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Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

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

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NU 25684 21798



3/52 Dunstanburgh Castle 31.12.69 I

Castle. 1313 under Master Elias the mason for Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster. Gatehouse remodelled as great tower, and new gateway constructed, shortly after 1380 under Henry of Holme for John of Gaunt. Some restoration in 1885 when blocking of early C14 gate passage removed. Squared sandstone with whinstone rubble core, except for roughly-squared limestone in east curtain.

Plan: 11-acre enclosure on headland, with sea cliffs to north. Great Gatehouse at south-west corner backed by small inner ward. Late C14 new gatehouse on west curtain immediately beyond the inner ward, approached by a barbican with a mantlet wall running to an outer gate adjoining the Great Gatehouse. Constable's Tower, with constable's house behind, lies midway along south curtain and Egyncleugh Tower at south-east corner. Lilburn Tower stands towards north end of west curtain.

Great Gatehouse consists of two large D-plan towers, originally 5 storeys high flanking a 3-storey block containing a 2nd-floor hall. Restored segmental- pointed entrance arch. Flanking towers have multi-chamfered plinth, cross loops at basement level and windows of two shoulder-headed lights above. Upper two floors largely fallen except for corbelled-out turrets on inner faces. Rear elevation of the 3-storey part mostly stands to full height; gate passage flanked by projections capped by semi-octagonal chimneys with moulded and pierced caps, under the remains of one 2-light transomed hall window. Interior: gate passage with vault on chamfered ribs; at inner end small vaulted guard rooms, western with rock-cut dungeon. Chamber over passage shows murder holes above the outer gate and a portcullis slot above the inner. Restored newel stair at north-east corner, with remains of umbrella vault at top.

Curtain of inner ward stands to 2-3 metres high, with jambs of a gateway on the east and the base of a tower at the north-east corner. West of the tower is a room retaining part of a large domed oven. Deep rock-cut well within the ward.

The south curtain stands high but has been robbed of lower parts of facing. East of the Great Gatehouse is a corbelled-out turret, then the projecting square Constable's Tower with 2-light windows to 1st and 2nd floors; inner face of tower largely fallen, and adjacent constable's house reduced to footings and fragments. Further east a projecting square turret, and the Egyncleugh Tower which housed a second gateway; outer face partly fallen but inner face stands, with a chamfered archway and a 2-light window above; gate passage shows remains of a vault on heavy square ribs.

The east curtain is of poor-quality masonry and only stands c.1.5-3 metres in height, containing 3 small garderobe chambers and the jambs of a postern near the south end. Near south end of the west curtain are the chamfered jambs, with portcullis slot, of the late C14 gateway; associated mantlet wall and outer gate are only foundations; rest of curtain is reduced to footings and core fragments. The shell of square Lilburn Tower is complete except for south-east corner, and has several 2-light windows, a square-headed doorway to the wallwalk on north, 2 corbelled-out garderobes on west, and taller embattled angle turrets; fragment of curtain on north holds pointed sallyport arch.

The Great Gatehouse and towers show remains of newel stairs, mural garderobes, plain fireplaces and jamb seats in the inner splays of the larger windows.

Historical Notes: Finds of Romano-British artefacts and the -burh termination of the name indicate earlier occupation of the headland. Earl Thomas, who seems to have built the castle as a refuge rather than a residence, was executed in 1322 and the fortress passed into Royal hands. John of Gaunt as lieutenant of the Marches towards Scotland ordered the late C14 alterations; his conversion of the gatehouse and construction of a new gate alongside compares with Llansteffan in Carmarthenshire. Before the alterations were complete the castle withstood a Scottish attack in 1384. Held for the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses, Dunstanburgh fell to the Earl of Warwick in 1464 after a siege; it was never fully repaired. Scheduled Ancient Monument Northumberland 3

C H Hunter Blair & H L Honeyman, 'Dunstanburgh Castle' HBMC 1986.

Listing NGR: NU2568821798


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

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Books and journals
Hunter Blair, C H, Honeyman, H L, Dunstanburgh Castle, (1986)


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 13 Jul 2005
Reference: IOE01/17134/14
Rights: Copyright IoE Lorna Freeman. Source Historic England Archive
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