TYNEMOUTH CASTLE, NE30 4BZ
Postcode: NE30 4BZ
Lat/Long: 55.017665N 1.417732W
Notes: Located in Tynemouth there are car parking facilities in the town centre directly adjacent to the castle and also on Pier Road.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The remains of the priory surrounded by medieval era defences including a hugely impressive gatehouse. Also visible is nineteenth century housing for the garrison and coastal defence weaponry dating from World War I. The coastal view gives a superb view of the River Tyne and South Shields.
Priory. The ruins of the Priory are also visible at the site.
1. Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland seized Tynemouth and granted the lands to the Benedictine Abbey at St Albans. Shortly afterwards he achieved success at the first Battle of Alnwick (1093) where he defeated and killed Malcolm III of Scotland. The body of the Scottish King was buried at Tynemouth until sent to Dunfermline Abbey for reburial during the reign of his son Alexander.
2. Robert de Mowbray rebelled against William in 1095 and sought sanctuary at Tynemouth. After a six day siege he was dragged out of the church and imprisoned.
3. When the Tudor engineers surveyed Tynemouth in the 1540s as part of the coastal defence measures against the possibility of an Franco-Spanish invasion, elaborate defences were proposed. In the original plan angled bastions would have been installed and if these had been built it would have been the first such use in England. However, as the full defensive plan was never realised for Tynemouth, that honour fell to Yarmouth Castle on the Isle of Wight.
Starting life as a monastic house that suffered heavily from Viking attacks and later from the Normans, Tynemouth Castle initially emerged as a means of protecting the Priory within its walls. Following the dissolution it became a fortified stronghold in its own right and remained in use for coastal defence until 1956.
HISTORY OF TYNEMOUTH CASTLE
Tynemouth Castle evolved from a monastery founded around in the seventh century which, like nearby Lindisfarne, was key to spreading Christianity throughout the north of England. Suffering heavily during the ninth century from Danish raiders, it was destroyed after the Norman conquest as part of William I's suppression of the north. It was soon re-established but when Robert de Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland quarrelled with the Bishop of Durham, Tynemouth was seized and the lands granted to the Benedictine Abbey at St Albans.
When the Wars of Scottish Independence started in 1296, Tynemouth sought Royal permission to fortify the site and the subsequent defences converted it into a major stronghold. As the Scottish war turned sour for the English, following the defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), the fortifications around the Priory were further strengthened and a garrison installed. These measures proved sufficient to deter attack and further upgrades were made in the late fourteenth century funded by the great northern magnates John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland.
The Tudor era saw the monastery finally achieve a break from St Albans with the help of Henry VIII's chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey. But when Henry broke from Rome he cited charges of misconduct against the Tynemouth Prior in order to seize the site and its wealth. His reforms led to fears of invasion from both France and Spain prompting the building of a huge swathe of coastal defences mostly along the south coast. Tynemouth hosted a large team of engineers who surveyed the surrounding coastline; elaborate defences were planned for the castle itself but the actual upgrades were conservative consisting of an extension to the curtain wall and creation of an artillery battery (Spanish Battery).
When the Civil War erupted Newcastle supported the King. Tynemouth, which commanded the northern bank at the mouth of the River Tyne, was a key part of its defence and only capitulated after the significant Royalist defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor (1644). Tynemouth briefly resumed its support for the King in 1648 but was swiftly neutralised following a night attack launched by Sir Arthur Hesilrige, the Parliamentary military commander of Newcastle.
The castle continued to be garrisoned for coastal defences purposes throughout the late seventeenth to twentieth centuries. An additional defence was built at the mouth of the Tyne, known as Clifford's Fort, in 1672 and the batteries in the castle, at Spanish Battery and at South Shields were periodically upgraded along with the supporting infrastructure. In particular the area was extensively fortified in the late nineteenth century as fears of attack from France led to a massive fort building programme around the UK; at Tynemouth a submarine minefield was installed along with enhanced gun positions to support quick firing and breach-loading weapons. Another bout of major upgrades occurred during WWI brought significant upgrades to the site. Prompted by German Navy attacks on Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby in December 1914, additional weapons were installed (including anti-air guns against the new Zeppelin threat) with the castle itself acting as the central command and control for the Tyne defences. Further upgrades were made in WWII with the addition of radar facilities. In 1956 coastal defence was disbanded and the castle put into state care.