For 1,000 years a castle has been on the site where Alnwick Castle stands. The Percy family has called the castle home for the last 700 years, and Alnwick Castle today is one of the United Kingdom's largest inhabited castles. The 12th Duke and Duchess of Northumberland live inside the castle's keep today. Many of the towers serve as museums for the public; as well as used for storage, archives, and records. It's not known for certain when the first castle at this location was built. However, it's almost certain that by 1093 there was a castle where the one today stands, as it was in 1093 that King Malcolm III of Scotland tried to take a castle.
The first ones to construct a stone castle were probably the de Vescy family. Wooden structures may have existed before this. Parts of this castle can still be seen today, such as the State Rooms, where the chevron patterns that are characteristically Norman can be seen, and the archway leading to the Inner Courtyard. Some of the Outer Bailey's walls date back to around the late twelfth century and are some of the oldest remaining parts of the castle. Much of the masonry of the castle, however, occurred in the 1300's during the time of the Percy Lords of Alnwick. The upper walls' battlements were built in the early 1400's by the 2nd Earl of Northumberland.
Alnwick Castle's famous Octagonal Towers, located at the keep's entrance were constructed around the 14th century after the Percy family bought the castle. Thirteen stone shields can be seen on the towers, representing the different families have occupied the castle or married into the Percy line. Between the two towers, visitors can also see the Royal Arms. The castle's old drawbridge has now been replaced with a wooden walkway.
A survey by George Clarkson, the surveyor of the 7th Earl of Northumberland, in 1567 provides a good idea of what the late medieval castle would have looked like. It's likely that the Barbican and its gatehouse were completed around 1475, and are an great example of military architecture of the 15th century. In the castle's keep the dungeon can be found beneath the right-hand Octagonal Tower. The castle's moat would have been filled with sharpened stakes and logs with sharp objects attached to them rather than water in order to better defend the keep.
Several restorations and renovations were done by the 1st Duke and Duchess during the 18th century. Alnwick Castle had fallen into disrepair between 1670 and 1750. The Duke and Duchess returned to the castle in 1750, and began transforming the no longer used medieval garrison into an 18th century Gothic residence. During the time, the Gun Terrace was also built outside of the medieval curtain walls as a viewing area for the new landscape. The terrace is named as it is because of the canyons that are displayed there. The 4th Duke changed the castle again during the 19th century; transforming the keep's interiors to the Italian-style State Rooms that can be seen in Alnwick Castle today, re-medievalising the more Gothic features the previous Duke had constructed, and extending the castle's walls. Photo: bnoragitt/Fotolia
Things to Do in England: Alnwick Castle
- State Rooms, Photo: Courtesy of fransen - Fotolia.com
- Castle Museum, Photo: Courtesy of mrallen - Fotolia.com
- Exibitions, Photo: Courtesy of drhfoto - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of bnoragitt - Fotolia.com