Newcastle Keep Essay

a) Newcastle Keep was the first Castle to be built on old Fort Ruins in Newcastle. Robert, who was the son of William the Conqueror, built Newcastle Keep 1080. Newcastle keep was built to protect the last bridging point over the River Tyne. The bridge was the last crossing over the River Tyne before reaching the sea; this was because as the River got closer to the sea, the River became too wide to build across. The Castle was built to protect the bridge from the Scots because this bridge held the main route between England and Scotland. There were seventeen other Castles built in England to protect the country from the attacking Scots as well, these include Warkworth and Bamburgh. When Newcastle Keep was built, the Normans were talking over England. So Newcastle Keep was used to protect the Normans while they gained control of the local people.

Newcastle Keep was built in a specific position in Newcastle. It was built upon a high hill overlooking the bridge and the River Tyne; this was a good geographical and defensive tactic. If the Castle is on a high hill you can see for miles and you can spot attackers coming towards your castle and stop them. Also it is hard for attackers to climb up a steep hill to get to your Castle. The castle was built next to the river; this is a good place to build a Castle because when boats and ships come along the river, the Castle would send out Taxmen to collect tax from the transport progressing up the river.

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Newcastle Keep was developed quite a bit in the time of 1168-1178. In this time Henry ii rebuilt the defence wall of the Castle in stone, this cost �1144. He also provided many other things, these included, the Keep, a Gatehouse built near the Keep, and a stone Curtain Wall. Later in the 13th Century King John was responsible for providing the Aisled Hall, also Henry iii added the Black Gate, which cost him �500 in 1247-50.

b) Unfortunately Newcastle Keep started to decline in 1280 when the town walls were built around the town. Newcastle Keep was built in the centre of the town and the walls were built around the outside about 100 yards away from the castle. When soldiers came to attack Newcastle Keep, they were too busy trying to get past the town walls and did not really care about the Castle anymore. The Castle became less important because of the walls being built, so the Castle “was left to decay”; this was a quote by the Sheriff of Northumberland in a 1334 report. This was a local reason why the castle declined.

Newcastle was a part of Northumberland in the days when Newcastle Keep was constructed, and because Newcastle Keep was receiving all of the taxes from everyone going up and down the river, Northumberland complained. When Northumberland complained about Newcastle, in return the allowed Northumberland to use the Castle for whatever they wanted. The local townspeople of Newcastle were not happy with Northumberland being allowed to use their Castle, this started off a debate. Northumberland were using Newcastle Keep as a jail for criminals. So another reason why Newcastle Keep declined was because nobody really cared about the criminals so Newcastle Keep was left to rot and decay, and in 1589 Queen Elizabeth stated “There is an old and ruinous Castle in our town of Newcastle.” So the debate and arguing led to the decline of Newcastle Keep. This was also a local reason for the Castle declining.

Newcastle Keep was built to protect England from Scotland attacking, but in 1603 England and Scotland united as one. When they united there was no point in looking after the Castle because Newcastle didn’t need protecting anymore. As the Castle was not looked after anymore it began to decline and a dunghill started to build up in the Castle grounds, the dunghill was 98 yards long, 32 yards wide and 10 yards deep. This dunghill became very heavy and put a huge amount of pressure on the wall of the west side of the Castle, this therefore weakened the Castle and also led to the decline of Newcastle Keep. England and Scotland united as one and this led to the Castle not needed to be looked after anymore and led to the decline of the Castle. This was a regional reason for the Castle declining.

Another reason why Newcastle Keep declined was, in 1644 there was a Civil war in which the Castle was severely damaged and battered. This made the Castle worse as it was very weak and badly damaged, so it was left to decay again. This was a national reason for the Castle declining.

In the 18th and 19th Century, Newcastle was the centre of the Industrial Revolution. More space was needed to build things such as shops, railways, hotels etc, so Newcastle Keep was left to decline as the Castle walls were removed to allow the building to take place. The Industrial Revolution was a reason why Newcastle Keep was left and destroyed. Around Newcastle Keep now are railway lines, pubs, hotels, shops, garages, car parks etc. So another reason why Newcastle Keep declined was the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th Century. This was also a national reason for Newcastle Keep declining.

c) Newcastle Keep is a very atypical Castle in terms of style, as there is evidence of it being square keep and transitional style. A square keep style Castle has square shaped towers on each corner and has Norman style windows and archways. The square keep style Castles were built in 1100-1200 and were the first style of stone Castle after the wooden Motte and Bailey.

A transitional style Castle has rounded corners; this style was around in 1200-1300.

Newcastle Keep is so atypical that even Historians are arguing and disagreeing about the style of the Castle. Barbara Harbottle stated that it was a square keep Castle in ‘The Castle of Newcastle Upon Tyne’, however Frank Graham said that Newcastle Keep was transitional style, in a book about Newcastle City. No one could decide whether Newcastle Keep was a square keep castle or a transitional style Castle because in 1168-1178 when Newcastle Keep was first built the Castle was definitely a square keep style Castle.

This was because each corner of the Castle was square, and the time it was built in was the square keep style building time, this shows that it was a square keep Castle. However by 1247-1250, when people realised that rivers apart from the Northwest corner surrounded Newcastle Keep and the Northwest corner was always being attacked, did they rebuild the Northwest corner of the Castle into a round tower. This made the Castle stronger and also made the Castle transitional, also the round tower was constructed in the transitional style time of building in 1200-1300. Newcastle Keep became more transitional style later when the Black Gate was added in 1247-1250.

We know that Newcastle Keep was either square keep or transitional from our visit to Newcastle Keep. When in and around Newcastle Keep we spotted some square keep style features such as machicolations, this shows that it is square keep. We also spotted some Norman archways and windows, which were built between 1066-1200 in the main entrance to the Castle, the chapel and in the main hall, hence making it square keep.

These pictures show that

Newcastle Keep is a square

Keep style Castle.

However we also saw some transitional style features in and around Newcastle Keep. These were the rounded tower in the Northwest corner and the Black Gate also in the Northwest corner of the Castle. We also saw a drawbridge, portcullis and gatehouses. There were Early English windows, which were built between 1200-1300.

These pictures show the Early English windows and archways and the rounded tower in the Northwest corner of the Castle.

No one really knows exactly what style of Castle Newcastle Keep is because it has very distinctive square keep and transitional style features.

d) Newcastle Keep is very typical of Castles, and it has lots of typical features about it. When Newcastle Keep was first built, the purpose of it was to protect and defend the country. This is the same reason for the building of seventeen other Castle in Northumberland, for example Warkworth Castle. Robert built Newcastle Keep in 1080 and it was built to protect the English while they gained control of the local people, this is also typical of Castles because when we visited Warkworth Castle we spotted old ruins of living quarters, this shows that someone used to live there.

Warwick Castle and the Tower of London for example were also used to take control of the local’s. The sit that Newcastle Keep is built on and is surrounded by is very typical and normal. This is because it was built on a large hill surrounded by rivers, which protected the Castle; these rivers are called the Tyne, Pandon Burn and Lort Burn. Durham Castle and Warkworth Castle were also built upon hills surrounded and protected by rivers; this shows that Newcastle Keep is an ordinary Castle.

Over the years Newcastle Keep needed developing, King John built a new Great Hall and King Henry built a new stone Keep and Gatehouse onto the Castle. Other Castles such as Warkworth were also being developed. We know this because when we visited Warkworth Castle we learned that two new sets of living quarters and a new Keep had been added to improve the Castle, development was also taking place in other Castles all over the country so this makes Newcastle Keep very typical.

However Newcastle Keep is also atypical in some ways. Due to the realisation of the weakness of the Northwest corner of the Castle in around 1200, Newcastle Keep had to be developed. The Northwest corner was strengthened as a transitional style rounded corner/tower was rebuilt; this made Newcastle Keep a mix of styles, square keep and transitional. This was unusual because all of the other Castles such as Warkworth and Durham were either square keep or transitional.

Newcastle Keep

Warkworth Castle

Another reason why Newcastle Keep is atypical is because of the early decline of the Castle. In 1280 the town walls were built around Newcastle protecting it from attackers, this made Newcastle Keep become less important. The early decline of Newcastle Keep made it atypical because while Newcastle Keep was decaying other Castles like Warkworth were developing and improving. Warkworth developed in the 14th Century as a new Keep was added. Warkworth Castle was very important for all of the duration it was used; it was that important it was used for Royal visits and as a setting in one of Shakespeare’s plays. This is totally the opposite of Newcastle Keep. Newcastle Keep was unimportant and insignificant so anther reason why Newcastle Keep is very atypical and different to other Castles is it’s lack of importance. The only time Newcastle Keep was important was in 1292 when the King of England and the King of Scotland joined as one and reconciled in Newcastle Keep.

So looking at this Newcastle Keep is very typical and also atypical compared to other Castle.

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