Towering 150 feet above the northeast coastline of England, the castle of Bamburgh sits as a formidable defense, a testament to the once great glory of the Northumbrian kingdom. The first written reference to the castle is around 547 AD, when the Anglo-Saxon ruler Ida of Bernicia established the castle as his royal stronghold. The site would, throughout the centuries, be a witness to bloody battles, rebellions, and legends.
In 607, Ida’s grandson, Aethelfrith, took control of the castle. Bede, the famous monk and English historian, described Aethelfrith as a ravening wolf. Aethelfrith later gives the castle to his wife Bebba, where the castle earned its name of Bebbanburgh, or Bamburgh, as it is called today.
In the year 993, an invading force of Norsemen attack and pillage the stronghold, in similar fashion to their attacks on Lindisfarne centuries earlier. Their attacks weaken the capital, and afterwards, the castle falls into disrepair.
During the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror takes control of Bamburgh and appoints his own men to rule the castle. Bamburgh becomes a launching point for William’s later invasions into Scotland. In the late 11th century, William’s son, Rufus, must put down a rebellion led by the Earl of Northumbria, Robert de Mowbray.
In the later middle ages, during the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh is besieged and destroyed by cannon fire, making it the first castle in English history to be destroyed by gunpowder.
Of the castle construction itself, the keep is the oldest surviving portion of the castle. Built around 1164, the walls are approximately three to four meters thick. Its doorway is large enough for men on horseback to enter without dismounting. The well, which is now enclosed by the keep, dates back to Anglo-Saxon times.
Image source: Michael Hanselmann, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license