Dunstanburgh Castle

Northumberland, England

City/Town/Village: Embleton
District: Northumberland
County: Northumberland
Latitude/Longitude: 55.4914, -1.60018
Postcode: NE66 3TT
(postcode is for sat-nav purposes only, and may not represent the actual address of the castle)


English Heritage

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Built on the most magnificent scale, Dunstanburgh Castle stands on a remote headland. The castle was built at a time when relations between King Edward II and his most powerful baron, Earl Thomas of Lancaster, had become openly hostile. Lancaster began the fortress in 1313, and the latest archaeological research indicates that he built it on a far grander scale than was recognised, perhaps more as a symbol of his opposition to the king than as a military stronghold. The earl failed to reach Dunstanburgh when his rebellion was defeated, and was taken and executed in 1322. Thereafter the castle passed eventually to John of Gaunt, who strengthened it against the Scots by converting the great twin towered gatehouse into a keep. The focus of fierce fighting during the Wars of the Roses, it was twice besieged and captured by Yorkist forces, but subsequently fell into decay.
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Information from English Heritage website

Dunstanburgh Castle is a Listed Building. Here's what the official description says about it:


3/52 Dunstanburgh Castle

Castle. 1313 under Master Elias the mason for Thomas, second Earl of
Lancaster. Gatehouse remodelled as great tower, and new gateway constructed,
shortly after 1380 under Henry of Holme for John of Gaunt. Some restoration
in 1885 when blocking of early C14 gate passage removed. Squared sandstone
with whinstone rubble core, except for roughly-squared limestone in east

Plan: 11-acre enclosure on headland, with sea cliffs to north. Great
Gatehouse at south-west corner backed by small inner ward. Late C14 new
gatehouse on west curtain immediately beyond the inner ward, approached by a
barbican with a mantlet wall running to an outer gate adjoining the Great
Gatehouse. Constable's Tower, with constable's house behind, lies midway
along south curtain and Egyncleugh Tower at south-east corner. Lilburn Tower
stands towards north end of west curtain.

Great Gatehouse consists of two large D-plan towers, originally 5 storeys high
flanking a 3-storey block containing a 2nd-floor hall. Restored segmental-
pointed entrance arch. Flanking towers have multi-chamfered plinth, cross
loops at basement level and windows of two shoulder-headed lights above.
Upper two floors largely fallen except for corbelled-out turrets on inner
faces. Rear elevation of the 3-storey part mostly stands to full height;
gate passage flanked by projections capped by semi-octagonal chimneys with
moulded and pierced caps, under the remains of one 2-light transomed hall
window. Interior: gate passage with vault on chamfered ribs; at inner end
small vaulted guard rooms, western with rock-cut dungeon. Chamber over
passage shows murder holes above the outer gate and a portcullis slot above
the inner. Restored newel stair at north-east corner, with remains of umbrella
vault at top.

Curtain of inner ward stands to 2-3 metres high, with jambs of a gateway on
the east and the base of a tower at the north-east corner. West of the tower
is a room retaining part of a large domed oven. Deep rock-cut well within
the ward.

The south curtain stands high but has been robbed of lower parts of facing.
East of the Great Gatehouse is a corbelled-out turret, then the projecting
square Constable's Tower with 2-light windows to 1st and 2nd floors; inner
face of tower largely fallen, and adjacent constable's house reduced to
footings and fragments. Further east a projecting square turret, and the
Egyncleugh Tower which housed a second gateway; outer face partly fallen but
inner face stands, with a chamfered archway and a 2-light window above; gate
passage shows remains of a vault on heavy square ribs.

The east curtain is of poor-quality masonry and only stands c.1.5-3 metres in
height, containing 3 small garderobe chambers and the jambs of a postern near
the south end. Near south end of the west curtain are the chamfered jambs,
with portcullis slot, of the late C14 gateway; associated mantlet wall and
outer gate are only foundations; rest of curtain is reduced to footings and
core fragments. The shell of square Lilburn Tower is complete except for
south-east corner, and has several 2-light windows, a square-headed doorway
to the wallwalk on north, 2 corbelled-out garderobes on west, and taller
embattled angle turrets; fragment of curtain on north holds pointed sallyport

The Great Gatehouse and towers show remains of newel stairs, mural garderobes,
plain fireplaces and jamb seats in the inner splays of the larger windows.

Historical Notes: Finds of Romano-British artefacts and the -burh termination
of the name indicate earlier occupation of the headland. Earl Thomas, who
seems to have built the castle as a refuge rather than a residence, was
executed in 1322 and the fortress passed into Royal hands. John of Gaunt as
lieutenant of the Marches towards Scotland ordered the late C14 alterations;
his conversion of the gatehouse and construction of a new gate alongside
compares with Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire. Before the alterations were
complete the castle withstood a Scottish attack in 1384. Held for the
Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses, Dunstanburgh fell to the Earl of
Warwick in 1464 after a siege; it was never fully repaired.
Scheduled Ancient Monument Northumberland 3

C H Hunter Blair & H L Honeyman, 'Dunstanburgh Castle' HBMC 1986.

Listing NGR: NU2568821798

Information from British Listed Buildings

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