Alnwick Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

07 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is one of the largest castle complexes in England and has been the historic home of the famous Percy family for over 700 years. Known to some as the ‘Windsor of the North’, Alnwick provides a magnificent glimpse into England’s medieval past through the footsteps of some of its most notable players.

Alnwick Castle history

Alnwick Castle was first founded in 1096 by Norman nobleman Ivo de Vesci, and in its early life faced frequent bombardment by the Scots, including its capture in 1136 by David I of Scotland. In 1215, Alnwick was ordered to be demolished by King John following accusations that Eustace de Vesci, Ivo’s great-grandson, was plotting against him – thankfully these were never carried out!

In the 14th century it was sold to the Percy family who undertook substantial building projects, transforming Alnwick into a major fortress along the Scottish border. From political clout and military achievement, to scandalous romance and gunpowder plotting, the Percys have long been powerful yet rebellious players on the stage of England’s history.

One of the most famous members of the family was Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, a fierce knight immortalised in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV. In 1403 he died in battle leading a rebellion against Henry IV, and his statue stands at Alnwick Castle today.

Other rebellious Percys include Hotspur’s father, 1st Earl Northumberland who helped to depose Richard II, 7th Earl Northumberland who lead the Northern Rising against Henry VIII in 1536, and Thomas Percy, one of the infamous Gunpowder Plotters of 1605! In another charming tale of Percy lore, Henry Percy, 6th Earl of Northumberland once intended to marry Anne Boleyn, a union that evoked scandal and was duly separated before Boleyn infamously married Henry VIII.

Alnwick Castle itself saw much action over the years, including during the Wars of the Roses in which it was jostled between the Yorkists and Lancastrians many times before being returned to the Percys upon their sworn allegiance to Edward IV.

Alnwick Castle today

Today Alnwick Castle remains the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, with its current owner too a member of the Percy family. Visitors are invited to explore the castle’s impressive picture collection, chapel, and series of museums weaved throughout that celebrate the history of both Alnwick Castle and the wider Northumberland area. Ancient artefacts from the family’s archaeological exploits may also be viewed, such as frescoes from Pompeii and relics from Ancient Egypt.

The adjacent Alnwick Garden provides a further intriguing visit, featuring a poison garden, cascade fountain, and one of the country’s biggest treehouse complexes!

More recently, Alnwick has also become known as the film set of the Harry Potter series, with seasonal tours and themed activities – broomstick training and archery to name but a few – taking place for fans of the franchise.

Getting to Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is located in Northumberland off the A1 and is well signposted, with a car park available on Denwick Lane. The nearest train station is Almouth, a 10-minute drive away, while the nearest bus station is in Alnwick, a 5-minute walk away.

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