still looks like a stronghold of the Earls and Dukes of Northumberland.
You may enter from the S through a narrow medieval arch of Hotspur Tower
and confront the great barbican guarding the gateway to Alnwick Castle.
From the Lion Bridge to the N the castle appears all powerful and brooding.
Within the old town are narrow streets, cobblestones, passageways, sturdy
grey buildings and monuments. Alnwick (pronounced 'Annick') is 4m from
the coast and just off the A1 almost half way between Newcastle-upon-Tyne
and Berwick-upon-Tweed, a conveniant centre for touring and a destination
in its own right. It grew up on the river Aln beside the great border
castle whose walls enclose 7 acres. Below and round the castle are grounds
landscaped in 1765 by Capability Brown, forming a beautiful park. The
Pastures, the riverside section of the castle grounds, has a footpath
leading from the 18th-c Lion Bridge to the Craster road, with views of
the castle along the way.
Photo by Colin Thompson
castle was begun by the de Vesci family in the early 12th-c. The last
of the legitimate line died in 1297 leaving the castle in trust for a
natural son. The Trustee was the Bishop of Durham, who sold the castle
to Henry Percy in 1309 and, it is said, pocketed the money. The castle
was elaborated and strengthened during the years of border warfare, then
stood a ruin for nearly 200 years. The 1st Duke of Northumberland
restored it in the 18th c, with James Paine and Robert Adam. In
the mid-19th c, the 4th Duke employed Anthony Salvin to make extensive
changes to the interior. Most of the Adam work was removed and an
Italian Renaissance style adopted. Outwardly, however, the castle
has not altered much since the 14th c. The great walls, huge keep
and flanking towers make it one of the more spectacular sights in the
country. The exceptionally fine barbican, topped with figures which
look as if they had just raced there to take up their guard duties, now
leads into the present ducal residence and a museum. Visitors are
admitted to advertised times to such apartments as the armoury in Constable's
Tower, the museum of British and Roman antiquities in Postern Tower, the
keep, and many splendidly furnished rooms including the library, the largest
room in the castle, and grand staircase.
Jousting at Alnwick Castle
Photo by Colin Thompson
the town, a broad main street, with sloping, tree-shaded cobblestone parking
space alongside, passes near a market square. A freestanding 18th-c
hall has an arcade for shops on the ground floor and assembly rooms upstairs.
A week-long fair, dating from 1291, fills the streets with costumed inhabitants,
stalls, games and other mock medieval jollity, annually at the end of
first object to greet the traveller arriving from the south is the Percy
Tenantry Column, an 83 ft fluted monument erected in 1816 by grateful
tenants because thier rents had been reduced during a period of agricultural
depression. A Percy lion with straight, stiff tail stands majestically
on the top. The column is sometimes known as 'The Farmers Folly' because,
so the story goes, the Duke was surprised to find that his tenants were
rich enough to afford such a tribute, and raised thier rents again.
the other side of Alnwick is St Michael's Church, said to be the most
important 15th-c work in Northumberland. It stands on a hillside overlooking
the river. The battlemented tower is stoutly buttresed in steps and the
church is wide, with aisles running the full length of nave and
chancel. Among the interesting contents are two 14th-c tombs with figures
of a man in a tunic and a lady, a third medieval figure which appears
to be a cleric, and a handsome 14th-c Flemish carved chest.