26 Facts About Alnwick Castle

interesting facts about alnwick castle

This castle is not just famous for the building itself, but also for the amazing garden that faces it. In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Alnwick Castle, one of the most amazing castles in England.

Interesting facts about Alnwick Castle

1. Where is Alnwick Castle located?

Alnwick Castle is strategically located near the River Aln in the English town of Alnwick, a small market town.

This town is located in the county of Northumberland, a county bordering Scotland in the north of England.

Alnwick Castle and Alnwick / Tagishsimon / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

2. The first building dates back to the 11th century

It was the Baron of Alnwick at the time, Yves de Vescy, who built the first parts of the castles in the 11th century, approximately the year 1196.

The Baron, also sometimes referred to as “Ivo de Vesci” or “Yves de Vesci” is believed to have been a descendant of Robert de Vesci.

Robert participated in the Norman conquest of England and was awarded lands in Northumberland, Northampton, Lincoln, and Warwick (where Warwick Castle was built).

facts about Alnwick Castle

3. The creator of the Castle was French

Ivo de Vescy, who created Alnwick Castle in the late 11th century, was a French nobleman. The village that he was born was Vassy, in the Calvados department of the french Normandy region.

Through his marriage with Beatrix de Vescy, he gained the Baronies of both Malton and Alnwick.

4. Why was Alnwick Castle built?

Alnwick Castle was built to defend the area against invasions from the Scots. This proved to be a smart move because multiple invasions happened in the 12th century.

Alnwick Castle information

5. Alnwick Castle was attacked multiple times

The first time Alnwick Castle was mentioned was during the first siege of the castle by King David I of Scotland in 1136.

The castle was attacked 2 more times by William the Lion, King of Scotland. The first time in 1172 and again in 1174.

6. This was the last time the Scots attacked northern England

William the Lion was captured in Alnwick and brought to Normandy where he signed the “Treaty of Falaise,” which temporarily ended the invasions of Scots in northern England.

This treaty was Annulled in 1189 by Richard the Lionheart when he sold Northumberland back to Scotland, which included Alnwick Castle. This was done to help fund Richard’s crusade in the Holy Land.

In 1237, Alnwick Castle became part of England again as King Alexander II of Scotland abandoned the area. The “Treaty of York” permanently set the boundary between the two countries.

Richard the Lionheart
Richard the Lionheart / Wiki Commons

7. A young heir made the de Vesci’s lose Alnwick Castle

At a point in the 13th century, the only heir to Alnwick Castle was John de Vesci, who was underage at the time.

For this reason, Henry III, King of England, conferred the guardianship of the castle to Anthony Bek, a local Bishop.

This bishop, however, sold the castle to the Percy Family in 1309. The Percy family still owns the castle until today.

Henry III
Henry III was the reason the Percy family could buy the castle / Source

8. Alnwick Castle is the current seat of the 12th Duke of Alnwick

Ever since 1309, the castle has been passed on to heirs of the Percy family. This means that the current owner of Alnwick Castle is Ralph George Algernon Percy, 12th Duke of Northumberland.

The 12th Duke and his family also have their seat in the castle, even though they only occupy a part of it as the rest of the castle can be visited by the public.

Duke of Alnwick
Duke of Alnwick in 1997 / Allen Warran / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

9. Alnwick Castle is in permanent renovation

Ever since the Percy family bought the Alnwick Castle, it has been under constant renovation. It started with Henry Percy who already started rebuilding it the moment he bought the modest castle in 1309.

The initial major renovation was completed by his son, who was also named Henry and who was the 1st Earl of Northumberland. The castle was turned into a major fortification along the England-Scotland border.

The Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower survive from this period.

Alnwick Castle renovations

10. The layout of the castle dates back to the 12th century

Even though the castle has seen numerous renovations over the centuries, it has kept the same layout since it was enhanced in the 12th century.

One of the most interesting facts about Alnwick Castle is that it was built without a square keep, unlike just about any other castle from this time period.

Alnwick Castle Facts

11. It was once abandoned

In the 16th century, the castle became abandoned and was even temporarily used as a prison.

It wasn’t until the second half of the 18th century that the work to maintain the castle was continued by the Percy family, who were elevated to “Dukes” in 1766 by King George III.

facts about alnwick castle

12. It’s a popular tourist destination

Alnwick Castle is one of the most visited castles in all of Britain, welcoming an average of 800,000 visitors every year.

These numbers have grown exponentially ever since 2012, and the numbers include visitors of the attraction adjacent to the castle, the Alnwick Garden.

Alnwick Castle tourist destination

13. Alnwick Castle is a popular filming location

Numerous movies and TV-shows have been shot at Alnwick Castle as it offers the perfect setting to make medieval castles come to live.

Some of the most famous are the first two Harry Potter movies, Transformers: The Last Knight, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Elizabeth.

It also starred as the amazing Brancaster Castle in two Christmas specials of the popular drama series Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey
Downton Abbey was partially filmed at the castle / Source

14. The Alnwick Garden is part of the castle

Adjacent to the castle you can visit the Alnwick Garden, an amazing garden built around a cascading fountain.

It’s estimated to have cost £42 million in 2003 and was commissioned by the wife of the 12th Duke of Northumberland, Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland.

The garden itself is owned by a charitable trust, and the Duke has donated an area of 42-acre (17 ha) and £9 million to it in order for the garden to be constructed.

alnwick Garden
Alnwick Garden and fountain / TSP / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

Quick facts about Alnwick Castle

15. Alnwick has been listed as a Grade I building by the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens since February 20, 1952.

16. The Percy family also acquired the nearby Warkworth Castle in 1345. Even though Alnwick Castle was considered to be more prestigious, they actually preferred to live there.

17. It is the second-largest inhabited castle in England. The largest inhabited castle in England is Windsor Castle. Therefore it is sometimes referred to as “The Windsor of the North.”

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in England.

18. The crew of Downtown Abbey spent 2 weeks at Alnwick Castle in July and August of 2014 in order to film the episodes.

19. The towers of the castle exhibit various historical artifacts which include frescoes from Pompeii, relics from Ancient Egypt and Romano-British objects.

20. Both the interior and the exterior of Alnwick Castle was used in the first two Harry Potter films to portray the Hogwarts.

Hogwarts castle

21. The castle has a huge library that contains over 16,000 cataloged books. This library was started over 400 years ago.

22. It has over 150 rooms, but only 6 are open to the public during guided tours. Some of the are the State Rooms, Drawing Room, Dining Room, and Library.

23. At the moment this article is published, the castle has been featured in 41 movies and television programs.

24. The Alnwick Garden has an amazing treehouse that you can visit by traveling across rope bridges and walkways. Inside the treehouse, you can find a restaurant, bar and an amazing fireplace.

Alnwick Garden Treehouse

25. The castle was a perfect fortification as it includes multiple defenses. It has a 7-meter deep moat which is hard to cross, 2-meter thick walls which are nearly impossible to penetrate, thick oak gates, and 2 baileys.

26. The areas around the castle were designed by English landscaping architect Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 1750, who has been referred to as “England’s greatest gardener.” If you have the chance to admire his work at Alnwick Castle, you will understand why.

The Alnwick Castle Garden / Source

This concludes the ultimate list of facts about Alnwick Castle, one of the most popular castles in all of England!

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