Featured image of Warkworth Castle

The History Of Warkworth Castle

LocationWarkworth, Northumberland, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byThe 12th Duke of Northumberland
Rooms AvailableYes (Filming)

Warkworth Castle is a medieval fortress overlooking the River Coquet in the scenic town of Warkworth. It is also known for being one of the largest and most impressive castles in Northern England, which has fallen into ruins. It still invites visitors to come and explore the floors and rooms in the magnificent castle.


The earliest surviving record of a settlement at the site dates back to AD 737 when Ceolwulf, the King of Northumbria, granted it to Lindisfarne Priory. Henry, son of David I of Scotland, the Earl of Northumberland, probably created the motte and bailey and erected the first stone buildings at Warkworth. The castle we see today was probably laid out in its present state in about 1200 and was the favoured residence of the powerful Percy family from the 14th to the 17th centuries.

David I took advantage of the civil war in England between King Stephen and Empress Matilda to capture important areas of Northumberland. His son, Henry, may have established the castle to defend his newly-won territory from English castles at Newcastle and Bamburgh. Henry II of England may have erected it after taking back Northumbria in 1157. Then, Henry II granted Warkworth to Roger Fitz Eustace between 1157 and 1164. It was in 1199 when Robert Fitz Roger lavishly rebuilt the castle. His upgrades were sufficiently grand for Robert to host King John at the Warkworth Castle in 1213.

In 1297 the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling, and Robert and his son John de Clavering were captured. Shortly after, in 1310, John took control of his father’s estate. But due to mounting debts, he handed his inheritance over to the Crown.

In 1328, the Crown granted Warkworth Castle to Henry de Percy of Alnwick and began a connection with the powerful Percy family that lasted for centuries. Henry’s descendant, also named Henry Percy, shifted the family’s principal residence from Alnwick Castle to Warkworth Castle. The next few centuries marked Warkworth being taken and retaken, seized by the Crown, and restored to the Percys time and time again.

In 1605, the then-owner of the castle, Henry Percy, Ninth Earl of Northumberland, was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot. Although he escaped execution, he was fined and imprisoned in the Tower of London for 17 years. Warkworth Castle was leased to Sir Ralph Gray of Chillingham Castle to pay the fine. The castle, however, soon fell to ruins due to neglect. Sometime after the Second World War, Parliamentary forces partially demolished the castle, and it was never rebuilt.


Warkworth Castle
Warkworth Castle”, by Draco2008, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Warkworth Castle is a masterpiece of medieval English architecture. The castle is a brilliant structure of three-dimensional design and incorporates different sizes and heights of the chamber. They are all interconnected by an ingenious system of wall stairs within a regular external volume.

The great tower is distinctive of the architectural tradition of northeast England and bears comparison with many late 14th-century buildings in this region. It was commissioned by the 1st Earl of Northumberland in 1377. Architect Anthony Salvin restored the medieval tower in the Victorian period. Another exciting feature of the castle is the Lion Tower, a striking tower acting as an impressive entrance portal to the hall. It was built in 1480 by the 4th Earl and imbibed its name from the oversized sculpture of a lion, the Percy family symbol.

The impressive curtain wall encircling the castle bailey has the oldest parts of the wall dating back to the 13th century. The wall’s southwest angle is the Carrickfergus Tower, also built in the 13th century. The Grey Mare’s Tail Tower, built in the 1290s, and the Montagu Tower, built in mid 15th century, are some of the other surviving towers in the castle. The impressive gatehouse is also one of the earliest parts of the castle. It was erected in 1200 and still contains polygonal towers flanking an entrance arch.

Movie Features

Spender (1991-1993)– The Action- Drama TV Series ‘Spender’ features Warkworth Castle in its best light. It is created by Jimmy Nail and Ian La Frenais and stars Jimmy as the lead.

Elizabeth (1998)– Warkworth Castle is featured in Biography-History Drama about the challenging early years of the reign of Elizabeth I of England.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Warkworth Castle famous for?

Warkworth Castle is famous for being one of the largest and most impressive castles in northern England. The castle and Hermitage form one of the most unusual pairs of medieval monuments in Britain.

Is Warkworth Castle worth visiting?

Yes, it is worth visiting Warkworth Castle as it provides an opportunity to the visitors to explore the rooms, halls, grounds and even take a boat to Hermitage (the remains of a chapel).

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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