There are many reasons why Newcastle Keep was built and how it was developed. First of all we should look at the national reasons of why the castle was built, and this was basically because the Normans’ hand just conquered Britain and castles were essential to protecting this newly conquered country. There were many national reasons why the castle was built and the first of these is that it was built as a symbol of power and military control.
When the Normans’ conquered Britain they decided to build castles all around the country to show just how powerful they were and to show what they were capable of building. They wanted everyone to marvel at their creations and see just how much military control they had by building large places, because size equals power and they wanted everybody to know that they were extremely powerful so they would respect them. Even when Newcastle was a Motte and Bailey people would still come from all over to look at it because they had never seen anything like it before.
Another national reason was they were built as bases for tax and law and order. People would come to the castle to pay their taxes and prisoners would be brought to the castle so Sheriffs’ could hold courts there as they were very big and good for those sort of things. They were also used as bases for knights so they could eat, sleep, rest and recuperate, and so that in a time of attack the castle would give them some form of protection. Knights could also defend castles well and hundreds could be kept in one castle incase of an attack.
Castles were also used to observe the English from as they used to make many attacks against the Normans’ to try and regain power, but from a castle you could see them coming from miles away so you could be prepared to defend your castle. The regional reason why Newcastle Keep was built was because it was next to the border of Scotland. Scotland was an independent country that made frequent attacks on England, so many castles were built in the North to protect the England/Scotland border, and Newcastle Keep was built to protect the bridge over the Tyne to strengthen and protect the national border and to prevent invasion from the Scots.
Other reasons why Newcastle Keep was built were local reasons, and this basically was because the River Tyne was very important and the bridge the castle was built near was actually the lowest bridging point over the Tyne North/South Routeway. This meant that it needed some form of protection to prevent invasion so they decided to build a castle near it. The choice of site was another reason to build a castle there, and it is also another local reason, because aswell as being near a very important bridge the castle was also very well protected.
The river near it meant it was protected on one side, and there was also a very steep drop into this river, which made it very hard to attack the castle from that side. Then, on two other sides of the castle there was the Pandon and Lort Streams with steep ditches going into them, so those two sides were all very well protected from attacks. The castle was also on top of a natural hill which was another defence feature and good site feature as it made the castle even harder to attack.
So, the site was very good a Newcastle as it was protected on 3 sides, one by the River Tyne, one by the Pandon Stream and one by the Lort Stream and it was also on top of a natural hill, therefore only one side was left unprotected so it was extremely difficult to attack. This is a diagram of what the site of Newcastle Keep would have been like. As you can see it formed a sort of ‘ U ‘ shape which keep the castle very well protected. The castle was also developed a lot over the years and we know this from looking at sources about the castle.
One development we know about from looking at a source by Barbara Harbottle is that at first Newcastle was a Motte and Bailey when it was built in 1080, and as the source says it was made of ‘earth and timber. ‘ We also know this is true because there is evidence to see that it’s true, because even now we can still see the big hill at Newcastle which would have been the Motte on which a wooden Keep would have stood where the owner of the castle would have stayed, which is now where the Square Keep stands. Then we can still see how the Motte slopes down into a big ditch which would have been the Bailey where the knights would have lived.
We also know it was once a wooden Motte and Bailey because there are many sources at the time and now which have that wrote in them and there are also many sources describing the rebuilding of Newcastle into a Square Keep. Another reference to the development of the castle is that one source tells us that between 1168 and 1178 this castle was knocked down and completely rebuilt of stone to make it stronger at a cost of i?? 1144, so that is one development. It also tells us that Henry II did this and he then provided a stone curtain wall around the bailey and a gatehouse, which was another development.
Another development I discovered about Newcastle was that between 1247-50 Henry III added the Black Gate, which is another development recorded about Newcastle. After this slightly later in the 13th century another source told us that the aisled hall was built but then destroyed to build the County Hall, so this was another development. I then found out that after the 14th century there weren’t many repairs made to the castle but in 1358 there was a barbican added to the castle on the front of the gate, so that is another development and it is also the final development that I could find in my sources.
So, in conclusion I have discovered that there were many reasons to build Newcastle Keep but it was mainly to protect the River Tyne. I have also discovered that there were many developments made to Newcastle Keep over the years, and I think this means that Newcastle must have been a very important one to keep improving it. I also think this must have continued to be improved because a lot relied on its protection of the bridge against the Scots. How and why did the Castle Decline?
There are many reasons of why and how Newcastle Keep declined, but one of the main things we do know is that the castle declined along time before other castles and I will find out why now. The first reference to the decline of the castle was in 1334, when Roger Manduyt the Sheriff of Northumberland said that, ‘The castle of Newcastle upon Tyne is so decayed and so left to neglect that there is not in all the castle a single house where one can have shelter, nor any gate which can be closed. ‘ He was given i?? 0 to spend on the repair of these things but this was just the start of things that would get much worse. A few years later a similar report was made, but this time the damaged parts of the castle were the turrets of the castle, the Great Hall with the King and Queen’s Chambers, the butlery, the pantry, the chapel, the Chequer – house, the bridges within and without the gates, the three gates and one postern to the extent of i?? 300. The castle was never really repaired after this and was just left to decay, as the upkeep of it would have been very expensive.
Another reference to decay was made in one source by Barbara Harbottle, which says that, ‘Few repairs were recorded after the middle of the 14th century. ‘ Which means that the castle had obviously fallen out of use and was being allowed to set into decay, or that the castle was so bad now that it was past repair. Another reference to the decay of the castle was made by Queen Elizabeth in 1589, when she described the castle as, ‘Old and ruinous. At this time many criminals were taking refuge in the castle and it also became the County Jail, which showed that it was decaying as only extremely dilapidated buildings in those days were used as jails, so Queen Elizabeth ordered that it be closed as it was of no use to the County of Northumberland. A reference to the decay was also made in 1620 when the castle was much dilapidated. It was said that the great square tower was full of chinks and crannies, and one third of it was almost taken away.
Also that the old lead covering was gone almost completely, and so much so that when it rained the prisoners would become wet. To repair it would have cost i?? 809, 15s, and there was also a complaint about a huge dunghill that was in length 98 yards, in breadth 32 and 10 yards deep. This meant that the castle obviously wasn’t being taken care of and it must have been treated as a rubbish dump and greatly ignored by people if something as big as that was allowed to build up at the side of it. This had been leaning against the west side of the castle, and it was so heavy that it nearly collapsed the wall.
The penultimate reference to decay was in 1644, when one source said that the tenants had let the various buildings fall into decay. This tells us that the attitudes towards castles had changed a great deal, and that there really wasn’t any use for them anymore and people couldn’t have cared less what happened to them because they weren’t necessary to the country and to their ways of lives anymore. At the time this reference to decay was made the castle was absolutely terribly decayed and was put up for let as it had no use for the town of Newcastle anymore.
This is my final reference to decay, that the castle was in the 18th – 19th centuries put up for sale because there was such a large demand for land from the industrial revolution which was very big in Newcastle, that the couldn’t waste any land at all. So, as the castle wasn’t being used anymore they put an advert up for it to be let and this shows us that it must have been in terrible condition for them to do something like this as this is not a normal thing to do to a castle at all. Now that I have looked at the references to the castle’s decline I will look at why the castle declined, and there are a lot of reasons for this.
The first is that walls were built all around Newcastle and these were very famous and strong and protected the whole of the town. This meant that they didn’t really need the castle anymore so they stopped spending money on it. The castle was also trapped inside these walls and so was stranded and useless because even if there was an attack the castle wouldn’t have helped stuck inside those walls. The next reason why the castle declined was that the castle was inside the County of Newcastle but the County of Northumberland was allowed to keep it.
This meant that when it needed repairing Newcastle weren’t bothered as it was Northumberland’s job but they found it very hard to reach Newcastle because of the walls so couldn’t do a lot of repairs on the castle so it fell into decline. The castle then became the County Jail, which meant in itself that the castle was declining because any building that was a jail in those days had to be very badly decayed as criminals were kept in awful places. So, the castle kept on declining as these two counties argued over who should get to keep the building until eventually it was beyond repair.
Another reason why the castle declined was that in 1603 Queen Elizabeth died and had no children to succeed her or any other family so James VI of Scotland became James I of England. This meant that there wasn’t as much threat of attacks from Scotland because the two countries now had the same King, so castles weren’t needed as nothing needed protecting anymore. Another reason why the castle declined was because of the Civil War in the 1640’s. At the end of this all of the violence between the two countries was ended and there was peace between them.
Another reason was the Act of Union of 1707, this saw England and Scotland united as one country so there was peace and castles were no longer needed. Then Newcastle developed into a thriving port and the Industrial Revolution meant many factories, buildings and railways were constructed. This meant the emphasis was taken off war and placed onto this new development of the town so the castle was ignored and then as I mentioned before it was put up for sale. In conclusion I have decided that Newcastle declined very early in it’s life and much earlier than any other castles, but attempts were made at first to restore it.
However really what we should look at is why the castle declined, and the main reasons for this were Newcastle and Northumberland became separate counties so argued over who owned the castle until it fell out of use and it was used as the County Jail so became dilapidated very quickly. Also, the union of the crowns meant castles weren’t needed as much, the civil war and Act of Union brought peace to England and Scotland, and also the Industrial Revolution meant people spent more time on this than having wars so the castle fell out of use and was put up for let to be used for something completely different from being a castle.