Bamburgh “ Ghosts”-Tales from the 18C The Erringtons of MonksHouse , Bamburgh

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with Carol Griffith’s work at the Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn, where she has been researching, and transcribing, the extensive archive of material associated with Bamburgh in the 18th century, when the trust was administered by the able Dr Sharp. There will be more exciting news soon, as Carol has produced a book on her work, but in the mean time, here is a further tale from her to wet your appetite.

Graeme Young

Any one who knows a little of the history of this north coast of Northumberland, and especially of Holy Island, may recollect a feint memory of this name. The Erringtons-uncle and nephew, acquired a certain notoriety at the time of the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715, for their seizing of Lindisfarne Castle, an incident that from a modern viewpoint, seems almost comical.

Local gentry-led by the Earl of Derwentwater of Dilston, and Thomas Forster, nephew of Dorothy Forster, Lady Crewe( whose husband Lord Crewe had rescued the family from bankruptcy and whose Will would dramatically benefit the Castle and local people through the establishment of many charities) were deeply involved in the uprising. Part of the strategic plan was for French ships to rendez vous with the Jacobite supporters Lancelot and Mark Errington, Uncle and nephew, at Holy Island. Mark and Lancelot did indeed take Lindisfarne Castle, by sailing their ship with a cargo of brandy into Holy Island harbour, and allegedly arranging for one of the castle gunners-who possessed barbering skills!-to trim Lancelot’s beard and hair. Lancelot, later returning on pretext of picking up something he had left, overpowered the small force in the Castle, and for one night the Jacobite flag of James II was flown from the Castle. However, the anticipated French support vessels with troops did not appear (they arrived several days too late) and the next day-

In the great civil war the isle was the station of a parliamentary garrison; and in 1715 it was seized by the adherents of the Pretender, who were, however, soon dislodged by a detachment from the king’s troops at Berwick.

‘Holtby – Holy-Island’, A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848),

As is well known locally, Uncle and nephew were taken to Berwick goal, but later escaped, hiding for some time under heaps of Pease sticks in the farm of a relative in Bamburgh, until they escaped. It is reported that Lancelot eventually ran a public house in Newcastle, and died of a broken heart at the failure of the final ’45 Rebellion.

And the brandy on board?

Report of the Comrs of Customs to the Lords of the Treasury, relating to certain brandy seized out of the ship “Mary,” the master of which, Lancelot Errington, had surprised and taken possession of the castle of Holy Island. The riding surveyor on the coast of Northumberland immediately went to Berwick to give notice thereof. He apprehended that Errington (who had for several years been a common smuggler) might have brought stores for the rebels then at Wooller; he (the surveyor) came to the island the next day, when several persons sent by the magistrates of Berwick, with about 20 soldiers, came and retook the castle. Whereupon the riding officer and others made a seizure of the brandy, &c. on board the vessel. The officers of the castle pretended to have made the seizure, but the Comrs were of opinion that the officers of Customs were the prior seizers, and entitled to the officers’ share. 15 Nov. 1715.

Minuted:—“17 December 1715. Read. To be consider’d when the petition from Berwick comes up.”

So more about the Bamburgh connection- The Manorial Court Book of the Lords of the Manor of Bamburgh 1695-1776 (00452/D/2/1) held at Woodhorn County Archive reveals that Mark Errington was called to the Manorial Court at the Castle on 25 October 1714, and again in 1719. By 1719 a John Errington was called, and again in 1721.

Fast forward to 1764, when the Woodhorn Archive reveals a sad and very evocative letter from a Margaret Errington ( NRO 452/C/3/2/3/10).On August 14th she wrote to Mrs. Mary Fewster of Balmbrough from Monkwearmouth Shore-

Time and long absence may have made you in past forget me, though I think you will remember when I lived at monk house I was very intimate in your Family and had respect shown to me from it and all the families in the neighbourhood. But alas Madam now I am reduced to very low yea in a manner to destitute Circumstances-

My children all that were able to help me are dead, I have in a manner lost my sight, am unable to do any Thing for my support through old Age and Infirmities and therefore am reduced to the Necessity of asking Relief from you or of any other you can recommend me to-

Mr. Sharp, whose father I knew very well and who has been at our House when we lived at Monks House I understand lives near you to whose Charity if you can recommend me you will do a Compassionate action-

We built a Pew in Balmbrough Church as the Neighbourhood will tell you-for which we never had any Thing-if you can make that after so long a time any advantage to me you’ll further oblige me- the Bearer is my Daughter. These with my Prayers for You and your Family are all from

Your humble and obt’ Servt

(Mrs Fewster was the wife/widow? of a Mr Fewster who had been an important tenant in the Manor of Bamburgh. Records at Woodhorn in Dr Sharp’s own hand (00452/J/36) reveal an intriguing village dispute at the time of an early Court in 1748-

July 1747

I was at Balmbrough view’d the Hall-House and Garden there, upon which I obtained Dr Eden’s Consent to allow Mr Fewster to charge us with lime for rough casting the Northside of the House, he leading it; and to divide the garden with Ja.Callender, he being at the expense of the said division.

b. p17 July 5 1748

I met Mr Rudd at Alnwick and went with him, from thence to Balmbrough where on July the 6th we held a Mannour Court at the Castle. The same evening we settled the dispute between Mr Fewster and Calender the Gardiner abt the Nurseries Herbs etc; in Mr Fewster’s part claim’d by Calender. And the next day we kept a Court at the Mannour house)

In an undated Note circa 1765 the Archive reveals a further development regarding poor Mrs Errington(NRO452/C/3/2/19/31). A note in Dr Sharp’s hand gives the context to this family tragedy-

John Younghusband of Sunderland in the Parish of Balmbrough bought a pew in Balmbrough Church, which had been publickly put up for sale-

About 44 years ago Mark Errington who then lived and farmed at MonksHouse (an extra parochial place bounded on three sides by the parish of Balmbrough and on the fourth side by the sea) and which pays no sort of Parish Rates either to Balmbrough or to any other Parish) built a pew in Balmbrough Church with the consent of Rev Dr Beaumont, the curate thereof. About 4 years ago John Dawson who married a daughter of the said Mark Errington put up the said pew for sale (which was some years after he and his mother in law Margaret Errington (widow of the said Mark) had left Monks House and quitted the farm) When this pew which was put up for sale as abovementioned, it was purchased of the said John Dawson by John Younghusband of Sunderland. Some time after this the said Margaret Errington claims the property of the pew on pretence her son in law had no right to dispose of it without her consent and has employed an Attourney Francis Blakiston of Sunderland to acquaint the said John Younghusband by a letter date July 7 1765 that she is determined to assert her right to the same and to oust John Younghusband of the possession thereof unless he will immediately direct his application to him as her Attourney”

The letter written by Francis Blakiston still exists (NRO452/C/3/2/19/3)-

I am told that about 4 years ago John Dawson of Warkworth took occasion to sell you a Pew in Balmbrough Church belonging to his mother-in-law Margaret Errington that the purchase money is 4 guineas. The Purpose of this thereof is to inform you that the said Dawson had no legal authority to dispose of the said pew nor the least right thereto, that the said Margaret Errington who is the proper owner thereof is forthwith determined to assert her right to the same and oust you of the possession unless you immediately direct your application to me as her Attourney and come to some agreement about the Premises. I await your answer

There the mystery remains unresolved; there is no further correspondence in the Dr Sharp letters held in the Lord Crewe Papers at Woodhorn. We are left with many teasing unfinished threads – did the impoverished Margaret receive the value of the Errington pew? Surely the issue was with her son in law John Dawson, rather than the hapless john Younghusband, who had presumably bought the pew in innocence? Did her Attourneys letter have any effect? And how could she afford his fees? And it is surprising that an Attourney dwelt in (North) Sunderland in the mid 1700s; the Trustees Solicitor/Attourney was Thomas Adams who practiced from Alnwick. Was the sale of church pews common? And was the daughter, bearer of Margaret’s letter to Mrs. Fewster, the widow of John Dawson-let us hope that she gave her mother solace in her poverty and blind old age. And how intriguing that Mark Errington, Jacobite supporter and nephew of the “pirate” Lancelot Errington, had had the wealth-and piety-to erect a pew in Balmbrough Church.

There is one last secret about the Errington family I have uncovered-in attempting to find out more about Mark and his family, I turned to the IGI ( That revealed that Mark Errington of MonksHouse was christened at Bamburgh in 1689 (making him 26 at the time of the ’15 Rebellion). His parents were Francis Errington, married to Elizabeth Blackman. Francis himself was christened at Bamburgh in 1656, and died on 21 Feb 1720. His parents were Gilbert Errington, married to Margaret Babbington. Gilbert was born in West Denton in 1611, dying on 28 November 1686. Astonishingly, the IGI reveals quite clearly a further 6 generations of Erringtons in a direct male line, all born at West Denton, Newcastle, back to the earliest ancestor Edward Errington, born in 1416, and married in 1446 (name of his wife and date of his death, not recorded). An amazing direct male line through ten generations….how sad that Mark’s widow should end her days in penury, desperately seeking to recoup the value of a Church Pew built by her husband in better days, farming at MonksHouse….

With thanks to Woodhorn Archives

Carol Griffiths


Bamburgh “Ghosts”-Tales from the Eighteenth Century- Things Spiritual in Bamburgh-

Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of working as a volunteer at Woodhorn County Archive, on the Lord Crewe papers. These are a fabulous collection reflecting life in the mid and late 18C in Bamburgh, and in the Castle; I would like to share some of the stories I have found with you.

In the Bundle of letters preserved at Woodhorn Archive, dated for the year 1782 (NRO452/C//3/2/12) is a lengthy undated document in Dr John Sharp’s own hand. Dr Sharp was the most important in the many generations of Trustees established under the Will of Lord Crewe, who died in 1721, to oversight the restoration of Bamburgh Castle (still mainly in ruins following the siege of 1464 in the Wars of the Roses), and the establishment of charitable work there. He succeeded his father as Trustee in 1758 and devoted many months each year to residing at the Castle, directing and overseeing the work. However, Dr Sharp was also Archdeacon of Durham Diocese and Vicar at Hartburn so his time was divided between Bamburgh, Durham and Hartburn. In the document, Dr Sharp lists questions and his answers to a series of queries that almost certainly would have preceded a Bishop’s Visitation, and in leaving this record, sheds an illuminating light on the state of the church, the population, and his own responsibilities and movements, at that time-

St Aidan's Church

St Aidan’s Church

Answers to Queries Bamb.-

To the Minister at Bamburgh-

1.What number of families have you in your Parish? Of these how many are Protestant Dissenters; and of what sort of Denomination? Have they any Meeting Houses in your Parish, and are they duely licensed?

A The number of Families exclusive of the 2 chapelries is about 400,[ as appears by the Easter Book-deleted through), of Protestant Dissenters about 140 families, all Presbyterians. There is one Meeting House of Presbyterians at Warenford in this Parish, but not licensed

2.Are there any of the People called Methodists and do they assemble in any licensed place?

A There are some Methodists in the Village of Sunderland in this Parish who occasionally assemble in a Barn

3. Are there any reputed Papists, and how many? Has their number increased of late?

A There are abt 17 in the year 1780 reputed Papists. Their number decreased of late years. I know of none at present

4. Have you any and what Chapels in your Parish? How are they endowed? By whom and at what times are they served?

A There are 2 Chapels in my Parish, Beadnell and Lucker both of them augmented and severed from the Mother Church. Beadnell is endowed with tow Lots and one augmentation by Benefaction (for which a purchase has been made) and also with the Herbage of the Chapel Yard and surplice Fees. Lucker is endowed with one Lot, two Benefactions and the Chapel Yard and Surplice Fees. It is served with Prayers and Sermon on a general way on every Sunday in the afternoon except thrice a year on Sacrament Days on which there is a service in the morning by Samuel Hall Curate. The Chapel of Belford formerly belonged to this Parish.

5. Do you reside constantly in your cure, and in the House belonging to it? If not, where, and at what distance? What is the cause of your non- residence? Do you serve any Church beside your own, and how often? What is the name of the church, and at what distance?

A I reside about six months of the year upon my cure(except when occasionally absent) and in apartments at Bamburgh Castle that were fitted up at the joint expense of Lord Crewe’s Trustees and my late brother Thomas Sharp for the use of the Minister at Bamburgh- his successors, there being no House belonging to the Living. I reside abt. 3 months in my vicarage House at Hartburn which is distant from Bamburgh abt. 37 measured miles+ take care to preach or expound in my Parish of Hartburn at least 14 times in every year one with another. I reside in my Prependal House at Durham about 3 months in every year more or less, which is distant from Bamburgh abt. 64 miles. I have been absent from one or other of my Preferments (excepting Visitations) not 9 days in a year, at an average for the last 3 years. But on average for the last 7 years rather less.

6. Have you a resident Curate? If not where, and at what Distance does he live? Is he duely licensed? What is his name? Does he serve any other, and what church, and how often? What salary do you allow him?

A I have a curate whom I found here when I entered apon this Living who resides in a House on a freehold Estate belonging to the Parish. Distance about one mile + half from the Church. He is duly licenced; his name is Henry Elliott. He is half the Perpetual Curacy of the Augmented chapel of Beadnell in this Parish, which he serves in a general way on every Sunday in the afternoon, except twice a year on sacrament Days, on which there is service in the morning. I allow him a salary of £30 per annum besides what I pay him for collecting Easter Reckonings. He employs a Resident Subcurate who lives in the Castle. He is not licenced + only in deacons Orders. His name is Michael Maugham, he assists in reading Prayers on Holy Days, in visiting the sick+ other occasional duty. He is of great use to the neighbouring Clergy in supplying their churches when they are sick or occasionally absent, and would be still more useful if in full orders. He has a certain salary of above £34 a year as Headmaster and Librarian at the Castle, besides other advantages, of private scholars, and £6 per year from Mr Elliott for Parochial Duty+ about £1 more in Fees.

I have also another Curate, who lives constantly in my Family; he was ordained as an Assistant Curate to this Living, but not licenced to it; his name is Andrew Boult. He is perpetual Curate of the Augmented Chapels of Tweedmouth + Ancroft which he serves alternately on Sundays about 6 months in the year. I allow him a salary of £25 a year + his board.

7. How often and at what Hours is Divine Service performed, Prayers read, sermons preached and the Sacrament of the Lords supper administered?

A Divine Service is performed on every Sunday in the year + on Christmas Day, Good Friday. The service begins at about a quarter after ten. Prayers are read on every Holy Day, Ash Wednesday and every day in Passion Week, + begin at abt, half past eleven. The Sacrament of Lords Supper is administered on the Three Great Festivals Good Friday and also on the First Sunday in every month throughout the year

8. How often, and at what Times are the children of your Parish Catechized?

A The Children of my Parish are either catechized or instructed by expositions on the Catechism generally on every Sunday in the afternoon during the six months that I reside in my Cure; in the Boys School at the Castle, where Divine Service is regularly performed and begins at abt. 4 o’clock. Several of the Inhabitants of the Town and neighbourhood attend; when the Castle Chapel which is now building shall be finished, it is intended that Divine service shall be performed there on Sundays in the afternoon and early prayers on the week days and also that it shall be so endowed so far as to be made [?] for an augmentation

9. Is there any subscription or other Charity School in your Parish? Is there any Sunday School;, and if there be how many children of both sexes attend it?

A There is no Subscription School or Sunday School in my parish. There are two Charity Schools in the Castle, one for Boys the other for Girls, carried on at the expense of the Lord Crewe Trustees. 60 Boys and 60 Girls are taught at the charity. There are about 14 more at present who are paid for by their parents. The children are enjoined to attend church on Sundays and the Holidays.

10. What is the nearest Post Town to this your Benefice

A Belford which is distant between 5+6 miles

11. Is there any other matter relating to your Parish which it may be proper to give me information and what is it?

A I do not recollect any other matter relating to my Parish with which I need trouble your Lordship at present

Earlier stories in this series related the break in at the church of St Aiden’s, when Rev Elliott wrote in great distress “the church had been Broke into last night, and both the surplices, and three bottles of wine taken out of the Vestry”(NRO452/C/3/2/6/10), and also the radical advanced offer of free (smallpox) inoculation to the poor “ …to Inoculate those who have Chuse to Accept of Your Kind Offer..I took the Liberty of the Offer of Innoculation Gratis to all the poor of Bambro and the Neighbourhood made publick at the Church Door on Sunday last…”(NRO452/C/3/2/15/77)

Two other letters give a fascinating insight into parishes immediately outside Bamburgh.

On November 18 1786, the Mayor of Berwick wrote to Dr Sharp-

“…we are induced to solicit your Countenance to a scheme for erecting a spire to our church by subscription. The very great Oddity of a church without a steeple has been so long felt by the inhabitants of this place that a genteel sum was immediately subscribed to remove the singularity. But the building will require a much greater sum to compleat…and are under the necessity of making our needs known to the Dean and Chapter of Durham…”


In response, Dr Samuel Dickens, one of the Lord Crewe Trustees, wrote to Dr Sharp on Dec 7th to confirm-

The Dean and Chapter will give £20 towards erecting a Spire upon the Church in Berwick”

As we know, the Spire was never erected; Berwick Parish Church is still famously Spire-less, thanks to the edict of Oliver Cromwell. What happened to the “Spire Subscription Fund,” one wonders….?!

Finally-another fascinating glimpse. Most of us living in the Bamburgh area, will know of the ruined church of Tuggal, erected after Monks, fleeing Viking raids on Durham, carried St Cuthbert’s body back to Lindisfarne (where it was re-interred for a brief period, before being taken back to Durham for its final resting place). Today, there is one small fragment only remaining of the church; you have to know where to look to find it. Even when the famous 18C artist Samuel Grimm was sketching Northumbrian Castle and Churches in the late 1700s, Tuggal Church (which he sketched) was much more intact, but still ruined (see Grimm’s sketches of Northumberland, including Bamburgh Castle before and during restoration, on the British Library site-bl/uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/grimms/index- Grimm’s Northumberland Sketchbooks)

However, on Jan 31 1784 Mr John Robinson, of Tuggal wrote to Dr Sharp-

On behalf of my brethren the Church Wardens , we return you our most sincere thanks for your attention and goodness at all times towards us and particularly at present for your generous and genteel present of a Beedell’s Staff which we think not only handsome but elligant _ and for which we are indebted to Dr sharp’s generosity. We have got Peter’s gown and the Beedell’s coat and when we have the happiness to see Dr Sharp here we hope it will give him pleasure to see the improvement

I am Reverend Sir for my brethren here your obedient servant…

So perhaps at least part of Tuggal Chapel was still in use at this time….?

With thanks to Woodhorn Archive

Carol Griffiths


Bamburgh “Ghosts”-Tales from the Eighteenth Century- The Fear of Invasion

A further installment of Carol’s archive research, with thanks to the Woodhorn Archive:


Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of working as a volunteer at Woodhorn County Archive, on the Lord Crewe papers. These are a fabulous collection reflecting life in the 18C in Bamburgh, and in the Castle; I would like to share some of the stories I have found with you



During the time of Dr Sharp being the foremost Trustee at Bamburgh Castle during the mid to late 1700s-till his death in 1791-life on our North Northumberland coast was dominated by fear of invasion, or harassing by enemy privateers. A committee was established for the Safety of the Coast (the Coast Committee), and a series of signals was agreed that were passed from stations at Berwick, to Holy Island, to Bamburgh, to Dunstanburgh and down to Hauxley, using guns and flags. I have wondered how flags at that distance could be recognized without perfect eyesight, until I realized from contemporary etchings and drawings that the flagpoles on, say Lindisfarne and Bamburgh Castles were huge! Who were the enemy? There are accounts of privateer ships (pirates but authorized by their respective governments) from France and Holland…



The Following document NRO452/c/3/2/11/67 is a formal Memorandum drawn up at the house of Mr. Adams, the Trustees’ hard working Solicitor, based at Alnwick on 11 September 1779 between Holy Island and Bamburgh Castles-



“At a meeting of the Coast Committee held in Alnwick on…


Resolved as Major Cathcart the commanding officer of the Garrison of Berwick upon Tweed has fixed certain signals at Holy Island Castle-that the Signal Men at Bam rough Castle Station shall be bound to attend to the same and regulate themselves accordingly and that a copy of the Signals at Bambrough Castle shall be sent to the said Commanding Officer for the Signal man at holy Island Castle-


Resolved the following Signals shall be observed at the said several stations-



Large Red Ensign


  1. An Enemies Fleet on the Coast, the flag to be kept flying at all stations-+ 3 guns fired

  2. Preparing for A Landing from any number of vessels under that of a Fleet-+ 1 gun fired

  3. Landing made good-+2 guns fired

  4. Preparing for Landing from an Enemy Fleet-+4 guns fired

  5. Landing made good-Minute Guns[?]


Large St George Jack


  1. A Fleet in sight-signal man to keep sharp lookout and when made that of an enemy this Signal hauled down and No 1 [above] hoisted-+I gun fired

  2. a Vessel taken by the enemy-+ 2 guns fired

  3. Two or more taken by the Enemy-+3 guns fired

  4. one or more Vessels run ashore by the enemy-+ 4 guns fired


Red Broad Pendant


1. An Enemy Vessel in Sight-+1 gun fired


NB 5 or more square rigged Vessels a Fleet”


The Memorandum goes on to instruct use of Messengers by the Signal man to acquaint his “director” of the situation, warnings to be given to [local] ships seemingly ignorant of the rules, + instructions to be followed if invasion is by land


It concludes-perhaps confusingly!-


“NB The Union Flag and small Jacks are hoisted at Balmbrough Castle on Various Occasions [such as His Majesty’s Birth Night] and therefore not to be regarded as Alarm signals”



Many letters were written to Dr Sharp when he was away from the Castle at his Parish of Hartburn, or attending Diocesan business in Durham, by George Hall his Foreman at the Castle, referring to the threat from enemy privateers. But the following written on Sept 24 1779, author unknown but clearly a resident at the Castle-possibly Rev Elliott? – clearly illustrates the panic that such a sighting could cause





“What I now suffer that you and [George] Hall sh’d be from Home together


A Fleet is now passing what they are God knows they came from the southwards Bowlt [Curate at Bamburgh Church] tells me the Great Flag sh’d be hoisted and one Gun fired-


Which is done. I tremble to think whether to have done right or wrong- I was very unwilling to give my consent afraid of alarming the Country, but he Assured me it was the order upon the Castle Doors. The Fleet are now in the Open. We hope they are Scotch, but are far from being certain they are 15 in number+ two of them are very Large Ships. Mr Moneypenny [local Trustee tenant and maybe JP?] was sent to + it was with his Approbation that the Great Flag was hoisted the Day happens to be very windy and the Flag is Fore. I sat upon the Hill till the Gun fired, the Flag looked very Grand. Bowlt, Todd+ Richard conducted it very properly. My fear was it should have took fire from the Gun-but all was safe from that respect


The Fleet went North + Sir Harry Herron joined them as did another Large Ship which came from the South about 3 O’clock


George Hall return’d, approves of all we have done, He saw the Flag from Hefferly Tower (letter incomplete)”



What a vivid account of the panic an unidentified Fleet could cause, especially when both Dr Sharp and his Foreman absent from the Castle. It is a poignant thought that we know the very point on the old A1 road passing Heiferlaw Tower-still there today-when George Hall must have recognized the Flag hoisted at the Castle, and galloped back, heart in mouth, wondering what he would find…But seemingly, to doubtless great relief, this seems to have been a false alarm



Carol Griffiths



A Prince, An Octocopter, and Many Hands: Wrapping up with “This Week in Photos”

So we’ve finished wrapping up the 2012 season. In order to commemorate the final push, I thought we might have our second ever BRP “This Week in Photos”.

Graeme and Gerry with HRH Prince Charles on the beach below Bamburgh Castle

It was a rather eventful week, with a Tuesday visit from HRH Prince Charles to Bamburgh Village, a spectacular introduction to archaeological aerial photography from an octocopter on Wednesday, and the closing down of the trenches at both the Bradford Kaims and the castle from Thurday to Saturday.

Frantically cleaning Trench 3

Everyone lending a hand

On Thursday, students and staff alike got down on hands and knees (literally) to clean the trenches for our visit from our A.P. Horizons Friends, Paddy and Jack.

A.P. Horizons Boys Paddy and Jack

Even Finds Supervisor Kirstie was (forcibly) lured out of the windmill to make sure Trench 3 was spic-and-span for the octocopter’s aerial photographs.

All our ducks in a row… cleaning S to N in T3. Admire the clean lines in the rather dry trench

While I’m reluctant to admit it, in case I jinx it, the beautiful weather we’ve been having the past week has made the task infinitely more difficult.

Bone dry soil in T1 making cleaning difficult

A view of the E trench wall in T1 (now stone-walled) and the bone-dry soil










T1 in particular was complaining of bone-dry soil, making it both near impossible to clean properly, as well as very difficult to differentiate between contexts. The students were able to take some final levels and complete the end-of-season trench plan.

Planning Trench 1 is a group effort

Taking a few final levels before tarping over Trench 1

Matthew and Amin taking levels at T1











Despite the complaints, both Trenches were clean by the time Paddy and Jack showed up at 5 pm with the illustrious octocopter. As they set up near Trench 1, we all gathered on the castle walls to observe the show.

A view of T1 and the octocopter from the windmill walls

Watching from the wall

I don’t think I’ve seen us all so united in our excitement this entire season. If only we’d had popcorn…

Supervisor Alex and Directors Graeme and Gerry gather round … to get a real-time birds-eye-view of the trenches

After a tour over T1, the boys set up at T3 to repeat the process.  They finished up the evening with a flyover above Bamburgh Castle. I can’t wait to see the shots.

Jack piloting the octocopter

Approaching T3









Friday was the last full day of work at the castle for most of us. Trench 1 was tarped and stone-walled along the E section wall. Trench 3 finished planning the SE corner and tarped over it.

Taking down the N quadrant in the NW corner of T3

While some students continued to excavate the N and S quadrants of the NW corner, others worked on planning the NE section of T3. Supervisors from both T3 and T1 frantically worked on closing contexts and writing up context sheets and end-of-year summary reports.

Short-term T1 Ass-Sup Constance drawing up a final plan of T1

Finds Supervisors Jeff and Kirstie finished box-indexing and cataloguing the day’s finds.

Kirstie and Jeff sorting finds

Once lost finds, re-discovered in a cleaning of the Keep

And only with the wonderful and much needed help of some of the BRP students did I survive the day and manage to accomplish most of what I set out to do for environmental.*

Nat flotting 2010 and 2012 Kaims samples

* A special shout out to Sarah, Liam, Natalie, and Americ who helped sort samples, record heavy discard, clean out the flot tank, and any number of other enviro things I asked them to do. Without their help, my role as environmental supervisor might have finally turned me “mental”. Thanks, guys!

A somewhat-sane me, taking a brief pause from the environmental to peek at T1 and listen in on Lauren’s trench tours

We were all hard-pressed to find a spare moment even for tea between taking down the mess tent, washing dishes and duckboards, and doing post-excavation odds-and-ends. Full-season BRP-er Lauren did manage to squeeze in a final tour of the trenches for the public, however.

Lauren engrosses the public in tales of T1 and the adventures of it’s archaeologists

I tagged along for the first time this year and was surprised and delighted to learn things about the start of the project, Brian Hope Taylor’s hoard of records and finds, and the caslte’s dynamic history that I never knew. Lauren’s interest and wealth of knowledge provided an exciting glimpse into the archaeology of Bamburgh Castle, that even I, a long-time BRP-er enjoyed immensely. Thanks Lauren!

Loyal BRP-ers ensure “The Moose” is preserved for posterity

A very warm shout-out to all this season’s staff, volunteers, and students! We couldn’t have accomplished as much as we did without all your hard work and enthusiasm. So, thank you!

The sun sets over the BRP

Finally, while the trenches have been tarped over or back-filled and the windmill locked up, the archaeology continues (albeit in a somewhat more limited form). We’ve got more posts to come in the following weeks and months. Closing up the Kaims. BRP Bloopers. Bamburgh Beast Body Art. Publications. How-to Archaeology. And so much more.

So, don’t disappear, blog-followers. You might miss something interesting. 😉

BRP: making trouble all over the North

Being  up and about early on a Saturday or Sunday morning here at Bamburgh is no mean feat. And for that reason I beg your forgiveness for the fluffy nature of this blog post. However, many of us do rise at a respectable hour, and get out and enjoy the breathtaking sights unique to this part of Britain. Thats right, folks, today I’m going to show you what we at the Bamburgh Research Project get up to on our days off. It won’t always be pretty, but bear with me, and I promise we will be back to high quality archaeological blogging in no time.


About an hour and 20mins away is the city of Edinburgh. We planned to leave straight from work, and have a night out, followed by a touristy day. I’m sorry to say that once we got into Edinburgh and had some pizza delivered, this happened:

Jeff was just lucky we left the sharpies in the Windmill

Next morning we headed out to see Greyfriars Bobby, the Royal Mile, and do some necessary shopping.

Natalie meets Greyfriars Bobby.

Oh, and we had a crack at Edinburgh’s biggest nachos. I’m very pleased to say, the girls won, finishing their bowl in record time, despite Jess, Lally and Jeff having a good 15 minute headstart.

Competitive Eating at it’s finest.


Being the large group of nerds that we are, we were so amazed by Barter Books that no one managed to get a picture. Just go there. Really.

There’s also a beautiful castle and gardens. Some of the group went to the Poison Garden. Since then we’ve all been really nice to them, as we are a little concerned by the plant cuttings Kirstie now has in her tent.

Jess admires Alnwick Castle.

Let’s not forget the fun we have here in Bamburgh Village as well:

Walking to the village gives views like this.

If you ask nicely, one of our ex-supervisors might read you a story:

Dan reads ‘Moose!’.

And let’s not forget that we have a sandpit on site.

Even on her days off, Jess loves to dig.

We have a lot of fun here at the Bamburgh Research Project. We have the usual Pub, Quiz and BBQ nights, but we have a lot of fun outside of planned activities too. If you have any suggestions of things we can do on our days off, or if you’d like to join us for a day, a week or a season, get in touch via our website or Twitter at #brparchaeology

Olympic Torch Relay and Open Day

The Olympic torch passed through Bamburgh yesterday. The village turned out in force to welcome it. We had a scary scarecrow competition, a dog show and tug of war on the cricket green, plus bands from the schools kept the crowds entertained. Here are a few photographs from the day.

The castle getting ready for the torch

My favourite scary scarecrow from the day. Long live the Queen!

The Beadnel ladies at the BRP stand

Kirstie and myself at the BRP stand in St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh

The crowd waiting for the torch in Bamburgh

The Olympic flame passing from one torch bearer to the next.

Joe and the Bamburgh Bolt

The Bamburgh Village Coin Story

The video below demonstrates how we managed to date the coin that featured in one of our previous blog entries. Click here to read the post.

We are also trying to find out more information about this coin. Can anyone help with a date, mint etc?

The kings head in profile

Fleur de Lys on the reverse

Coring, Volunteers and Wooler First School

Over the weekend the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project was in full swing coring at the site, plus local volunteers and Wooler First School helped out with some post-ex finds washing.

We also have more volunteering opportunities, so read on to find out.

Graeme’s Report

Last Friday we were back on the Hoppenwood bank site at the Bradford Kaims, having had something of a rain induced break in our programme, to do some more coring with Richard Tipping (To see the previous outing with Richard click here) . This time we were investigating the peat deposits immediately to the west of our ‘hearth’ site. We had been doing a little coring of our own, in Richard’s absence, in this area and had identified a thin marl layer within the peat, in some of the cores that appeared to slope!

The sloping marl layer found in the core

By putting in a new transect of cores with Richard, from the trench edge outwards, we have mapped the subsurface contours of the ground surface as it existed before the lake deposits and peat layers developed. In doing this we profiled the sloping edge of the lake as it shelved down beneath the peat. What came as a surprise was that we soon picked up the rise of the opposite bank, well before we reached the Winlaw Burn, only a few tens of metres away. This shows us that the lake areas to the south drain northwards through a very narrow channel that passes right by the ‘hearth’, before quickly opening out again to the north. It is hard not to see the positioning of our unusual site being in no small part driven by this topographic feature.

The channel as suggested by the coring

This is a very intriguing new discovery, the full implications of which will take time to properly understand.  Looking at the first edition Ordnance Survey map it is clear that the Winlaw Burn has been canalised and back in the mid-19th century meandered a little further to the west. This raises that possibility that there could be more than one channel to the stream, though whether they were ever contemporary we do not yet know.

Later that day we also ran a small workshop in Bamburgh village pavilion, having invited anyone interested in the community to come along and help out. We did some finds washing, starting the process of cleaning the finds recovered during our field walking late last year.

Local volunteers working their way through the field-walking finds

On Tuesday we were at Wooler First School to do a brief introduction to our work and to introduce the children to the joys of washing more of the field walking finds. This proved to be hugely popular, in fact even the quite large quantity of finds that we had brought along only just managed to keep them busy till lunch. The children are coming out to see the site in June. Let’s hope they enjoy that just as much.

Volunteering – Gerry updates us on the field work opportunities for May.

The next fieldworking days will be Thursday 10th May.  Richard Tippingwill also be out again with us on May 17th to 20th along withGSB’s Graeme Atwood who will be doing some geophysics on the Saturday and Sunday. We are also planning to be on site on Wednesday 23rd May.

Please come along if you can, dressed for weather, and wellies are recommended. As usual no experience is necessary, and it should be fun as we will be digging. If you would like to volunteer please send an email to Graeme Young at or call him on 07711187651 as we will be limited to around 20 volunteer places per day.  We very much hope to see you there!

Getting There
The site is located at Hoppen Hall Farm – to get there you will need to take the B1341 between the A1 and Bamburgh.
Heading towards Bamburgh, you pass over the main rail line level crossing just past Lucker, then take the first right hand turn along a rough track heading up hill towards Hoppen Hall farm and cottages. The site is accessible only by prior arrangement, and there are holiday lets near the area we will be parking as well as the main farm house so we ask that all participants show due care and respect the privacy of the residents and guests. We will park and gather together by the main farm buildings, then walk through the fields for around ten minutes to access the wetland site.
Video Editing 
I’m hoping some of you will take an interest in doing some video editing of the footage we’ve been taking of the site. It’s a good way to re-familiarise yourself with the progress so far and help me decide what to put in the video reports. If anyone is interested please email me as I don’t think this is something everybody will want to do, but you’re more than welcome!

Bamburgh Village: Part 3

A little while back Project Director, Graeme Young, began a blog thread about Bamburgh Village. In this post we pick up where he left off. To see the earlier posts click here and here.

Today Graeme brings us into the post-conquest period exploring the remnants of the medieval village including the leper hospital and the Dominican Friary.

Bamburgh  Village and the Church in the late medieval.

In the last blog entry I was looking at the evidence we have from the Anglo-Saxon period. This amounts, pretty much exclusively, to evidence for the foundation and early history of St Aidan’s church, as we have so little information regarding the secular settlement that must have surrounded the church. Sadly, at the moment, the best we can add archaeologically is apparent evidence of absence in the form of the geophysical surveys undertaken around the village (To see the report for this click here). These have revealed a series of enclosures and features in the fields to the south, west and to some extent also immediately west of the church. None of these anomalies are reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon settlements seen elsewhere in the region, such as at Yeavering (Aerial photography, excavation and geophysics) Milfield and Sprouston (both known from Aerial photography). This suggests that we are looking at activity of a different period, in the main I suspect prehistoric and some later medieval activity being represented. It is dangerous to read too much into an absence of evidence but in this instance, and given the close proximity the Anglo-Saxon settlement is likely to have had to the village, it is very likely that the Anglo-Saxon settlement lies hidden beneath the present village.

Bamburgh Village

At the end of the last article on the village we had reached the slightly better documented Norman era and found St Aidan’s Church in the hands of an ‘Algar’ the priest. Aelred of Rievaulx, our source for Algar also noted that there was a tradition of a monastic community at Bamburgh from the late Northumbrian period. When we look at the early maps of the village there is a clear, and rather large, sub-rectangular enclosure attached to and extending from the south and west sides of the church yard marked out in field boundaries and walls. It is quite big enough to contain West House, Radcliffe House and perhaps tellingly the Glebe. A glebe is an area of land within a manor allocated to the support of a priest. So could we be looking at the lands owned by Algar, perhaps even the preserved outline of an early monastic enclosure?

We are on less speculative ground with records that note the granting of ownership of the church properties at Bamburgh to Nostell Priory in 1121. The grant included the church within the castle, but it took them some tome to take possession as they could not occupy the site until the death of Algar, who lived till 1171. Although Nostell lay in Yorkshire, some considerable distance from Bamburgh, the priory was associated with St Oswald and seems to have acquired the grant through their connections at the royal court.

A leper hospital lay on the edge of the civil settlement, located in an enclosure to the south of the triangular village green. The 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey map depicts the hospital enclosure and also marks the site of the leper’s well. A grass grown hollow-way can be seen extending from the wooded ridge, south of the castle, back towards the hospital site, its western line marked by a series of boundary plots. This hollow-way almost certainly represents one of the borough of Bamburgh’s principle  medieval streets, Spitalgate, named after the hospital site. The hospital was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene and was in existence by the year 1256. It contained a hall, pantry, kitchen and other chambers enclosed within its bounds, according to an inquiry of 1376. Part of its lands seem to have derived from the extensive holding of the Nostell community in the village.

The third ecclesiastical centre was a Dominican Friary, founded in 1265. The friary lay on the western edge of the borough, and gives us our best evidence for the extent of the urban spread of Bamburgh in the 13th century. The Dominicans liked to mix with the world and were attracted to major towns and settlement. They had centres in both Berwick and Newcastle, so their presence at Bamburgh is an indicator of the importance of the borough prior to the Scottish Wars. A few fragments of the friary buildings still survive, mixed in to the the housing estate on the south side of Radcliffe Road, just before Friars Farm. Dr Hope-Taylor undertook some limited excavation on the site in the 1960s, recovering three skeletons.

Relationships between the various ecclesiastical establishments in the borough were not always harmonious and on one occasion a quarrel led to a tragic results. The borough had a number of wells, but most had a tendency to dry up during a hot summer. One, said to be located within the boundariy of the hospital, called Maudeleys Well (Magdalene’s Well), was a secure source of water all year around and was as a result widely used by the community. At least until ‘certain friars preachers of Bamburgh, in a fit of passionate spite, killed a cur called Jolyff and threw it secretly into the well with stones around its neck’. A woman of the borough was sufficiently poisoned, to give birth to a dead child. The complaint reached the king, but does not seem to have been resolved quickly as the friars later blocked up the spring, which fed the kings mill, much to the frustration of the wider community.