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 [...]
One feature of the English landscape is the number of old castles. Some of these go back a thousand years; others are more recent.
In the northern border regions and along the coastline these were mostly built as defensive fortresses, especially during centuries when there was a seemingly perpetual threat of war. At other times they were built more as statements of power and prestige. Some, once the strongholds of feudal baronies, gradually became business headquarters as well as homes for major landowning families, a kind of equivalent to the corporate headquarters found to day in the City of London.
Castles, like other historic houses, have thrived and declined and thrived again in line with cycles in the national economy over many centuries. Many ancient fortresses are nowadays little more than interesting ruined shells whilst others have been well preserved. Some are in private ownership whilst others are cared for by bodies such as the National Trust and English Heritage. A large proportion are open to visitors, often around the year although in some cases only at specified times. This can depend on other uses of the buildings either as private homes or as businesses such as hotels.