About Hylton Castle
Hylton Castle was built first in the eleventh century and then rebuilt in the late fourteenth century as the home of the wealthy Hylton family, a role which it fulfilled until 1746. Today, this gatehouse tower of this stone structure remains a well-preserved ruin and contains some royal artefacts.
Hylton Castle is managed by Sunderland City Council and is an English Heritage site.
Hylton Castle history
Hylton Castle was built by Sir William Hylton as his principal residence in about 1400. The Hylton family had estates in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland and by the 13th century had assumed the title of a barony within the Bishopric of Durham.
The castle was a status symbol and physical representation of the power and connections of the Hylton family for generations. The imposing gatehouse, which is the only building that survives, is decorated with carved stone heraldry, including the arms of the Hyltons and other families, the white hart emblem of Richard II, the banner of Henry IV, and the stars and stripes of the Washington family.
Archaeological investigations and surviving documents suggest that the castle originally had a number of other buildings to the east of the gatehouse, including a hall, chambers, barns and a kitchen.
The Hyltons maintained their rank and wealth until the Civil War. Although some of their influence and wealth had diminished, the family remained prosperous enough to refurbish the interior and add wings to the north and south side of the gatehouse in the first half of the 18th century.
The last Hylton died in 1746 and shortly afterwards the estate was sold. The new owners included Simon Temple and Lady Mary Bowes of Gibside who made their own mark on the building and the dene by landscaping the surrounding area and converting the gatehouse into fine stately home.
in the mid 19th century, the castle entered a new phase with periods of abandonment interspersed with use as a carpenter’s workshop, a farmhouse, and even a boarding school, attended by Joseph Swan, inventor of the lightbulb. William Briggs, a local businessman and shipbuilder, bought the castle in 1862 and made major alterations, giving the gatehouse the gothic appearance it has today.
In 1908 the building was used as offices by the National Coal Board, and it was a training camp for soldiers during World War One. In 1950 it was taken into the care of the State, and is now owned by English Heritage.
Hylton Castle today
The castle is the second oldest building in Sunderland and is a Grade I Listed Building, and together with the adjacent St Catherine’s chapel forms a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Hylton Castle is currently on the Heritage at Risk Register. The site has recently been given a Heritage Lottery Fund award to bring Hylton Castle back into community use.
Getting to Hylton Castle
The castle is around 4 miles west of Sunderland. The site is accessible by public transport with several bus route options. The nearest stations are Seaburn Metro and Pallion Metro.