walled screens passage in hall is later medieval replacement of timber partitions; chamber to west, and room above, have fireplaces with C16 Carnaby arms. Chamber in east wing with wall cupboard, sink and garderobe; further cupboards and sinks in north-west (kitchen) range. 2-light windows in hall and solar have window seats. C17 hall roof has principal- rafter trusses with collars. North-west range has roof with curved principals, perhaps C16.

Courtyard wall has segmental-pointed gateway and crenellated parapet with arrow loops in merlons; square-headed doorway in north-west range gives access to wall walk.

An exceptionally well-preserved building unique in the County. Its interpretation has aroused some controversy, as to whether the house was planned as two dwellings since functions on ground and 1st floors seem to be duplicated. (Listed Building Report)

Hugh de Reymes, a wealthy Suffolk merchant, brought the manor and began construction of the house in 1296, at the end of an unusually long period of peace in the border regions. The building is naturally defended on one side by the steep valley of the Cor Burn, but was otherwise unfortified. Hugh died soon after and, unfortunately for Robert de Reymes, his son, the building of his house coincided with a new period of conflict with Scotland which led to frequent Scottish raids throughout the area. In 1305, Robert obtained a licence to crenellate his property and set about improving the defences with the addition of battlements and a circuit of curtain walls. These didn't stop the Scots from sacking the property in 1315 and again in 1346. (North of the Tyne)

Gatehouse Comments

Emery (p. 40) does make the point that Scottish raids did not start until 1311 and the licence was not a direct result of a raid, although tensions were increasing in the area. The fortifications include a tower like projection of the courtyard ward designed to look like a castle garderobe tower, although it contained no garderobes (a corbelled garderobe is nearby in the wall) so there were distinct efforts to make the hall look castle-like. This may be to increase the defensibility of the house but might also be to increase the kudos of the property and improve the status of incoming and relatively lowly Reymes with his neighbours who were barons and knights.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceNZ001663
Latitude54.9913711547852
Longitude-1.99941003322601
Eastings400140
Northings566310
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Books

  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 14
  • Durham, Keith, 2008, Strongholds of the Border Reivers (Oxford: Osprey Fortress series 70) p. 18, 20
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 443-5
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 16-17
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 40-1
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 172-3 (plan)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 16-7 (plan)
  • Dixon, P., 1992, 'From Hall to Tower: The Change in Seigneurial Houses on the Anglo-Scottish Border after c. 1250' in P.R. Coss and S.D. Lloyd (eds) Thirteenth Century England IV Proceedings of the Newcastle upon Tyne Conference 1991 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 85-107
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 10, 72, 85-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 180-1
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 37-42
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 55-6
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 76-7
  • Wood, M.E., 1950, Thirteenth-Century Domestic Architecture p. 51-5
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 30-34
  • Tipping, H.A., 1921, English Homes, period 1 Vol. 1 (London) p. 101-10
  • Craster, H.H.E. (ed), 1914, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 10 p. 343-66 online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Welford, R. (ed), 1905, Records of the Committees for Compounding, etc., with delinquent royalists in Durham and Northumberland, 1643-60 (Surtees Society 111) p. 145, 191, 193 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 362-3 online copy
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 141-2
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 8, 10, 15 (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. 405 online copy
  • Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 173
  • Turner, T.H., 1851, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 1 p. 148-9 (with many fine illustrations) online copy
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 1 p. 142-44 online transcription

Antiquarian

Journals

  • King, Andy, 2007, 'Fortress and fashion statements: gentry castles in fourteenth-century Northumberland' Journal of Medieval History Vol. 33 p. 377, 378, 386-8
  • Sherlock, D., 1997, 'Aydon Castle kitchen and its roof' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 25 p. 71-86
  • Dixon, P. and Borne, P.,1978, 'Coparcenary and Aydon Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 135 p. 234-8
  • Machin, R., 1977, 'Bamston Manor, Dorset, and Aydon Castle, Northumberland: a re-assessment of two late thirteenth-century houses' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 134 p. 297-302
  • Weaver, O.J., 1976, 'Aydon Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 133 p. 193-5 (plan)
  • Ellison, M., 1976, 'Excavation at Aydon Castle, Northumberland, 1975' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 4 p. 133-8
  • Wood, Margaret, 1950, 'Thirteenth-century Domestic Architecture in England' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 105 supplement p. 51-5
  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 165
  • Tipping, H.A., 1914, Country Life Vol. 36 p. 518-26
  • 1908, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 65 p. 334 (slight) online copy
  • Raimes, F., 1908, 'Robert de Reymes of Bolam, Shortflatt and Aydon Castle, and his connexion with Suffolk' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser3) Vol. 4 p. 313-8
  • 1902, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 10 p. 353-6 online copy
  • Knowles, J.H., 1898-9, 'Aydon Castle, Northumberland' Archaeologia Vol. 56 p. 71-88 online copy
  • 1891, The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend p. 176-80
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 8, 10, 15 online copy
  • 1883-4, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 1 p. 300-5

Guide Books

  • Summerson, Henry, 2001, Aydon Castle Northumberland (London: English Heritage)
  • Dixon, P., 1988, Aydon Castle, Northumberland (London: English Heritage)

Primary Sources

  • 1415, Nomina Castrorum et Fortaliciorum infra Comitatum Northumbrie online transcription
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1898, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1301-1307) Vol. 4 p. 328 online copy