Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland. Archaeological, Architectural and Historical Investigations

Author(s): A Oswald

In 2003-5, English Heritage undertook investigations into Dunstanburgh Castle, which was begun in 1313 by earl Thomas of Lancaster. Field survey, covering 36 hectares, identified a spectrum of historic remains: a Bronze Age barrow; a possible Iron Age rampart; a stone quay contemporary with the castle; Second World War anti-invasion defences; a Cold War ‘spy trawler’. Coring shed new light on the post-Ice Age environment. Re-examination of the records and finds from early excavations put them into context. During the fieldwork, the recollections of local people were gathered, augmenting the more thorough research undertaken previously by local resident Katrina Porteous, published here for the first time. A stretch of moat, whose construction is documented in 1313, evidently formed part of a chain of three meres. These, together with a rampart, formed the castle’s outermost perimeter. In purpose, the meres were partly defensive, partly larders, but perhaps primarily ornamental. Analysis of the buildings, especially the gatehouse, which exhibits architectural references to the castles of Edward I, indicates a similar grandeur of design. The new research suggests that Lancaster was seeking to create a ‘show castle’ modeled on the Arthurian Joyous Garde, above all to symbolize his opposition to Edward II.

Report Number:
Research Department Reports


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