Morpeth Castle & Ha' Hill - Northumberland

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Morpeth Castle

& Ha' Hill

Location OS Landranger sheet 81 NZ 199856 & NZ 200854

How to get there The castle is in Carlisle Park, Morpeth

There is a reference in the record "Morpeth Castle standeth by Morpeth town. It is set on a high hill,about the hill is moch wood" , this from 1286 is considered to point to the castle where the gatehouse now stands, but it is not confirmed.

The Castle is leased to the Landmark Trust and is used as holiday flats.

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The Ha'
Map Courtesy of Mike Salter
Morpeth Castle gatehouse from Ha' Hill
History

NZ 199856/No Trace/Access The Ha’    On a spur of the Postern Burn lies a motte with an oval summit 30m from east to west and 20m wide. It rises 25m above the ground to the east but just 3 m above a ditch dividing it from a small triangular baily to the SW, beyond which is a ditch 4m deep and 9m wide and then a kidney shaped outer bailey 45m long by 18m wide. This site is known as Ha’ hill and is thought to be that of the first Castle. 1

It is probably first mentioned in 1095 as a small stronghold and in 1138 is referred to in connection with the foundation of the Abbey of Newminster. Ranulf de Merley entertained here the eight monks from Fountains Abbey whom he had invited to found a new monastery at Newminster. In the chronicle-poem of Geffrei Gaimar written about 1140, tells us how it was caplured by Rufus in 1095 during his campaign against Robert of Mowbray, the Earle of Northumberland. This timber Castle was probably replaced by a stone tower in the 12th Century and this was destroyed in 1251 by King John and the estate confiscated. It was not rebuilt and later in the century another castle was built on the Hill to the south.2

NZ 200854/Habitable/Access The Castle  On restoration of the estate by the young Henry III in 1218 the Merleys built a new Castle on the larger site on the SE side of the Postern Burn. The Castle passed though marriage to the Greystokes c.1270. It was one of the Greystokes, William known as the Good Baron, who built the Gatehouse. The Castle has passed through many hands but is not considered to have had much of an impact on the history of Northumberland. In 1644 it was decribed as being “ a ruinous hole, not tenable by nature far less by art” Yet so strong was it that a party of Scots who had been left to garrison it by the Parliamentary army were able to stand a siege of twenty days against an army of 2,700 men led by the Marquis of Montrose. The castle came by marriage to the famous “Belted Will” Howard of Naworth Castle whose decendant the Earl ao Carlisle still owns the barony.

1 Mike Salter – The Castles and Tower houses of Northumberland

2 Frank Graham – The Castles of Northumberland

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Morpeth Castle Gatehouse Old Prints