I live in Middlesbrough. This steel working town is situated at the mouth of the Tees. And the River Tees meanders past a historic village and its equally historic Castle.
(The River Tees)
The Castle sits loftily upon a rock above the village that sprang up around its environs.
The village takes its name from the Castle – Barnard Castle.
To truly appreciate its majesty - try looking up from below.
There are still some old buildings that can still conjure up a picture in medieval history.
A pub (short for public house ) selling alcoholic beverages – the Golden Lion - established in 1679 listing itself as the oldest pub.
There is an octagonal building known locally as the ‘Butter market’ in the High Street.
This building was officially the Market Cross but got the name from the fact that it sheltered Farmers wives who sold their dairy produce every market day.
(The Butter Market)
In the 12th Century Barnard Castle ( or rather Bernard’s Castle) is built by Bernard de Balliol on the site of an earlier position of defence which is associated with Guy de Balliol who apparently was a Knight from Picardy. Bernard’s son extended it.
Guy and his wife Devorguilla made donations and funds available for establishing Balliol College in Oxford.
History then goes on to reveal a siege by Alexander II who is listed as the King of Scots.
After a period of some time it passed into the hands of Richard III. Barnard Castle was one of his favourite residences and his boar can be seen carved in stone on a part of the Castle.
A further two centuries sees another family had possession they were named Neville and while it was in their possession they too both improved and enlarged it.
Unfortunately, due to their involvement in the rebellion called the Rising of the North.
The Castle and lands were taken away as a punishment.
By 1626 the Crown sells the Castle and the lands of Raby Castle to Sir Henry Vane.
Unfortunately, Sir Henry preferred Raby Castle and decided to stay there and Barnard Castle was now being abandoned and having the further indignity of having its masonry removed to repair and improve Raby Castle.
If you look at the ruins of the multitude of those Castles available you cannot help but wonder what it was like to live around that time.
It wasn’t enough to be rich to pay for the Castle upkeep but it also very much depended on whose side you chose to defend. Choose the wrong one and you could find yourself literally out in the cold.
Alliances had to be carefully chosen if you wanted to keep your goods and chattels.
Then of course there was the defence of the property against those forces that wished to wrest it from you.
On the whole, I think it would have been a very trying and stressful time to be living in.
History, is never a dull subject. Visiting Castles or Abbeys is a study of living at a particular time. It gives the viewer an overview of the unrest and inequality of individuals who were occupying all walks of life in the Middle Ages.
Perhaps, as a result we can see parallels with our own time.
For a more comprehensive history of Barnard Castle please follow the link to
For a more in depth history of the people associated with Barnard Castle I would suggest a
Genealogy of the Balliol family found on the internet.
Reference Balliol family
A Note from Will: As I was researching this castle I noticed a wonderful thing about the city and the area all around the castle. I wrote an article called "The Words around Barnard Castle" You can check it out here.
Ruined Abbeys and Castles of Great Britain
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