Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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FORTIFICATIONS AND BUILDINGS.
MOST historians agree that this strong and important fortress was built by Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, on his return, in the year 1080, from an unsuccessful expedition against Malcolm, king of Scotland. (fn. 1) It was built upon the venerable ruins of the Roman stations Pons Ælii, and was called, in opposition to these remains, The New Castle upon Tyne; and which appellation was afterwards extended to the adjoining Town. (fn. 2) As this Castle secured the bridge from the attacks of the Scots, and afforded a safe station for the rendezvous of the English armies, it was, during many ages, a place of considerable importance.
Scarcely had this fortress been completed, before it was converted to a purpose very different from that intended by its royal founder, having been secured to protect the rebellion of Earl Mowbray against William Rufus, the son and successor of William the Conqueror. The king marched against it in 1095, and took it after a short siege; but the noble traitor escaped to Tynemouth, which being also taken, he took refuge in the castle of Bambrough. After sustaining a long siege, the earl, yielding to the solicitations of the guards of Newcastle, was betrayed from his strong hold, pursued, and dragged from St. Oswin's church at Tynemouth, whither he had fled for sanctuary. From thence he was taken to Windsor Castle, where he died in great wretchedness, after a confinement of thirty years.
During several successive reigns, large sums were appropriated for the repairs of this Castle. King Henry II. in 1174, granted, by his writ, £175, 13s. 4d. for its reparations; and king John, in 1213, made a fosse round it, with some new and additional works towards the river. (fn. 3) In 1234, king Henry III. expended £22 on the works of the Castle; and, in 1248, he erected a new gate, now called the Black Gate, which cost £514, 15s. 11d. The repairing of a gate, in 1250, cost £36, 0s. 8d., and of the King's Tower in the Castle, 67s. 5d.: and, in 1268, the further sum of £14, 16s. 6d. was paid for reparations of the Castle. (fn. 4)
In the year 1336, there was an inquisition taken at Newcastle upon Tyne concerning the reparation of this castle, whereby it was found, that at the battle of Bannockburn, in the year 1313, when John de Kenton, Knt. was sheriff of Northumberland, (fn. 5) the fortress, and all the edifices about it, were in good repair—that afterwards Nicholas Scot, Adam de Swinburn, William Riddell, John de Fenwick, Cuthbert de Boroughdon, John de Fenwick, John de Wodhorne, John de Lilleburne, William de Tyndale, Roger Mauduit, and Robert Darreins, were sheriffs of Northumberland—during which time it was affirmed that the great tower, and also the lesser ones of the said castle, the great hall, with the King's chamber adjoining thereto; together with divers other chambers below in Queen's mantle, and the buttry-cellar and pantry: the King's chapel within the castle; a certain house beyond the gate which is called the Checker-House, with the bridges within and without the gate, and one postern, were £300 worse than before: they say also, that there were in the custody of Roger Mauduit, late sheriff, four hundred and twenty fothers of lead. They say also, that it was thought highly necessary, that the Baron Heron, of Haddeston, the Baron of Walton, Lord Robert de Clifford, of the New-Place, Chief Lord of the Barony of Gaugie, the Lords of the Barony of — and Devilston; that the Lord of Werk upon Tweed, the Lord of the Barony of Bolbeck, alias Bywell, the Baron of Bothall, and, lastly, the Baron of Delaval, should build each of them a house within the liberties of the castle, for the defence thereof. The house of the Baron of Werk was built over the Postern.
John Baliol, king of Scotland, did homage for the crown of that kingdom to Edward I. king of England, on December 26, 1292, in the great hall of his palace, within this Castle. There is a writ, dated five years after this time, commanding the sheriff of Northumberland to store the Castle of Newcastle upon Tyne with victuals and other necessaries, and to cause it to be safely guarded. In 1323, one quarter of the body of Andrew de Hartcla, who had suffered death for treason, was ordered to be stuck up on the tower of this Castle, which, about the same time, seems to have been put in a posture of defence.
When the kingdoms of England and Scotland came under the government of one king, this Castle was abandoned by the crown as a fortified place; and the warlike halls, which had often resounded with the "wassel mirth and revelry" of "throngs of knights and barons bold," were, from the year 1605 to 1616, farmed by the incorporated company of tailors of Newcastle, at the annual rent of one pound sterling. But part of the keep seems to have been retained as a prison. (fn. 6)
Alexander Stephenson, a Scottish man, who came in with king James—begg'd the Castle of the king. He was one of his close-stool." (fn. 7) His majesty, by letters patent, dated April 14, 1618, granted to this Stevenson, at the rent of forty shillings per annum, all his old Castle, excepting the county-prison for Northumberland, the Moot Hall, and other conveniences for keeping the assizes and sessions. At this time, the Castle ward-rent amounted to £32 per annum.
By an inquisition taken in 1620, it appears that this ancient fortress was much dilapidated. The great square tower was full of chinks and crannies, and one-third of it was almost taken away. The lead and covering which it had of old was embezzled and carried off, insomuch that the prisoners of the county of Northumberland were most miserably lodged, by reason of the showers of rain falling upon them. The charge of repairing it was estimated at £809, 15s. Complaint was also made of an enormous dunghill, in length 98 yards, 32 in breadth, and 10 yards deep, which imposed so prodigious a weight upon the wall on the west side of the Castle, in length 40 yards, 10 yards in height, and two yards broad, as to have thrown down a great part thereof, to the great detriment of the strength of the Castle.
In the year 1643, Sir John Marley, the mayor, covered the keep of this Castle with planks, and placed cannon thereon, for the defence of the town; and after the town was stormed, he retired to it, and held out against his powerful enemies for some days. During this memorable siege, this active and determined officer removed the enormous dunghill mentioned above, in order to rampart the town's walls against the besiegers.
It appears that the grant of the Castle Garth by king James to Alexander Stevenson. Esq. fell into the possession of Barbara Blacke, widow of Patrick Blacke; from whom, about November 29, 1646, it was conveyed to Jane Langstone, of St. Martin's in the Fields, in the county of Middlesex, London, who, in 1652, sold her right and title of this property to the corporation of Newcastle upon Tyne. (fn. 8)
About the year, 1662, the king was petitioned to grant this Castle and its precincts (Stevenson's lease being nearly expired) for the use of the town of Newcastle upon Tyne. This was opposed by the county of Northumberland; and during the dispute, Lord Gerard, afterwards Earl of Macclesfield, obtained a grant, dated August 30, 1664, for 99 years, in reversion, determinable on three lives, at the annual rent of 40s. The corporation petitioned against this grant; but the lord commissioners of the treasury could give no redress. They, however, after much consideration, made a grant to the town of the reversion of the premises, the procuring of which cost the corporation £600. (fn. 9)
By a clause in the charter of the 31st of queen Elizabeth to the corporation of Newcastle, the Castle and its precincts, described as being a place of refuge for thieves and vagabonds, were, excepting the dungeon and Moot Hall, placed under the jurisdiction of the magistrates of that town. (fn. 10) But their authority in this place being disputed, his majesty king James II. May 15, 1685, granted a warrant for the Castle Garth to be parcel of Newcastle, which was further confirmed in the grant dated June 17 in the same year, and mentioned above. In 1690, the Earl of Macclesfield attempted to get these letters patent revoked, alleging that the king had not power to take the Castle Garth out of the county of Northumberland, and annex it to the town of Newcastle. On July 18th, 5 William and Mary, the lord keeper issued an injunction for staying the proceedings of the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle against Macclesfield and his tenants. The corporation was charged with vexing them with frivolous suits, breaking open their houses, &c. by virtue of some bye-laws of their own—seizing their goods, inditing them for following their several trades, &c. by virtue of the warrant obtained from James II. which by this order was set aside and abrogated.
On September 23, 1734, (fn. 11) the mayor and burgesses of Newcastle petitioned the king for a further grant of the Castle Garth, their former grant thereof from king James II. having expired. But the interest of Colonel George Liddle, another petitioner, prevailed; for on July 2, 1736, the king granted him the Castle and Castle Garth for the term of 50 years, on condition of paying a fine of £150, and 100 chaldrons of good Newcastle coals annually to the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, and of keeping all the buildings, as well those excepted in the lease as granted, in good repair. (fn. 12) In 1739, Colonel Liddle demanded a sum of money of the corporation of Newcastle, for dilapidations in the Castle Garth, the great gate (Black Gate) whereof had fallen down. They agreed, in the following year, to pay him £250 on this account.
The Castle and Castle Garth were, on November 19, 1777, demised from the crown to Henry Lord Ravensworth, for the term of 40 years and an half, commencing the 13th July, 1786, at the same rents, under the same description, and with the like exceptions and covenants, as in the grant to Colonel Liddle. (fn. 13) The leasehold estate of the Castle Garth was advertised to be sold by auction, on May 19, 1779, by Messrs. Christie and Ansell, in London, and was purchased by John Chrichloe Turner, Esq. one of the agents for the Greenwich Hospital estates in the northern counties of England. (fn. 14)
This lessee, who was afterwards knighted, advertised his property in the Castle Garth for sale by auction, on December 17, 1810; and again part thereof on September 18, 1811. (fn. 15) In the following year, the corporation of Newcastle gave 600 guineas to John Turner, Esq. nephew to Sir John Crichloe Turner, for the old Castle. This noble fortress had been long tenanted by a currier, and its walls sheltered a vast number of bats; (fn. 16) while the chapel was used as a beer cellar for the Three Bulls' Heads public house: but its reparation and improvement were now commenced with great spirit. The top of the keep was arched and flagged, the battlements embrasured, a corner tower for a flag-staff raised, and the stairs and interior apartments were carefully restored to their pristine form. Twelve carronades were also mounted, to be fired on days of public rejoicings. (fn. 17)
At this time, a society was formed in Newcastle, for the special purpose of enquiring into the antiquities of the north of England, and for whose use the corporation fitted up suitable apartments in the ancient Castle. The members of this Antiquarian Society held their first meeting here on November 3, 1813; but such an appropriation of the corporation property being disapproved of by part of the free burgesses, the society quitted the Castle in May, 1819. During the subsequent alarm at the spread of Radicalism, this old fortress was again used for a purpose consonant to the intention of its erection; for on November 4, 1819, it was garrisoned by the grenadier company of the 40th regiment. After being abandoned as a military post, it was selected by the magistrates as a temporary place of confinement for debtors, for which purpose it is now used, agreeably to the Act passed May 24, 1822, for building a new Gaol and a new House of Correction in and for the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne.
This ancient fortress is a fine and venerable specimen of Norman military architecture. (fn. 18) It is situated on a lofty and natural eminence, rising abruptly from the river Tyne, and commands both the town and the passage of the bridge. The ichnography of the keep, or grand tower, describes nearly a square, the lines of the two sides of which bear to the north-west. That front, however, which, properly speaking, ought to be called the south-west, is generally styled the south one. The others are named the east, north, and west sides, with the same little impropriety. The northwest angle is of an hexagonal form, and projects in a manner different from the others. The height of the tower, from the ground on the outside to the top of the lowest battlement, exceeds ninety-seven feet; and the square measures sixty-two by fifty-six feet. The walls exhibit such a massiveness of character, as must have derided assault before the use of artillery.
Annexed to the east side of the keep is an entrance tower, the whole of which might be demolished without important injury to the body of the Castle. This small tower contained and defended the grand staircase. After entering within the inner wall that enclosed the keep, a flight of stairs (there are nineteen at present) led to the second portal, which was merely the entrance to the outer tower. This portal is of prodigious strength, and from the top of it the besieged appear to have had great power to annoy the assailants. (fn. 19) From this entrance the ascent is continued from south to north for twenty-four steps more, when a door-way, in front of the landing-place, leads into a small apartment, thirteen feet by twelve, and which has been richly adorned in the inside. This was probably the porter's lodge, or guardroom; though some have conjectured that it was an oratory. From this place, eight steps, leading from east to west, conducts to the grand, and originally the only entrance into the keep. This noble and lofty portal has had its arch adorned in a superb manner by short pilasters and zig-zag ornaments. No grooves for portcullises are discernible in the portals; but, as Brand observes, "so much appears to have been demolished, that one cannot from thence infer that there have never been any." As the portals of the Gundulph keep have evidently been strengthened by portcullises, (fn. 20) it may very safely be concluded, that this fortress, which exhibits similar characteristics, was provided with the same means of defence.
The grand entrance, which is in the wall of the Castle, led immediately into the state apartments. The great hall displays much antique grandeur and beauty, (fn. 21) and at present forms a lofty, airy, and comfortable prison for male debtors. It is lighted by three windows, placed very high, for the purpose of security against weapons discharged from without. The east window is the most magnificent in the whole great tower. On the south of this stately apartment is the King's Chamber, in which the members of the Antiquarian Society held their meetings. A door on the north side of the hall leads to an apartment with a curious draw-well in it, which is ninety-three feet nine inches in depth. The water is hard and very cold. There are square cavities in the wall on each side of this well, in which are round holes for pipes, used anciently to convey the water to the several apartments.
Below the state apartments is a large room, which Bourne conjectured to be the common hall, and which is lighted by a window in the south front, and one on the west side near the south-west corner. This room, which was immediately above the county-gaol, was flagged by William Ellison, Esq. mayor of Newcastle, in 1723. In the north side of this hall (which is at present used as a temporary prison for female debtors) is an entrance into an apartment that contains the largest fire-place in the Castle, having a chimney on the outside of the wall, by a square projection ending abruptly. This appears to have been the kitchen, connected with which Bourne supposed he could trace both the pantry and cellar. The present fire-place, however, has been built long after the erection of the Castle, as its architecture is in a style that did not prevail until about the beginning of the fifteenth century.
The apartment on the ground-floor, long used as the county prison, measures twenty-five feet six inches by twenty feet nine inches. (fn. 22) It is supported by a hollow pillar, through which water has been conveyed from the well before mentioned. The arches branch out from this curious column very beautifully. The light is admitted by a triple-grated loop-hole; (fn. 23) and there are two passages leading to the door, one communicating with the interior staircase, and the other to an entrance in the south front. The latter entrance, which is now level with the ground, must have been made when this place became the county prison, for there is no arch over it in the wall, and the stones on each side have evidently been broken in forming the passage. Another similar kind of entrance, which has been made on the south-east angle, is also, without doubt, of a date much posterior to that of the original building. The small room on the north side of the dungeon (fn. 24) is now walled up.
The piety of the Normans induced them generally to construct a chapel, as a necessary appendage to castles of great extent and magnificence. The royal chapel, in this Castle, is in the entrance tower, and displays Norman architecture in all its richness and beauty. It is forty-five feet in length, and nineteen feet and a half in breadth, and has all the divisions usual in a sacred edifice. There is a small dark room in the wall of the keep tower, and on the left side of the entrance, which is supposed to have been the vestry. This interesting little chapel is lighted by four windows from the east; and though long hid in dust and darkness, is decidedly the most beautiful place in the whole building. The arches, pillars, and ornaments are in a good state of preservation. It was long used as a cellar, and is still encumbered with rubbish; and the windows are blocked up.
The massive walls of this Castle are composed of freestone, and are fourteen feet six inches thick at the top, and seventeen feet at the bottom. Where no windows have interfered, rooms have been gained out of them, or galleries have passed from one side or story to another. There is no appearance of fire-places in any part of it, but in the rooms in the walls. The gallery of communication, about eighteen feet from the top, goes through the four sides of the tower, and is above seven feet in height, with three or four loop-holes in each side. Below this, in the thickness of the south wall, and about fifty-two feet from the ground, is another gallery, in which have been two ornamented windows.
A bold and spacious winding staircase, of the most curious and ingenious construction, in the north-east angle, led from the ground-floor to the top of the keep. There is another staircase in the south-east angle, which also communicated with the basement story. By the rows of square holes in which the beams have rested, there appears to have been five stories of apartments above the common hall. In the wall of the western front have been several privies, communicating with the great drain. The building at present is well supplied with water-closets.
It is much to be regretted that this ancient Norman structure has been repaired in such bad taste. The battlements of the angular towers, projecting on corbels, destroy the simple character of the keep, and do not belong to the era of its erection. These barbarous additions, so conspicuously placed on the top of this venerable tower, are extremely offensive to the eye of the antiquary, and derogatory to the taste and character of the town. (fn. 25) After the reparation of this fine ruin, the corporation committed it to the care of a person called the "Warden of the Castle." (fn. 26)
It is unnecessary to extend the description of this structure; as a very clear and accurate idea of its figure, dimensions, and interior arrangements, may be obtained from the annexed engravings, copied from drawings executed by Mr. John Dobson, architect. The dotted lines in the south elevation of the keep and entrance-tower, distinguish the old ruin from the recent additions. The drawing of the capital and base of the curious column on the ground-floor, and the section of the arch-ribs, afford an accurate exemplification of the art and taste of the Anglo-Normans. The plan of the grand window in the third story is a decisive specimen of their style of architectural ornaments, which were always very sparingly introduced in castellated structures.
According to a tradition mentioned by Bourne, the chapel of the garrison was near the Castle, where the Three Bulls' Heads public house now stands, and which was, even in his time, called the Chapel House. In digging cellars for this house, human bones, as also a large stone coffin, were found. But perhaps the remains of human bodies might be found on all sides of this fortress. The workmen, while cutting a drain in 1824, a few yards distant from the south side of the Castle, discovered several human skeletons, at various depths from the surface. Two were found near each other, lying with the feet to the east, and secured from the earth by rude sepulchres, the bottoms and tops of which were formed of thin stone slabs, the sides being built up with stones and lime. (fn. 27) One of the skulls, with the teeth, was very perfect, but had a perforation in the top, made by some blunt instrument, and a piece of stone was fixed in the forehead. It is in the possession of Mr. James Wilkin, apothecary. Other bodies seem to have been promiscuously huddled together. In levelling an adjoining hill, called the Mount, in 1812, the skeletons of two men were found, about eighteen inches below the surface, lying with the faces downwards.
The outward wall of this Castle was of great strength, and enclosed an area of three acres one rood. It was strengthened by a circumambient ditch or moat, (fn. 28) and had a grand entrance and three posterns. The main entrance, called the Black Gate, was built by Henry III. in the year 1248. The arch is remarkably strong and gloomy, and extends the length of thirty-six feet. Besides its iron doors, it has been defended by two portcullises, and two draw-bridges; the one on the outside of the gate, and the other within it. (fn. 29) These works were flanked by two strong irregular towers, which are now shut up with confused masses of building, or much defaced by conversion into dwelling-houses; but the base of the eastern tower is still very perfect, and was exposed to the public view in 1822, when some old houses in the Side were pulled down. (fn. 30)
The strength and extent of this structure rendered it a considerable addition to the defensible character of the fortress, and formed an excellent protecting cover to the entrance. It might also be intended as an appendage of honour to the Castle, so often a royal residence, where stately announcements were received and answers returned. Such towers, called the Barbican, for the station of an advanced guard, always formed a prominent part in architectural fortification.
The outer wall was, no doubt, embattled, and strengthened by towers commanding the intervening line of rampart. In a survey of this Castle, taken in 1649, mention is made of "a square old ruined tower, near the draw-bridge of the Castle Garth." On the east side of the wall there was a postern, which led down to the street called the Side; and on the south side, in the Castle Stairs, was another postern. There is an old building upon it, which was the county gaoler's house, and which was occasionally used as a temporary prison. (fn. 31) The other postern, on the west side, led into the inner yard, or ballium. It was pulled down on the formation of the new street to the county courts in 1811, and consisted of a large gate and two small posterns, in a state of good preservation. The inner wall extended from the Black Gate around the great tower, and again joined the outer wall north of Baileygate. A fragment of this wall is still standing.
Moot Hall.—The county courts were held in the great tower till the reign of queen Elizabeth. After the time of James I. an old building (supposed by some to have been the garrison chapel) was converted into the Moot or Mote Hall. (fn. 32) This ancient building was pulled down in 1810; when it exhibited a curious mixture of Roman, Norman, Gothic, and modern architecture. Its eastern wall, which was of vast thickness, appeared to have been the wall of the Roman station. It was built of square tessilated ashler work, and ranged with a similar wall, whose foundations were discovered under the county court. "At the the north end of the Moot Hall was a range of low Norman arches and pilasters; its roof was supported by two heavy pointed arches; and its front had square windows with stone mullions, and the arms of England quartered with those of Scotland over the main entrance." It was large enough for holding two courts, and a judge frequently presided at each end. This old hall occupied the area before the entrance into the present courts.