Bowes Castle, County Durham

by David Murray on 9 February 2013

in Castles, Durham, Northern England

Northern Castles Mystery Tour

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a short piece here about Barnard Castle and the Bowes Museum. It occurred to me this morning that, although later last year I visited the nearby village of Bowes and took photos of its castle, I never put any of the the photographs on this Around-England site. So here is a small selection, both from wandering around the site and (thanks to advice from a local gentleman polishing his car just outside the gate to the castle grounds) also from a strategic viewing point up the hill behind the village. I’d have liked to get a shot of the castle looking up the valley toward the Pennines but there wasn’t time to explore further and that will have to wait for another visit.

Bowes Castle - near Barnard Castle, County DurhamBowes Castle, through a long lens from the hillside above the village

Bowes village (and I feel sure the locals won’t mind my saying this) is not spectacularly picturesque – although it does, as will be referred to below, have some interesting characteristics. From the point of view of most visitors the main interest is the castle which was completed in 1187, making it well over eight hundred years old. There is not a lot of it, just the square tower, but it is a solid memorial to the history of Border warfare that plagued this part of Northern England for centuries.

Bowes Castle – A Little History

The castle was built on the site of the Roman fort Lavatris. There was a smaller timber castle there before 1171 when it came into the ownership of King Henry II. Henry wanted a stronger defensive position to guard Stainmore Pass and so the keep was built. It came under attack from King William of Scotland during the Great Revolt of 1173-4 even before it was finished, but survived as relieving English forces arrived from York. As far as is known there were no further extensions following the building of the keep. Read more of the history at English Heritage – Bowes Castle.

Bowes Castle - Northern England
A Closer View of the Remains of Bowes Castle

As the picture below shows the walls were built of a solidity to resist serious attacks. However, the only time that it appears to have suffered defeat was not by an army but by an uprising of aggrieved local tenants against the Earl of Richmond in the early 14th century. “The village of Bowes was built after the castle and formed a planned site running up to the castle, complete with a church and a market place; this form of planned village is .. unusual in England.” [Wikipedia – Bowes Castle]

Bowes Castle wall Bowes Castle – See the thickness of these walls.

In 1987 the local community celebrated the eight hundredth anniversary of the completion of their castle. The plaque below commemorating that event was placed in the boundary wall on the lane between the castle and the church.

Bowes Castle Memorial Plaque Bowes Castle – 800 Years Memorial Plaque

Bowes Castle – A Video

The following video on YouTube was made by Daniel Staniforth in 2011 while walking the Pennine Way. (The weather is not untypical of the region!)

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