A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Monday, 8 April 2013

Bamburgh Castle



Since we have the school holidays upon us, and since my health is (infuriatingly slowly) getting back to normal, the lad and I took a trip down to Bamburgh Castle yesterday. It’s only an hour and a bit down the road from here, and I haven’t been there for years and years.

We managed to take the wet, wintry weather with us, so anyone in Northumberland who was enjoying the onset of Spring should have been warned of our coming, to be strictly fair. We loaded up our German refresher course on the car stereo and donned our arctic service underwear and off we went.

It was a good day out – I’m not going to attempt any sort of serious tourist review of Bamburgh – it was too cold for us to see everything on offer (we swerved the walk down to the sandhills – we can die of hypothermia doing that sort of thing at home).

There has been a fortification on this site for thousands of years, and it really is a terrific looking place, but somehow it doesn’t quite feel right for an ancient monument. It is a real place, with real history, but it has been destroyed a number of times – most notably by Edward the Kingmaker – and much of the rebuilding that has taken place has been aimed at making it a nice place to live. People still live there, for goodness sake, and the state rooms are in excellent condition. There was a hefty amount of refurbishment done in the 18th Century, and the Earls of Armstrong (that’s the engineering Armstrongs) made it an elegant and comfortable home from the 1880s onwards.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s an excellent place to visit, but it doesn’t give you the immediate step-back into history you might expect. It’s all very well maintained and very obviously has buildings from all sorts of periods. They have an interesting little museum for the Armstrongs – mostly of aviation and marine specimens – and the state rooms hold a wealth of examples of armour and weapons.







I believe that in the village church there is a monumental window for a young cavalry officer killed at Waterloo, but we didn’t get that far. Too cold. Nick liked the tea-room and the dungeons best (he took the photos) – I think I liked the artillery pieces on the walls, which included a splendid 6-inch Georgian mortar and a carronade. Apparently the whole lot are about to get sand-blasted and refinished, so this will remove 200 years of paint in short order.

Nice castle – I liked it. It looks like a proper, kid’s idea of a castle, and it’s mostly in very good shape, which is why it has been used for so many films.    

8 comments:

  1. I know what you mean - I get exactly the same feel when I visit Arundel... been "lived" in too long as opposed to fought over....

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    1. It's hard to put your finger on why it feels awkward. We tend to put a fence around our history, mostly, so that often you have to make a conscious effort (or pay money!) to cross over from the Britain we live in to the historical one.

      In Italy, for example, they are much more relaxed about the mixture of past and present - I recall being surprised that an incredibly ancient building next to the walls of Monteriggioni had a modern plastic window installed and someone kept his motor bike in it. In Britain, he would not have been allowed to this, and we would have been charged some dosh just to look at it. The Italians, as discussed elsewhere, are pragmatic and are forced to live with, on top of, and next door to their history - just a different approach.

      One example at Bamburgh - there is a reconstruction of the ancient Throne of Northumbria, which is an excellent idea, but further reading reveals that it was built (of synthetic stone) following research done by the TV Time Team in 2010. I don't have a problem with any of that - well done, chaps - but somehow that typifies the approach - maybe plastic pencil sharpeners in the shape of the Throne are on sale in the gift shop.

      My problem is, I have no idea why there is anything wrong with this, but it doesn't feel right somehow. [Having said this, I have to remember that a good portion of Edinburgh Castle is of Victorian date, and has little relevance to the written history of the place!]

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  2. Nice pics, I've always wanted to go there, its a bit of a drive though from Kent!

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    1. Bamburgh on its own is not worth the trip from Kent, I think, but there is certainly a huge amount of interesting stuff in Northumberland, so that Bamburgh as part of a more general tour would definitely be worth thinking about. Meet you for a beer?

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  3. Despite having visited Bamburgh several times I've never been in the castle! I must arrange a visit!

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  4. We used to own it (Lord Crewe's Charity) and sold it to Lord Armstrong for £60,000 when we couldn't afford to repair it.

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    1. By Jove - that's remarkable - I wonder what it's worth now. Who did Lord Crewe buy it from, then? - not Edward the Kingmaker?

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  5. Funny you should mention the Armstrongs - i'm a Vickers (well, a small part of me is...answers on a postcard as to which part) but sadly the great grandfather decided that the future was in town gas, so left the family firm to play with coal and promptly ruined himself. If only...

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