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Bamburgh History

Below is a brief summary of the Historical Background of Bamburgh In the prehistoric period Northumbria looked very different from the county we know today. The sea level was lower and areas which are now on the coast were actually inland.

At the end of the ice age the people who inhabited the region were hunter-gatherers who lived nomadic lives traveling around in small groups and evidence of the tools they used has been found in Bamburgh. By the

Neolithic period people started to farm the area and stone tools have been found at Bamburgh & Glorurum. During the Bronze age the landscape had become more settled with increased deforestation and the creation of field systems.By around 550 AD the Anglo Saxons from the continent expanded northwards and control passed to the Anglican King, Ida.

The British territorial name of Bryneich (Bernicia), was retained by Ida, as was the British name of the stronghold at Bamburgh, Din Guaroy, from where Ida and his successors ruled. Later it became Bebbanburg after the Saxon Queen Bebba and finally Bamburgh. Aidan came to Bamburgh from the monastery of Iona in 635, at the request of King Oswald who sent for a monk to preach the Christian faith in Northumbria.

Aidan immediately built a wooden church, somewhere in the vicinity of St Aidans Church. He died in 651, resting against an outer buttress of the church (this timber buttress survived two subsequent fires, and tradition says that it is now incorporated in the roof above the font). From this place, Christianity spread throughout Northern England.

A medieval village developed around the foot of the Castle, and a Dominican Friary (dating from 1256) was built in what is now the western part of the village. Among the friars charitable activities was a lepers hospital, but this closed in the 14th century and its site remains uncertain. The Friary acquired extensive lands, which flourished until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1545 when all their property was seized by Henry VIII and sold to Sir John Forster for the princely sum of £664.

Under the ownership of the Forster family (who lived in Bamburgh Hall) the castle gradually fell into disrepair and became little more than a ruin, but in the 18th century it came under the ownership of Lord Nathaniel Crewe, Bishop of Durham. He began the long process of restoration, but soon died and work was continued by the charitable trust that bears his name. The Lord Crewe Trust rebuilt much of the village and created a 'welfare state' for the inhabitants which provided a school, a dispensary, a hospital, a coastguard service, a lifeboat and a welfare centre for the shipwrecked mariners. By the 1880's the trust was in difficulties and in 1894 sold the Castle, village and estate lands to Lord Armstrong of Cragside, who devoted much of his later life to the restoration of the castle.

When he died in 1900 the work continued in the hands of his heir - Lord Armstrong of Bamburgh. The magnificent restoration of the castle has made it a major tourist attraction and it has become a desirable venue for weddings. Archaeologists have been investigating the castle since the late 1950's and the Bamburgh Research Project continues to try and decipher 5000 years of occupation of the castle rock. "When the Bamburgh Research project started their investigation at the Castle ten years ago. Little did we know that one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in the world was about to be discovered" Francis Watson Armstrong of Bamburgh Castle.

A recent publication has put together their findings to date together with information from other leading archaeologists and specialists in the Geology and natural environment of Bamburgh. This book is available from local shops and businesses in Bamburgh.