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Castle of the Week 116 - Castle Garth, England

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Castle Garth was located in a wide area of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Not much of this castle remains however, but Castle Garth Keep, the Black Gate and a few of the town walls are intact. Possibly the most impressive piece of history for this castle was that John Leland described its defences as "far passing all the walls of the cities of England and most of the cities of Europe".

The castle itself was built on the remains of an old Roman fort known as Pons Aelius. Pons Aelius literally translates as "The bridge of Hadrian's Family" and the name covers both the name of the bridge (which was said to be destroyed in a raging fire) and the Roman settlement. The fort was part of Hadrian's Wall, and was built for the purpose of defending the bridge over the River Tyne.

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The location of the old Roman fort became known as Monkchester as a community of monks settled there. The name Newcastle didn't arrive until Robert Curthose (eldest son of William the Conqueror) returned from a raid on Scotland and built the castle in 1080. A new, walled town grew around this castle, which became a major defence against the invading Scots. The importance of the military function of the town made it grow into a city bustling with commerce, and later a major Sea Port. By 1300 a mayor was appointed and a century later, the town became a country in its own right.

Curthose's Castle was originally built from clay and wood, overlooking the Tyne. Norman barons under Robert De Mowbray Earl of Northumberland, seized it during a rebellion against King William Rufus in 1095, and the castle was forced to surrender. In 1172 the castle was built in stone by Mauricius Caementarius under the rule of Henry II. Most of this stonework still remains on the present keep, but a lot has been replaced. In about 1250, the Black Gate was added. This was made into a house in 1618 and the gate was separated from the Castle during Victorian times due to a railway track between them.

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The town walls arrived in 1265 when the burgesses of Newcastle decided to supplement the defences of the castle to defend against the Scottish raids. When completed the walls extended for over two miles around the town and were never less than 7 feet thick and up to 25 feet high. The castle and its Black Gate were not part of the town walls but were enclosed within them. The Newcastle town wall consisted of six main gateways called Sand Gate, West Gate, New Gate, Pandon Gate, Pilgrim Gate, and Close Gate along with seventeen towers and a number of smaller turrets as lookout posts.

The most impressive section of wall available to see today is to the west of the city centre where four of the towers can still be seen. Nothing remains to the north but three towers can still be seen to the east.





Write-up by Ibeliamoyes.
Images courtesy of CastleUK.net.

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*) denotes a former staff member.