Newest Review: ... of many secrets. Some of these secrets are only now being discovered thanks to very patient research. Old stairwells have been found in ... more
Mediaeval, Unnerving, Creepy, Exciting!
Chillingham Castle (Northumberland)
Member Name: ks.h
Chillingham Castle (Northumberland)
Date: 26/11/03, updated on 27/11/03 (2271 review reads)
Advantages: The castle has something for all ages.
Disadvantages: Beware of the Ghosts!
During the 13th Century it was little more than a tower with mansion house used as a resting place by Henry lll in 1255 on his return from the Borders, and in 1298 Edward I stayed at Chillingham on his way to Scotland. In 1344 Sir Thomas de Heton was granted a Royal Licence to fortify Chillingham Tower and he extended the building and erected battlements around the perimeter to create Chillingham Castle. The work was completed in 1348.
The Castle played an important part during Northumberland's bloody border feuds, and was often besieged. During the reign of Elizabeth I it underwent extensive alterations; the main entrance was moved to the north, where it is still found today and the fortification was strengthened.
Sir Jeffrey Wyattville who was also responsible for the grounds of Windsor Castle originally designed the Estate. Its 300-acre wooded park is noted for its unique herd of fierce creamy-white cattle. The beasts are descended from prehistoric wild oxen that lived in the nearby forests and are believed to have become trapped here when the park was walled in 1220. Other features of the Estate include an Elizabethan topiary garden, private lake, lawns and beautiful woodland. There are breathtaking views of the surrounding Northumberland countryside and the Cheviots.
Since Elizabethan times alterations have taken the form of adapting rather than rebuilding, resulting in the old buildings remaining behind the new, creating a house of many secrets. Some of these secrets are only now being discovered thanks to very patient research.
Old stairwells have been found in the deep walls of the southern towers, original floors have been traced behind the old east hall. A
ncient windows and fireplaces, long lost behind plaster have been retrieved, and one walled up Tudor fireplace has been found containing over one hundred documents, letters and the oldest writ in Northumberland, dating from 1540. Some of these documents are currently on display in the Castle Museum.
After 1933 the Castle stood uninhabited, neglected and decaying until recent years. Sir Humphrey Wakefield Bart and Lady Mary Grey took over the estate and began the task of restoring it to the ancestral home of the Grey family. This massive undertaking has been going on for a number of years now and it is hoped that within the next few years Sir Humphrey and Lady Mary will have restored the Castle to its former glory.
Visitors to Chillingham Castle are allowed to rummage around its disordered rooms, filled with furniture, possessions and ancient documents. You have the opportunity to view exposed walls and beams from earlier building work. You can view active restoration of complex masonry, metalwork and ornamental plaster going hand in hand with a family enjoying everyday life in a remarkable building. The tour of the castle allows you to experience just how onerous and courageous a task it is restoring a property over 700 years old, but also how bewitching the restoration work is - a true labour of love.
In 1344 the owners of Chillingham were granted a licence to crenellate, in other words to build battlements, this was something that was not often granted because it meant royal troops would find it difficult to mount an assault. William Wakefield, secretary to King Edward III, drew up the licence, and it is on display in the castle along with 13th Century armour, furniture, weapons and other implements of the time.
Some interesting rooms include The James I Drawing Room, named after the king who visited Chillingham in 1617. The room has a recently restored Elizabethan ceiling with gilded ribs and pendants. All of the staterooms
are a magnificent mix of antique and modern furnishings and the walls are lined with patterned silk screening, paintings and enamels. The Library is as interesting as the staterooms with the addition of a very elaborate chimneypiece and a display of family memorabilia.
The Great Hall is the venue for Mediaeval Banquets and it has a stone flagged floor, tapestries, armour, weapons and heads of deer and wild cattle, not my idea of something decorative although it all adds up to making an ancient mediaeval atmosphere. The Hall also houses many valuable paintings of historical interest.
Probably the most alarming part of Chillingham Castle is the Dungeon and Torture Chamber. The only light in the Dungeon is from a narrow slit in the thick wall, the wall itself is marked with crudely cut scribbled letters from previous inhabitants - not a happy sight. There is a trap door in the floor through which you can see what looked to be very genuine bones of a child in the vault below, a horrible thought.
If the Dungeons were not bad enough the Torture Chamber is definitely not for the faint hearted. There are some very gruesome implements of punishment on display, including a stretcher rack, bed of nails, nailed barrel and a spiked chair - with a label on warning you not to sit down! There is also an Iron Maiden with a serene face and larger than life hinged metal casing for a live body, thumbscrews, chains, leg irons, cages, mantraps and branding irons. A real insight into how barbaric we once were.
Chillingham Castle is also thought to be one the most haunted buildings in Britain and regularly holds all night ghost vigils. Some of the ghosts said to haunt the castle are The Blue Boy, it is said there are cries and moans of a child in pain and fear and sightings of a boy dressed in blue. The bones of a young boy and fragments of blue cloth have been found close to these sightings. Lady Mary Berkeley, the wife of a previous Lord
is said to wander the corridors of the castle and the rustling of her dress can be heard. There is the White Pantry Ghost, the Ghost in the Chamber, and numerous Ghosts of War, plus many more tales of psychic experiences.
Open January to December for Groups at any time, by appointment - Tel: 01668 215359
Open from Easter weekend until 30th September
Grounds and tearoom open 12 noon - 5:00pm
Castle open 1:00pm, last entry 4:30pm
Closed every Saturday
Entrance Fee varies depending on time of year - for details please Tel: 01668 215359
Directions: Take the A697 3 miles south of Coldstream; at Longframlington stay on the A697 12 miles north towards Powburn; at Powburn continue on the A697 6 miles north; turn right onto the unclassified road 5 miles east through Newtown to Chillingham Castle.