Widdrington Castle and 18th century Gothic castle and gardens south of Widdrington Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Widdrington Castle and 18th century Gothic castle and gardens south of Widdrington Farm
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
Widdrington Village
National Grid Reference:
NZ 25566 95774

Reasons for Designation

Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. Virtually every parish had at least one of these buildings. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall. If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of the house in times of trouble. Tower houses were being constructed and used from at least the 13th century to the end of the 16th century. They provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by the wealthier or aristocratic members of society. As such they were important centres of medieval life. The need for such secure buildings relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. Around 200 examples of tower houses have been identified of which over half were elements of larger houses. All surviving tower houses retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

The remains of Widdrington Castle and the 18th century Gothic castle survive below ground and as visible earthworks and will contain significant archaeological deposits. The continued use of the site from the 14th to 19th centuries will provide information on the development and evolution of high status residences in Northumberland where few comparable houses have been so completely abandoned. Evidence for the development of the gardens associated with these residences will also survive.


The monument includes the site of a medieval tower house (Widdrington Castle) with later additions, part of its gardens, and the site of an 18th century Gothic castle. The site of the medieval building is in the north west corner of the monument. The site of the 18th century castle lies to the south east and is visible as a roughly circular mound 2.1m high and 49m in diameter, with an internal depression up to 1.6m deep and 20m in diameter. This is referred to as `Castle Mound' on the 1:10000 map. Building foundations are visible in the side of the turf covered mound and consist of worked stone and 18th century brick. In 1954 several trenches were excavated to the south of the mound in an area measuring c.90m by c.73m. Building foundations were discovered on the south edge of the mound. Other features further south included the foundations of a garden wall and a carriageway, and possible remains of garden paths and rubbish dumps. The medieval tower house is documented in 1341 when licence to crenellate (i.e. erect a fortification) was granted to Gerard Widdrington. By 1592 the castle consisted of three parts: the original (south) tower, a great hall to the north, and beyond that the north tower. Both towers projected eastwards from the hall leaving a recess containing the principal entrance. Between 1592 and the Civil War (1645-49) the hall was rebuilt and heightened. Between 1653 and 1676 projecting wings were added to the north and south from the two towers by William, Second Baron Widdrington. He also laid out an enclosed forecourt and, to the south of this, a walled garden. In 1720 the castle was bought by York Buildings Company and was described as in a very ruinous condition and in danger of falling. Some time after 1772 the castle was demolished by Sir George Warren and then rebuilt, based on a drawing by S and N Buck made in 1728. This new structure burnt down before it was completed and was replaced, on a new site to the south east, by a Georgian Gothic castle designed by Thomas Sewell of Alnwick. Slight indeterminate earthworks are all that remain visible on the site of the tower house. However, the foundations of the tower house and its various additions will survive well below ground. An engraving of the new Gothic building records it as having been built in 1772. It depicts a south facing rectangular building with a central octagonal tower, the whole situated on a slight mound. This house was uninhabited from 1802, and in 1862 was demolished leaving only the central tower standing. By 1903 the tower had also been removed leaving only the hollow mound which can be seen today. In the middle of the site is a line of twelve trees orientated north-south and called the Twelve Apostles. However, it is not clear which building their layout relates to. The fence which runs across the southern line of the protected area is excluded, although the ground beneath is included.

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.

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Books and journals
Hodgson, J, The Victoria History of the County of Northumberland, (1832), 241-246
Bibby, J R, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Report on excavation at Widdrington Castle site by NCB, Aug 1954, , Vol. 5 ser 1, (1955), 336-342
Honeyman, H L, 'History of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club' in Note On The Architecture, , Vol. 30, (1938), 139-141


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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