Dating from the 11th century, the timber motte castle at Alnwick was reconstructed of stone during the early part of the 12th century. However, it was a further 200 years before the castle began to take on the resplendent appearance that it is now such a familiar sight.
When Henry Percy bought Alnwick Castle in 1309, he and his son set about shaping it into a dominant stronghold by strengthening the curtain walls, creating numerous flanking towers, adding gatehouses to both the inner and outer baileys, as well as constructing a barbican for further fortification.
Alnwick Castle – Looking towards the Dining Room across the inner bailey with Constable’s Tower to the right The Wars of the Roses and the Civil War took their toll on Alnwick Castle, and some 400 years later it had fallen into a state of decay. However, during the 18th century the abandoned castle was transformed into a comfortable country mansion under the guidance of Robert Adam, renowned for his Gothic architecture. Vast amounts of restoration work were carried out, even to the extent of the keep being reduced to foundation level and rebuilt in places. Some buildings were completely remodelled or replaced, and new ones were added. New landscapes were created and the site of the medieval garderobes was rebuilt as a gateway from the castle into the new gardens.
Internally, most of Adam’s work was superseded in the late 19th century when the 4th Duke of Northumberland had palatial interiors created in the fashionable classical Italian designs. The medieval great hall was retained as the principal dining room. In the Prudhoe Tower, a luxurious library housing some 16,000 volumes of work occupies the whole of one floor. In fact, the entire castle is a showpiece of Victorian extravagance – from its fine art collections and gilded furniture, to its lavish mosaic floors and stucco ceilings.
Alnwick Castle can justly be described as gloriously majestic. Its impressive strength and imposing appearance are offset by the intricate attention to detail as seen in the decorative archways, shields and stone-carved figures that adorn the walls, gateways and battlements.