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Chillingham Castle is a medieval castle in the village of Chillingham in the northern part of Northumberland, England. It was the seat of the Grey and Bennett families from the 15th century until the 1980s, when it became the home of Sir Edward Humphry Tyrrell Wakefield, 2nd Baronet, who is married to a member of the original Grey family. A large enclosed park in the castle grounds is home to the Chillingham Cattle, a rare breed, consisting of about 90 head of white cattle.[1] The castle is a Grade I listed building.[2]

Chillingham Castle
Chillingham, Northumberland, England
Chillingham Castle.jpg
The castle exterior in 2005
Chillingham Castle is located in Northumberland
Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle
Coordinates55°31′34″N 1°54′18″W / 55.526°N 1.905°W / 55.526; -1.905Coordinates: 55°31′34″N 1°54′18″W / 55.526°N 1.905°W / 55.526; -1.905
Grid referenceNU060257


The castle was originally a monastery in the late 12th century. In 1298, King Edward I stayed at the castle on his way to Scotland to battle a Scottish army led by William Wallace. A glazed window in a frame was specially installed for the king, a rarity in such buildings at the time.

A 19th-century depiction of the castle

The castle occupied a strategically important location in medieval times: it was located on the border between two feuding nations. It was used as a staging post for English armies entering Scotland, but was also repeatedly attacked and besieged by Scottish armies and raiding parties heading south. The site contained a moat, and in some locations the fortifications were 12 feet (3.7 metres) thick.

The building underwent a harsh series of enhancements, and in 1344 a Licence to crenellate was issued by King Edward III to allow battlements to be built, effectively upgrading the stronghold to a fully fortified castle, of quadrangular form.

Anne of Denmark and her children stayed in the castle on their way to London on 6 June 1603.[3] In 1617, James I, whose reign unified the crowns of England and Scotland (James I of England was also James VI of Scotland), stayed at the castle on a journey between his two kingdoms. As relations between the two countries became peaceful following the union of the crowns, the need for a military stronghold in the area declined. The castle was gradually transformed; the moat was filled, and battlements were converted into residential wings. A banquet hall and a library were built.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the grounds underwent landscaping, including work carried out by Sir Jeffry Wyattville. The once extensive park is now under a separate ownership from the castle.[4]

During the Second World War, the castle was used as an army barracks. During this time, much of the decorative wood is said to have been stripped out and burned by the soldiers billeted there. After the war, the castle began to fall into disrepair. Lead had been removed from the roof, resulting in extensive weather damage to large parts of the building. In 1982, the castle was purchased by Sir Humphry Wakefield, 2nd Baronet, whose wife Catherine is descended from the Greys of Chillingham, and Wakefield set about a painstaking restoration of the castle. Sections of the castle are open to the public, and holiday apartments are available for hire.[4]

Chillingham's ghostsEdit

Lady Mary Berkeley, whose ghost may be heard in the castle – very faintly

Its current owners market the castle as being the most haunted castle in Britain.[5][6] It has been investigated on television, radio and YouTube (namely, Most Haunted,[7] I'm Famous and Frightened!, Scariest Places On Earth, Holiday Showdown, Alan Robson's Nightowls), The ParaPod, Ghost Hunters International, and A Blood Red Sky (2013). Some of these ghosts are referred to in a 1925 pamphlet by Leonora, Countess of Tankerville. Others, such as John Sage, are of more recent invention.

The most famous ghost of the castle is the "blue (or radiant) boy", who according to the owners used to haunt the Pink Room in the castle.[8] Guests supposedly reported seeing blue flashes and a blue "halo" of light above their beds after a loud wail. It is claimed that the hauntings ceased after renovation work revealed a man and a young boy inside a 10-foot-thick (3.0-metre) wall. Documents dating back to the Spanish Armada were reportedly also found within the wall.

In LiteratureEdit

In the novel The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) by Sir Walter Scott, Chillingham Castle is singled out as a last refuge for an ancient breed of Scottish cattle. The castle and cattle served as inspiration for Eva Ibbotson's 2005 children's book, The Beasts of Clawstone Castle.[9][10]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Coming up on this week's Countryfile - Sunday 1 November". Countryfile. BBC. 30 October 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Chillingham Castle". Heritage Gateway (English Heritage, Institute of Historic Building Conservation and ALGAO:England). 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  3. ^ HMC Salisbury Hatfield, vol. 15 (London, 1930), p. 126.
  4. ^ a b Duncan, Fiona (7 December 2005). "Britain: As if to the manor born (part 2)". The Daily Telegraph.
  5. ^ "Ghosts". Chillingham Castle. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  6. ^ Wakefield, Mary (29 October 2004). "The ghosts of a chance". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  7. ^ Smith, Ian (12 April 2007). "Castle's ghostly reputation leads to expansion plans". Berwick Advertiser. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  8. ^ Campbell Dixon, Anne (24 June 2000). "Northumberland: Castle's knight in shining armour". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  9. ^ Whetstone, David (17 May 2005). "Eva just gets better". The Journal. Newcastle Upon Tyne. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  10. ^ "Obituary: Eva Ibbotson". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2015.

External linksEdit