Chillingham castle Featured Image

The History of Chillingham Castle

LocationChillingham, Northumberland, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned bySir Humphry Wakefield, 2nd Baronet
Official WebsiteChillingham Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Weddings, Stay, Events, Filming)

Chillingham Castle is a majestic medieval castle built in the 12th century and is ripe with unique history and tales of ghosts that fascinate and spook the visitors. The castle has gained its reputation as one of the most haunted castles in England with its infamous Chillingham Castle Ghosts. It is also famous for possessing a unique herd of wild white deer that roam Chillingham Park, amounting to 600 acres which is genuinely a treat for nature lovers.


Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle”, by TSP, is licensed under  CC-BY-SA-4.0

Chillingham Castle was built in the 12th century in a former monastery. It was initially built as a structure containing a tower and curtain wall by the Grey family, descendants of the Croys, Kinsmen of William the Conqueror. It has been the home of the Grey family since 1246. A Scottish raid conducted in 1296 destroyed the original manor house, which was replaced by a tower house that presently forms one of the four corner towers. Sir William Wallace attacked Chillingham Castle following the rebellion of John Balliol and the beginning of the First War of Scottish Independence in 1297. In the following year, in 1298, King Edward I visited the castle while fighting Sir William in battle and eventually defeated him at the Battle of Falkirk in the same year.

The castle became a fully fortified castle in 1344 when King Edward III granted Sir Thomas de Heaton the permission to add battlements and strengthen the defenses of Chillingham Castle. The new features helped severely in 1345 when David II led an enormous Scottish army into Northumberland. His invasion, however, came to an immediate end when he was captured at the Battle of Neville’s Cross that same year. This was followed by 250 years of the entire region becoming a lawless area influenced by border reivers. Chillingham Castle and other substantive castles in Northumberland acted as secure bases for the Marcher Lords who attempted to control this dangerous region.

The castle was excessively damaged when an invading Scottish army attacked it under the command of James IV, supporting the Louis XII of France in 1513. The castle was not strong enough to withstand an attack by 60,000 armed men, and shortly after the attack, the castle’s garrison surrendered to the force. However, the castle did not stay under the control of Scots for long because the Grey family fought alongside Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. He mustered a northern army at Alnwick Castle and decisively defeated the Scots while killing King James IV – at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

In 1536, the castle was attacked during the Pilgrimage of Grace, a rebellion against reforms towards the English church put forward by Henry VIII, causing damage to the structure requiring years of restoration. The death of Elizabeth I in 1603 and the ascension of James VI of Scotland to the English throne led to an end to the regular border warfare between the two nations. Therefore, ceasing the military requirement for Chillingham Castle and putting calm in the region and the castle for the next 250 years, during which the castle was restored to perfection. The royal family visited the castle, including James I and Charles I. Edward VIII visited the castle to hunt during private visits. Members of the Royal family continue the tradition to this day.

In 1695, Sir William Grey was made the Earl of Tankerville, but he died six years later and left no male heir. The castle and title were then passed on to Charles Bennet by marriage to Lady Mary Grey, whose family held the property until the twentieth century. King Louis Philippe of France came to stay in the castle in 1832 and presented the castle with delicate urns from his Versailles Palace.

The castle’s rich history houses Chillingham Castle Ghosts with an extensive collection of phantoms and apparitions spotted by visitors all over the castle over the years. Voices have been heard in the chapel, and a lady in white visits the Inner Pantry. Visitors have frequently reported bizarre experiences and have sensed a presence moving about the castle.


Chillingham Castle Architecture
Chillingham Castle Architecture”, by Ben Ponsford, is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The picturesque Chillingham Castle is a fortified castle with beautiful staterooms decorated in Elizabethan fashion. Grand staterooms juxtapose alarming dungeons, and torture chambers grace the medieval home giving a peek into the castle’s opulence. The Great Hall is an Elizabethan chamber, and it houses a typical stone flagged floor, stunning tapestries, an armoury, and the antlers of deer and wild cattle. It was built between the south towers, especially for the royal visit of James VI of Scotland. The castle dungeon is marked with the crudely-cut prisoners’ letters and lit by only one small arrow slit in the thick wall giving a spooky vibe to the whole chamber. A trap door in the dungeon floor encloses the genuine bones of a child trapped in the vault below. It also showcases the lines written on the walls by prisoners every day as a diary.

The Plaque Room Library in the castle displays intriguing family archives and furnishings containing many paintings of the Chillingham wild cattle, family portraits, and pictures of the many visitors to the castle. The castle also holds a Torture Chamber hidden in its wings, showcasing gruesome implements of punishment that are not for the faint-hearted.

Chillingham Castle History records the gardens with vitality being the famous royal designer Sir Jeffry Wyatville’s work around 1828. It houses lakes, wildlife, and well-recorded trees to interest nature lovers with the view of the infamous herd of Wild Cattle in the distance.

Movie Features

Scariest Places on Earth (2000)– The Horror/Mystery Reality TV show features Chillingham Castle in Season 1 Episode-5: Chillingham.

The Virgin Queen (2006)– The History-Drama movie features the castle beautifully in its tale of the young teenage princess who later became Elizabeth I.

Ghost Hunters International (2008) – The premiere Episode: Chillingham Castle of the Documentary TV Show ‘Ghost Hunters International’ features the castle to unravel the mystery behind the castle’s paranormal ongoings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Chillingham Castle?

Chillingham Castle is located in the civil parish of Chillingham, Alnwick, in the historic county of Northumberland, England.

Who owns Chillingham Castle?

Chillingham Castle is presently owned by Sir Humphry Wakefield, the descendant of the Grey family, who have held the ancestral seat since 1246.

Does anyone live in Chillingham Castle?

Sir Humphry Wakefield Bt. and his wife, The Hon. Lady Wakefield, have resided in Chillingham Castle since 1982.

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