Chillingham Castle

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Coordinates: 55°31′34″N 1°54′18″W / 55.526°N 1.905°W / 55.526; -1.905

Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle.jpg
The castle in 2005
Chillingham Castle is located in Northumberland
Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle
Chillingham Castle shown within Northumberland
OS grid reference NU060257
List of places

Chillingham Castle is a medieval fortress in the village of Chillingham in England's north Northumberland. From the late 1200s Chillingham was the seat of the Grey family. The Greys were created Earls of Tankerville in 1417,for capturing the Norman castle of Tancarville in 1409 and, since 1980, the Castle has been the home of Sir Humphry Wakefield Bt.who is married to a member of the original Grey family. A large enclosed park adjacent to the castle grounds is home to Chillingham's Wild White Cattle. The herd consists of some hundred head of cattle which are the only surviving wild cattle in the world. The Castle is a starred Grade 1 listed building.[1]


The Castle was built adjoining a monastery, with surviving walls in the gardens. In 1298 King Edward I of England stayed at the castle on his way to conquer a Scottish army led by William Wallace. A glazed window, in a frame, was specially installed for the king, a rarity in such buildings at the time. The original 'Licence to Crennelate' the Castle is displayed, dated 1344 and sent from the Wakefield Tower in the Tower of London complex.

The Castle occupied a strategically important location in mediaeval times being located on the border between two feuding nations. It was repeatedly attacked and besieged by Scottish armies and raiding parties as well as by rival English factiuons. There are many fortifications apparent in the structures and some fortified walls are built to 15 feet in depth to counter the newly arrived cannon fire of the late 1400s .

The building underwent constant enhancements as the defences of the Castle adjusted to the times. In 1344 the 'Licence to crenellate' was issued by King Edward III, permitting battlements and effectively upgrading the stronghold to a fully fortified castle of four towered form.

The four towers were joined, with some palatial rooms, in the late 1500s in preparation for an intended visit by James V1 of Scotland on his way to claim the English crown. In 1617 James I of England, the first king of both England and Scotland, stayed at the castle on a journey between his two kingdoms. 1n 1640 King Charles 1st stayed at Chillingham in his royal father's rooms, Alnwick Castle being a ruin at the time.

In the 18th century the Chillingham landscape was shaped according to the ideas of Northumberland's 'Capability' Brown. The 19th century saw gardens laid out by Sir Jeffry Wyatville to receive decorative urns presented to the family by King Louis Philippe Of France.

During the Second World War, the Castle housed Canadian soldiers. A fire in the North wing caused damage with was restore to the direction of a distinguished architect and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Albert Richardson. In 1933 the family left the Castle to live in the village. In 1982, the Castle was gifted to Sir Humphry Wakefield who purchased the surrounding lands. Sir Humphry's wife Katherine is daughter to the former Lady Mary Grey and so descended from the Greys of Chillingham. The Castle remains a family home open to the public. Holiday apartments are available for hire.

Chillingham's ghosts[edit]

Lady Mary Berkeley, whose ghost may be heard in the castle – very faintly

The Castle is said to be the most haunted Castle in Britain.[2][3] It has been investigated on television and radio (namely, Most Haunted,[4] I'm Famous and Frightened!, Scariest Places On Earth, Holiday Showdown, Alan Robson's Nightowls), Ghost Hunters International, and is the subject and setting of the documentary, A Blood Red Sky (2013). Some of these ghosts are written about are referred to in a 1925 pamphlet by Leonora, Countess of Tankerville.

The most famous ghost of the castle is the "blue (or radiant) boy", who according to the owners and others haunts the Pink Room in the castle.[5] Guests report seeing blue flashes and a blue "halo" of light above their beds after a loud wail. It is claimed that the hauntings ceased after renovation work revealed a man and a young boy inside a 10-foot-thick (3.0-metre) wall. Documents dating back to the Spanish Armada were also found within the wall.

In Literature[edit]

In the novel The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) by Sir Walter Scott, Chillingham Castle is singled out as a last refuge for an ancient breed of Scottish cattle. The castle and cattle served as inspiration for Eva Ibbotson's 2005 children's book, The Beasts of Clawstone Castle.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chillingham Castle", Heritage Gateway website, Heritage Gateway (English Heritage, Institute of Historic Building Conservation and ALGAO:England), 2006, retrieved 2010-08-06 
  2. ^ Chillingham Castle
  3. ^ The ghosts of a chance - Telegraph
  4. ^ Castle's ghostly reputation leads to expansion plans - Local Headlines - Berwick Advertiser
  5. ^ Northumberland: Castle's knight in shining armour - Telegraph
  6. ^ Whetstone, David (17 May 2005). "Eva just gets better". The Journal. Newcastle Upon Tyne. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  7. ^ "Obituary: Eva Ibbotson". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. 25 October 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 

External links[edit]