Lindisfarne Castle

Last updated

Lindisfarne Castle
Holy Island, Northumberland, England
Lindisfarne Castle, a 16th-century fortification made into a family home by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901.
Northumberland UK location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Lindisfarne Castle
Coordinates 55°40′08″N1°47′06″W / 55.669°N 1.785°W / 55.669; -1.785 Coordinates: 55°40′08″N1°47′06″W / 55.669°N 1.785°W / 55.669; -1.785
Grid reference NU135435
Type Castle

Lindisfarne Castle is a 16th-century castle located on Holy Island, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, England, much altered by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1901. The island is accessible from the mainland at low tide by means of a causeway.



The castle is located in what was once the very volatile border area between England and Scotland. Not only did the English and Scots fight, but the area was frequently attacked by Vikings. Lindisfarne's position in the North Sea made it vulnerable to attack from Scots and Norsemen.

Lindisfarne Priory was abandoned between 1536 and 1537 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A small fort was built on the near the priory in around 1550, taking advantage of the island's strategic location. During the construction work, the priory buildings were used as a source of building stone. The castle was built on the highest point of the island, a whinstone hill called Beblowe Crag between 1570 and 1572.

Depiction of the castle in the 1840s Castle on Holy Island from the west (Finden, Gutenburg).jpg
Depiction of the castle in the 1840s

After Henry VIII suppressed the priory, his troops used the remains as a naval store. In 1542 Henry VIII ordered the Earl of Rutland to fortify the site against possible Scottish invasion. By December 1547, Ralph Cleisbye, Captain of the fort, had guns that included a wheel-mounted demi-culverin, 2 brass sakers, a falcon, and another fixed demi-culverin. [1] However, Beblowe Crag itself was not fortified until 1549 and Sir Richard Lee saw only a decayed platform and turf rampart there in 1565. Elizabeth I then had work carried out on the fort, strengthening it and providing gun platforms for the new developments in artillery technology. These works in 1570 and 1571 cost £1191. [2] When James I came to power in England, he combined the Scottish and English thrones, and the need for the castle declined. At this time the castle was still garrisoned from Berwick and protected the small Lindisfarne Harbour.

In the eighteenth century, the castle was occupied briefly by Jacobite rebels, but was quickly recaptured by soldiers from Berwick who imprisoned the rebels; they dug their way out and hid for nine days close to nearby Bamburgh Castle before making good their escape.

The castle during the 2016-2018 renovation Lindisfarne Castle during renovation.jpg
The castle during the 2016-2018 renovation

In later years the castle was used as a coastguard look-out and became something of a tourist attraction. Charles Rennie Mackintosh made a sketch of the old fort in 1901.

In 1901, it became the property of Edward Hudson, a publishing magnate and the owner of Country Life magazine. He had it refurbished in the Arts and Crafts style by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It is said that Hudson and the architect came across the building while touring Northumberland and climbed over the wall to explore inside.

The walled garden, which had originally been the garrison's vegetable plot, was designed by Lutyens' long-time friend and collaborator, Gertrude Jekyll between 1906 and 1912. It is some distance away from the castle itself. Between 2002 and 2006 it was restored to Jekyll's original planting plan which is now held in the Reef Collection at the University of California, Berkeley. The castle, garden and nearby lime kilns have been in the care of the National Trust since 1944 and are open to visitors.

Lutyens used upturned disused boats (herring busses) as sheds. In 2005, two of the boats were destroyed by arson. They were replaced in 2006 and the third boat has now been renovated by the National Trust. The replacement of the two burned boats by two new boat sheds features on a DVD Diary of an Island. This shows a fishing boat from Leith being cut in half in a boatyard in Eyemouth and the two "sheds" being transported to the island and lifted into place by crane.

The Spanish architect Enric Miralles used Lutyens' upturned herring busses as an inspiration for his design of the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh. [3]

The castle was closed for major renovation and restoration works from November 2016 to April 2018. [4]

Lutyens' renovation

Castle entrance Entrance, Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island - - 1232251.jpg
Castle entrance

The entrance to the castle is quite dramatic and involves a steep climb around the rocky base. Lutyens' original slope was unprotected by either rails or fences in an attempt to emphasise the exposed nature of the site. When the future George V and Queen Mary visited in 1908, it is said they were alarmed by the slope and the cobbled surface.

Once inside the castle, the entrance hall is sectioned off by large stone pillars, somewhat reminiscent of a church nave with the dark reddish-brown of the stone contrasting with the whitewashed plasterwork. The space is completed by a bare stone floor.

The kitchen is almost as bare, and is dominated by a large stone fireplace. Here, as at Castle Drogo, Lutyens uses the space in interesting ways. Throughout the castle, he has used stone, brick, slate and wood to create simple forms, and uses textures to demonstrate a rustic, spartan life-style. Despite being a castle it remains a homely space where the human scale is room size, but with incongruous architectural elements. In the scullery there is a tiny window over a stone sink surrounded by the mechanism used to operate the portcullis.

After descending to the dining room one is inside the remnants of the Tudor fort. The vaults here and in the adjacent ship room are entirely functional as they support the gun battery above. The wide chimney-piece contains an old bread-oven; here Lutyens has emphasised the age of the room with Neo-Gothic traceried windows framed by curtains which swing out to lie flat along the wall. One of the end walls is painted a rich Prussian blue, which contrasts with the herring-bone patterned red-brick floor.

Next door is the ship room where a green wall fulfils a similar role. The furniture is in keeping, with much dark wood in the tables and cabinets. The few upholstered chairs and sofas have now faded to gentle tones. The largest bedroom, the east, is bright and airy and again has curtains on pull-out poles. The long gallery was a new space created by Lutyens, intended to echo the grand galleries of Elizabethan and Jacobean houses. The scale is much smaller, but again the use of exposed stone arches and oak beams provides a grand yet rustic feel. Further on, an upper gallery has a raised platform at one end. From here an oak door leads onto the upper battery with its views along the coastline. The music room at the castle was used by Guilhermina Suggia, and a cello is left in the room today to mark her frequent visits.[ citation needed ]

Lindisfarne Castle panorama.jpg
Lindisfarne Castle panorama

Filming location

Lindisfarne Castle has provided a shooting location for a number of films. Roman Polanski's 1966 Cul-de-sac , starring Donald Pleasence, Lionel Stander and Françoise Dorléac, was shot entirely in and around the castle. It serves as the residence for Pleasence and Dorléac's characters. Polanski later returned to the castle to shoot scenes for his The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971), in which it stands in for Glamis Castle. The castle's use in Macbeth inspired the producers of the TV series Cold Feet (1998–2003) to use it as an exterior filming location in one episode, though interior scenes were shot at Hoghton Tower in Lancashire. [5] It was also used as a stand-in for Mont San Pierre in the 1982 film The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Anthony Andrews. In the British television show Wolfblood , filming was done there for an episode. Some external shots of the castle are used in the fourth season of the period television drama Reign .

See also

Related Research Articles

Lindisfarne tidal island in northeast England

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne, commonly known as either Holy Island or Lindisfarne, is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England, which constitutes the civil parish of Holy Island in Northumberland. Holy Island has a recorded history from the 6th century AD; it was an important centre of Celtic Christianity under Saints Aidan of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert, Eadfrith of Lindisfarne and Eadberht of Lindisfarne. After the Viking invasions and the Norman conquest of England, a priory was reestablished. A small castle was built on the island in 1550.

Northumberland County of England

Northumberland is a ceremonial county and historic county in North East England. It is bordered by Cumbria to the west, County Durham and Tyne and Wear to the south and the Scottish Borders to the north. To the east is the North Sea coastline with a path 103 kilometres (64 mi) long. The county town is Alnwick. The county is administered as a unitary authority by Northumberland County Council, headquartered in Morpeth.

Edwin Lutyens British architect

Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was an English architect known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era. He designed many English country houses, war memorials and public buildings. In his biography, the writer Christopher Hussey wrote, "In his lifetime (Lutyens) was widely held to be our greatest architect since Wren if not, as many maintained, his superior". The architectural historian Gavin Stamp described him as "surely the greatest British architect of the twentieth century".

Alnwick Human settlement in England

Alnwick is a market town in Northumberland, England, of which it is the traditional county town. The population at the 2011 Census was 8,116.

Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo is a country house and mixed-revivalist castle near Drewsteignton, Devon, England. Constructed between 1911 and 1930, it was the last castle to be built in England. The client was Julius Drewe, the hugely successful founder of the Home and Colonial Stores. Drewe chose the site in the belief that it formed part of the lands of his supposed medieval ancestor, Drogo de Teigne. The architect he chose to realise his dream was Edwin Lutyens, then at the height of his career. Lutyens lamented Drewe's determination to have a castle but nevertheless produced one of his finest buildings. The architectural critic, Christopher Hussey, described the result: "The ultimate justification of Drogo is that it does not pretend to be a castle. It is a castle, as a castle is built, of granite, on a mountain, in the twentieth century".

Gertrude Jekyll British garden designer and writer

Gertrude Jekyll was a British horticulturist, garden designer, craftswoman, photographer, writer and artist. She created over 400 gardens in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States, and wrote over 1,000 articles for magazines such as Country Life and William Robinson's The Garden. Jekyll has been described as "a premier influence in garden design" by British and American gardening enthusiasts.

Norham Human settlement in England

Norham is a village and civil parish in Northumberland, England, It is located 7 miles (11 km) south-west of Berwick on the south side of the River Tweed where it is the border with Scotland.

Tynemouth Castle and Priory

Tynemouth Castle is located on a rocky headland, overlooking Tynemouth Pier. The moated castle-towers, gatehouse and keep are combined with the ruins of the Benedictine priory where early kings of Northumbria were buried. The coat of arms of the town of Tynemouth still includes three crowns commemorating the tradition that the Priory had been the burial place for three kings.

History of Northumberland

Northumberland, England's northernmost county, is a land where Roman occupiers once guarded a walled frontier, Anglian invaders fought with Celtic natives, and Norman lords built castles to suppress rebellion and defend a contested border with Scotland. The present-day county is a vestige of an independent kingdom that once stretched from Edinburgh to the Humber, hence its name, meaning literally 'north of the Humber'. Reflecting its tumultuous past, Northumberland has more castles than any other county, and the greatest number of recognised battle sites. Once an economically important region that supplied much of the coal that powered the industrial revolution, Northumberland is now a primarily rural county with a small and gradually shrinking population.

This timeline summarises significant events in the history of Northumbria and Northumberland.

Edward Burgess Hudson (1854–1936) was the founder of Country Life magazine in 1897.

Whalton Manor

Whalton Manor is a house in the village of Whalton, Northumberland, England. It is a grade II listed building. The house dates from the 17th century but was substantially altered by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1908, at the same time as he was working on Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island.

Munstead Wood

Munstead Wood is a Grade I listed house and garden in Munstead Heath, Busbridge on the boundary of the town of Godalming in Surrey, England, 1 mile (1.6 km) south-east of the town centre. The garden was created first, by garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, and became widely known through her books and prolific articles in magazines such as Country Life. The Arts and Crafts style house, in which Jekyll lived from 1897 to 1932, was designed by architect Edwin Lutyens to complement the garden.

Orchards, Surrey

Orchards is an Arts and Crafts style house in Bramley in Surrey, England. It is on Bramley's boundary with Busbridge and 1 mile (1.6 km) south-east of Godalming town centre. Described by English Heritage as the first major work of architect Edwin Lutyens, it is a Grade I listed building. The gardens are Grade II* listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. The property is privately owned.

Heathcote, Ilkley

Heathcote is a Neoclassical style villa in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, England. Designed by architect Edwin Lutyens, it was his first comprehensive use of that style, making it the precursor of his later public buildings in Edwardian Baroque style and those of New Delhi. It was completed in 1908.

Tigbourne Court

Tigbourne Court is an Arts and Crafts style country house in Wormley, Surrey, England, 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Witley. It was designed by architect Edwin Lutyens, using a mixture of 17th-century style vernacular architecture and classical elements, and has been called "probably his best" building, for its architectural geometry, wit and texture. It was completed in 1901. English Heritage have designated it a Grade I listed building.

Folly Farm, Sulhamstead

Folly Farm is an Arts and Crafts style country house in Sulhamstead, West Berkshire, England. Built around a small farmhouse dating to c. 1650, the house was substantially extended in William and Mary style by architect Edwin Lutyens c. 1906, and further extended by him in vernacular style c. 1912. It is a Grade I listed building. The gardens, designed by Lutyens and Gertrude Jekyll, are Grade II* listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. They are among the best-known gardens of the Lutyens/Jekyll partnership.

Holy Island War Memorial

Holy Island War Memorial, or Lindisfarne War Memorial, is a First World War memorial on the tidal island of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumberland in the far north east of England. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the memorial is a grade II* listed building.


Nashdom, also known as Nashdom Abbey, is a former country house and former Anglican Benedictine abbey in Burnham, Buckinghamshire, England. Designed in Neo-Georgian style by architect Edwin Lutyens, it is a Grade II* listed building. It was converted into apartments in 1997. The gardens are Grade II listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Hartburn War Memorial

Hartburn War Memorial is a First World War Memorial in the village of Hartburn, Northumberland, in the north-east of England. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was unveiled in 1921 and is today a grade II listed building.


  1. Starkey, David, ed., The Inventory of Henry VIII, vol. 1, Society of Antiquaries, (1998), 134.
  2. Colvin, Howard, ed., The History of the King's Works, vol. 4 part 2, HMSO (1982), 674–679.
  3. BBC NEWS | Scotland | Scots Parliament architect dies
  4. "World famous Lindisfarne Castle to close for 18 months for conservation work - Chronicle Live".
  5. Tibballs, Geoff (2000). Cold Feet: The Best Bits…. London: Granada Media: p. 211. ISBN   0-233-99924-8.