Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland (UK) has a very special significance to me and my novel, The Northumbrian Saga. It is the seat of power for King Osbert, Aethelwin’s Uncle, and later becomes the seat of power for her brother and a symbol for ‘The North’ and it’s resistance against Aelle the Usurper and then later, the Danes.
But Bamburgh Castle is much more important than being a setting in a historical fiction.
The castle is first mentioned in 547AD. Ida the flamethrower, an Angle of similar fame to Hengist and Horsa, first captured the stronghold (then called Din Guyardi) from the local Votadini and built the first Anglo Saxon Hall (modern equivalent of a fort or castle). It was not until the time of his grandson Aethelfrith that Bamburgh received the name Bebbanburgh, or Bebba’s Burgh/fort, Bebba being Aethelfrith’s wife and also rumoured to be a Pictish Princess.
The stronghold survived enemy attack, especially the first few incursions of the Danes from the mid 9th century onwards, but it finally fell in 993.
The Bamburgh Castle that we see today is based on the earlier Norman Castle that was built during the first years of William the Conqueror’s reign over England. However, the most extensive changes are attributed to the Victorian Industrialist Lord William Armstrong who repaired the castle after it had suffered many decades of neglect. Today the Bamburgh Castle is still owned by the Armstrong Family.
In the 1960s, archaeologist Dr. Brian Hope-Taylor started excavating in and around the castle and found the Bamburgh Beast gold plaque (7th C) and the Bamburgh Sword (7th C). Since 1996, the Bamburgh Research Project has also held annual excavations. It is a non for profit research project set up to document the archaeology and history of Bamburgh Castle throughout all time periods.
The Bamburgh Research Project offers a field school for anyone interested, and a Blog on WordPress.
The Castle is also open to visitors.
The project is also looking for public suport and funding so that they can continue learning about the history of Bamburgh Castle. Anyone Interested can read an article here on Past Horizons. Or visit the Project’s website on the link above.
By A H Gray
- Historical Figure Profile: King Osbert and King Aelle of Northumbria (ahgray.wordpress.com)