The remains consist of fragments of a twelfth century shell keep and later curtain wall plus foundations of other buildings. There are also extensive earthworks although some damage has been done by quarrying. The ruins are in close proximity to a public right of way.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Postcode: NE61 3PY
Lat/Long: 55.163125N 1.734460W
Notes: The castle is found off an Unnamed Road off the B6343 - follow signs for ‘Mitford Church’. On-road parking is possible by the church or in vicinity of the pedestrian gate to the castle.
Shell Keep. The shell keep was built around the twelfth century on the earlier motte.
Mitford Castle was built on a small hillock overlooking the River Wansbeck around 1070. The castle was seized by forces acting on behalf of King John in 1215 as he attempted to suppress his rebellious barons. Later it briefly became the headquarters of the notorious kidnapper Sir Gilbert Middleton but shortly after was destroyed by the Scots.
HISTORY OF MITFORD CASTLE
Mitford Castle was built around 1070 in the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey by Richard Bertram, a Norman Knight. The castle occupied a small hillock overlooking the River Wansbeck and was protected by the Park Burn which ran around the site on both the north and south sides. The motte was topped by a timber tower and a D shaped wooden palisade. An oval bailey was built on the south/south-eastern side of the motte and surrounded by a ditch.
The first surviving record of the castle dates from 1138 when it was owned by William Bertram. Around this time the first rebuilding of the castle into a stone fortress had commenced with the shell keep on top of the motte. Towards the end of the twelfth century the bailey was divided into two parts with the southern section, configured in a triangular arrangement, being protected by a stone curtain wall. The remaining segment retained its earthwork defences only.
In 1215, following the failure of Magna Carta to secure peace, civil war broke out between King John and his Barons (the First Barons War). At this time Mitford Castle was owned by Roger Bertram who, along with other northern magnates, opposed King John and paid homage to Alexander II who was supporting the rebels cause. The King recruited a large army, incorporating significant numbers of Flemish mercenaries, and launched an assault on the north. Mitford Castle was seized by Royal forces and granted to Philip de Ulecotes. He garrisoned it for the King and it withstood a Scottish siege, led by Alexander II, in 1216. King John died the same year and the Government of his successor, Henry III, sought reconciliation. Philip was ordered to return Mitford Castle to Bertram and, whilst he initially refused to comply with the King's order, the threat of confiscation of his Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire properties saw Roger restored. The motte's central tower was seemingly upgraded into a stone structure around this time.
The outbreak of the First War of Scottish Independence in 1296 led to a significant deterioration in relations between the two nations as English forces rampaged through Scotland. However, the death of Edward I led to a complete reversal in fortunes culminating in the decisive English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. After this time Robert I raided Northern England causing wide scale devastation as he attempted to force Edward II into recognising his country as an independent nation. Against this backdrop the Northumbrian magnate Sir Gilbert Middleton sought to profit from the chaos and on 1 September 1317 he seized Lewis de Beaumont, whilst en route to be consecrated Bishop of Durham. Along with two Italian Cardinals, all were imprisoned at Mitford Castle and, whilst international outrage ensured they were soon released, Middleton was subsequently captured and taken to London where he was hung, drawn and quartered.
A further Scottish invasion of Northumberland took place in 1318 in which Mitford Castle itself was targeted by the Scots. The castle fell to their attack and was badly damaged. Reports of 1323 and 1327 described the castle as ruinous and "wholly burnt" respectively. It was never rebuilt and later stones were robbed from the ruins to build other structures including a Jacobean Mansion House on the site. During World War II a pill box was constructed nearby as part of the defences against a German landing in North-East England.