Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle is a ruined castle in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England.

Berwick Castle
Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England
Berwick Castle 'Breakneck Path' and wall, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumbria.jpg
Berwick Castle 'Breakneck Path' and castle wall
Berwick Castle is located in Northumberland
Berwick Castle
Berwick Castle
Coordinates55°46′26″N 2°00′42″W / 55.7738°N 2.0116°W / 55.7738; -2.0116Coordinates: 55°46′26″N 2°00′42″W / 55.7738°N 2.0116°W / 55.7738; -2.0116
Grid referencegrid reference NT992535
TypeMotte and bailey
Site information
OwnerEnglish Heritage
Open to
the public
Site history
EventsWars of Scottish Independence


The castle was founded in the 12th century by the Scottish King David I. In 1296–98, the English King Edward I had the castle rebuilt and the town fortified, before it was returned to Scotland.

In November 1292, King Edward announced in the great hall before the full parliament of England and many of the nobility of Scotland his adjudication in favour of John Balliol of the dispute between him, Robert the Bruce and the count of Holland for the Crown of Scotland. 1330 "Domino Roberto de Lawedre" of the Bass, described as Custodian or Keeper of the Marches and the Castle of Berwick-upon-Tweed, received, apparently upon the termination of his employment there, £33.6s.8d, plus a similar amount, from the Scottish Exchequer.[1] The town and castle changed hands several times during the English-Scottish conflicts.

In 1464, the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland record that Robert Lauder of Edrington was paid £20 for repairs made to Berwick Castle. In the 16th century, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the walls were strengthened with the addition of two semi-circular artillery flanking towers, one at the river's edge and the other on the angle of the curtain wall.[citation needed]

19th century depiction of the castle

The castle's location in the hotly disputed border country between England and Scotland made it one of the most important strongholds in the British Isles, and it had an eventful history. As a major tactical objective in the region, the castle was captured by both the English and Scots on a number of occasions and frequently sustained substantial damage; Edward I used it as his headquarters during the course of his invasions of Scotland.[citation needed]

The castle also changed hands in less violent circumstances when the English King Richard I sold the castle to the Scots, to help fund the Third Crusade. The castle finally fell into English hands in the last week of August 1482. After invading Scotland following a pact with the Duke of Albany, Richard, Duke of Gloucester captured the castle from the 1st Lord Hailes.[2]

Remains of the Curtain Wall

The construction of modern ramparts around Berwick in the sixteenth century rendered the castle obsolete and its later history is one of steady decline. In August 1590 John Selby reported that a round tower used as the castle's only gun emplacement had collapsed in wet weather.[3] Large parts of the structure were simply used as a quarry (notably for the construction during the Commonwealth of the parish church, Holy Trinity), while in the nineteenth century, the great hall and much of what remained was demolished to make way for Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station. The railway platforms now stand where King Edward took oaths of allegiance from Scottish nobility in 1296, marked by a large notice to that effect.[citation needed]

The principal surviving part of the structure is the late thirteenth century White Wall and the steep and long flight of steps known as the Breakneck Stairs. It is now administered by English Heritage.[citation needed]

Governors, or keepers, of the castleEdit

Popular CultureEdit

The castle features in The Scottish Chiefs.[10]


  1. ^ Stuart, John, LL.D., and Burnett, George, Lord Lyon King of Arms, The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. 1, 1264–1359, Edinburgh, 1878, pp. 279, 313, 339
  2. ^ Calendar State Papers Venice, vol. 1 (London, 1864), no. 483: Macdougall, Norman, James III (Edinburgh, 1982), pp. 169, 182.
  3. ^ Joseph Bain, Calendar of Border Papers, vol. 1 (London, 1894), pp. 365-6.
  4. ^ Burnett, George, LL.D., Lord Lyon King of Arms, Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol.1, 1264-1359, Edinburgh, 1878, pps: 279,313,339 & 399.
  5. ^ Berwick-upon-Tweed, the History of the Town and Guild, by John Scott, London, 1888, pps.248-9.
  6. ^ Anderson, William, The Scottish Nation, Edinburgh, 1861, vol.iv, p.74.
  7. ^ Burnett, 1884, vols.vii, pps: 145, 317, 400, 494, 578-9; 1885, vol.viii, p.118-8, 188, 456, 539, 551 and 633.
  8. ^ The Great Seal of Scotland, charter no.1276 20 January 1477/8/
  9. ^ Burnett, 1886, vol.ix, pps: 63/4. 81, 145 & 157.
  10. ^ Porter, Jane (1921). The Scottish Chiefs. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 183-187. ISBN 9780684193403.


  • Images of Berwick upon Tweed Castle
  • The David & Charles Book of Castles, by Plantagenet Somerset Fry, David & Charles, 1980. ISBN 0-7153-7976-3
  • The History of Scotland, by John Hill Burton, Edinburgh, 1874: vols: iv. p. 364–5, v. pps: 68, 71, 73, 115, 120, 257, and 365, for Sir William Drury
  • John Knox, by Lord Eustace Percy, London, 1937, p. 165.

External linksEdit