Notes: Located in the small hamlet of Edlingham, the castle is reasonably well sign-posted. A lay-by is directly outside of the church with a short footpath onwards to the castle ruins.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The remains of a Hall House that was later significantly upgraded into a small castle as the political situation between England and Scotland deteriorated. The most extensive remains are that of the early fourteenth century Solar Tower. However the layout of the rest of the structure is still visible.
Edlingham Castle started life as a Hall House in the late twelfth century but was extensive upgraded thereafter. First the Hall House was rebuilt and fortified in the late thirteenth century and this was later augmented with a Solar Tower and then a curtain wall/gatehouse.
1. The small keep at Edlingham Castle is known as a Solar tower derived from solo given its function to provide private accommodation to the owner. Given the troubled English/Scottish border at the time it was built, its fundamental purpose however would have been defence.
Originally a fortified manor house that was significantly expanded as tensions with Scotland increased, Edlingham Castle sat astride of a key route towards Alnwick. Fourteenth century modifications included the addition of a Solar Tower, curtain wall, gatehouse tower and barbican.
HISTORY OF EDLINGHAM CASTLE
Edlingham Castle started life as a hall house originally constructed no later than the 1170s and took its name from the family that built and owned it. Situated near the English/Scottish border, the original structure had very limited defences. Although issues over ownership of Northumbria had long caused friction between England and Scotland, the relationship was broadly amicable and the border was relatively peaceful. In 1296 though relations between the two nations deteriorated significantly following Edward I's intervention in the Scottish succession. Around the sametime the castle was purchased by a William de Felton, a soldier, who started the transformation of the site into a fortified residence. William re-built the hall house into a fortified manor house; little remains to any height today but originally it was a rectangular building with octagonal corner turrets. However as the tide of war turned against the English, resulting in attacks in Northumberland, this was no longer adequate. The Wars of Scottish Independence left a deep schism between the two nations with three centuries of warfare, border raiding and economic hardship resulting. Even during the reigns of strong warrior kings (such as Edward III and Henry V) the area suffered when their attentions were focused on the continent. Lightly defended facilities, such as that built by de Fenton at Edlingham, were no longer adequate and it was his son, another William, who made the most extensive modifications to compensate. He added a Solar Tower (in all but name a small keep) between 1340-50 and built a curtain wall as well as constructing a gatehouse tower. Around 1390 this gatehouse was enlarged with an extensive barbican being added.
The last male heir of the de Felton line, John de Felton, died in 1396 with the castle passing to Elizabeth de Felton and then, by marriage, to Sir Edmund Hastings. Their descendants occupied the site until it was sold in 1514 to the Swinburne family. It was never used as their primary residence and was effectively abandoned after the seventeenth century Civil War with its stone being robbed to support other building projects. The Solar Tower was left intact; most probably to provide a safe haven from the threat of Border Reivers who blighted the area until the building of General Wade's roads in the mid-eighteenth century.