Prudhoe Castle tower keep castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011647

Date first listed: 09-Jul-1915

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Jan-1994


Ordnance survey map of Prudhoe Castle tower keep castle
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011647 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 23-Jan-2019 at 09:49:42.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Prudhoe

National Grid Reference: NZ 09164 63396


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid- 15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Prudhoe Castle is a well preserved and typical example of a small, powerful Border castle of the tower keep variety. Its importance lies not only in the good state of preservation of its standing remains, in particular its curtain walls which largely survive to their full height, but also in a number of rare architectural details and wide range of ancillary features which survive both as upstanding and buried features within its two baileys. Equally important are its associations with the de Umfravilles and the Percys, two of the most important families in English medieval history.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The castle at Prudhoe is a tower keep castle and includes two baileys or courtyards, containing the keep and numerous other medieval buildings, a gatehouse, barbican and curtain wall, and the castle's outer defences which incorporate two ditches on the south and west sides. A medieval bridge outside the outer defences and to the east of the main gatehouse is also included. The earliest upstanding feature of the stone castle is the lower part of the gatehouse. This dates to the early 12th century and indicates that the castle's inner defences, which would initially have comprised a timber palisade, had begun to be replaced in stone by c.1100. The massive curtain wall built at this time is over 1.5m thick and nearly 8m high. It includes a wall walk from which the castle could be patrolled and defended, a projecting tower on the east side, and semi-circular bastions at the north-west and south-west corners. The remains of arrow loops and a number of small mural chambers can also be seen, the latter including a garderobe or latrine on the south side. The lower part of the gatehouse incorporates a single round-arched passageway and would originally have been approached by a timber bridge across the defensive ditch on the south side of the monument. In the 14th century, the bridge was replaced by a narrow stone barbican incorporating a drawbridge and flanked by crenellated walls equipped with wall walks. Prior to this, probably in the 13th century, the upper storeys of the gatehouse were rebuilt. On the first floor was a chapel and, on the second floor, a guardroom. A crenellated fighting platform existed at roof level. Within the castle, in the bailey west of the gatehouse, stood the keep. The original timber structure was replaced by a stone tower keep in the mid- to late-12th century. Much of the upper part of this building no longer survives, but enough remains to show that it was originally two-storeyed and that a third storey was added later. A forebuilding lay on the west side and is now partially incorporated in the late-Georgian manor house, built within the castle in the early 19th century. The forebuilding linked the ground floor of the keep to a range of service buildings that formerly stood on the site of the manor house, and also contained the spiral stair that provided access to the roof and upper floors of the keep. The ground floor, or undercroft, would have been used for storage while the upper floors would have contained the private apartments of the lords of Prudhoe Castle and possibly also a guardroom. Prior to the construction of the tower keep, both the lord's private and public chambers would have been included within the hall, recently discovered by excavation to have stood against the north curtain in the eastern bailey of the castle. The hall was a rectangular building of two storeys, the ground floor undercroft being used for storage and the first floor including a large communal chamber in addition to the smaller, private solar. The building may have retained its public functions after the tower keep was built. East of it, following the east curtain wall, the remains of a number of service buildings have been found including a kitchen and a brewhouse, the latter below the east tower. Additional service buildings would have existed all round the inside of the curtain wall and would have included, for example, a bakehouse, lodgings for servants and men-at-arms, a guesthouse, stabling and workshops. On the right of the gatehouse are the remains of the castle mill and, on the left, the pond which fed it. The medieval buildings along the west curtain wall have been replaced by a range of 19th century outbuildings, but the earlier remains will survive underneath. The castle was built by the barons of Prudhoe, the de Umfravilles. It commanded the middle stretch of the Tyne valley and controlled one of the principal north-south routes across the river, making it an obstacle to Scottish armies invading England. In addition to its formidable stone fortifications, the castle relied for its defence on its position on a steep-sided natural mound. These were supplemented by deep ditches on the weaker south and west sides. Its strength was such that it successfully withstood the besieging army of King William of Scotland in both 1173 and 1174. In 1381, the castle passed by marriage to the earls of Northumberland, the Percys, and is still owned by the Percy family. It has been in State care since 1966 and, together with the later manor house, is a Grade I Listed Building. Excluded from the scheduling are all English Heritage fixtures and fittings, the modern surfaces of the barbican and baileys, and the 19th century manor house and outbuildings, but the ground underneath these features is included, together with the medieval structures incorporated within the excluded buildings, namely the west curtain wall and the forebuilding of the keep.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 23228

Legacy System: RSM


Keen, LJ, Prudhoe Castle, 1993, Monograph, forthcoming
Saunders, A D, Prudhoe Castle, 1986, English Heritage leaflet

End of official listing