Aydon Castle medieval hall, fortified manor and eighteenth century farm buildings
List Entry Summary
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Name: Aydon Castle medieval hall, fortified manor and eighteenth century farm buildings
List entry Number: 1011645
The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District Type: Unitary Authority
National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.
Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.
Date first scheduled: 28-Nov-1932
Date of most recent amendment: 19-Oct-1993
Legacy System Information
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System: RSM
This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.
List entry Description
Summary of Monument
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Fortified manors are the residences of the lesser nobility and richer burgesses and date from the late 12th century and throughout the rest of the Middle Ages. Generally they comprise a hall and residential wing, domestic ranges, and fortifications such as a moat or crenellated wall or both. Aydon Castle is one of the finest examples in England and is exceptionally well preserved, having survived little altered from its original state. Also important are the remains of the earlier medieval manor which survive as buried features throughout the monument.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument known as Aydon Castle, or sometimes Aydon Hall, is a medieval
fortified manor whose elements include a variety of upstanding domestic,
ancillary and defensive buildings arranged within three courtyards surrounded
by a curtain wall. Also included, due to the manor's conversion to a farmhouse
in the 17th century, is an orchard and a range of 18th century farm buildings
along the west side of the middle courtyard. The medieval defensive ditch
outside the north-west curtain wall is also included within the scheduling,
together with the buried remains of a timber-framed hall which preceded the
construction of the fortified house.
Medieval documents indicate that a timber hall existed on the site prior to
c.1300. A number of structural anomalies in the chamber block of the later
residence show that it was located in roughly the same area as the adjacent
late 13th century hall and that part of it may still have been in use for a
time after the chamber block was built. Its location has been partially
confirmed by an excavation carried out within the latter which uncovered the
footings of a wall beneath the floor of the building, which belonged to an
earlier structure on a slightly different alignment. The chamber block housed
the private apartments of the later house and it is likely that it was built
to replace the demolished building. The latter is likely, therefore, to have
been the solar or private rooms of the earlier hall. Further remains of this
structure and other contemporary buildings will survive beneath the later hall
and service ranges.
The later manor house was not originally intended to be fortified. Its
construction began in the last quarter of the 13th century, prior to the
Border wars that characterised the 14th century. Aydon, however, was in one of
the first areas to be raided from Scotland and, by 1305, when most of the
buildings were already completed, Edward I had granted its owner licence to
crenellate; that is, fortify his house. The earliest stone buildings are the
hall, chamber block and the garderobe or latrine wing which projects from the
east side of the chamber block. The chamber block was built first, but all
these structures are datable to the period between c.1280 and c.1300. Between
1300 and 1305, battlemented walls were built to the north, enclosing the
buildings within their own inner courtyard. The west wall formed one side of a
building range which, on the first floor, contained service rooms and a
kitchen and, on the ground floor, store-rooms. This range projects northward
from the west end of the hall range which has three storeys containing a
store-room on the ground floor, a service room in the middle and a chamber on
the top floor. The east end of the hall is two-storeyed and consists of a
spacious room on the first floor and a less comfortable room of similar size
below. The latter room, the lower hall, contains a fireplace and connects with
the store-rooms of the manor, showing it to have been a servants' hall. The
upper room, lit at the east end by tall windows equipped with seats, was the
lords' hall or public chamber and had access, behind the high table, to the
upper floor of the chamber block. This contains an original fireplace, moved
from the east wall to the west wall in the 16th century, and opens onto the
upper storey of the garderobe wing. The ground-floor of the chamber block
contains an elaborate carved fireplace which suggests that this chamber also
originally served as a private room, though, later, it seems to have
functioned as a hall for the lords' personal attendants.
Following the king's licence, parapets were added to the domestic buildings
and the inner courtyard wall. The construction of the outer courtyard was also
begun and was complete by 1315. It is not known precisely when the vaulted
D-shaped tower at the north corner of the site was built but, owing to
differences in the method of construction, it is believed to be later than the
curtain wall and probably dates to the mid-14th century. The curtain wall
appears never to have been a strong defensive line, heavier reliance being
placed on the sheer slopes which encircle the manor on the south, west and
east sides. The remaining north-west side was enclosed by a ditch that
measures up to 15m wide and 5m deep. However, because there was no gatehouse
at the castle entrance, merely a simple entrance arch apparently without
drawbridge or portcullis, even this could not have satisfactorily protected
the manor; a factor which may have contributed to its being rapidly
surrendered to the Scots in 1315.
Internally, the south-west corner of the outer courtyard was divided off to
create the middle courtyard which contains, along the south curtain wall, the
fragmentary remains of a two-storey range of buildings whose upper floor was
lit by windows in the curtain wall and has been interpreted as lodgings for
servants or guests, or possibly for men-at-arms. A similar arrangement existed
on either side of the gate along the north-west curtain wall, and, in both
cases, the unlit ground-floor rooms would have served as barns or shelter for
livestock and horses. In the 16th or 17th century, the eastern part of the
outer courtyard was divided off to create an orchard, and, also in the 16th
century, the lower hall was partitioned to create several smaller rooms while
the ground floor of the chamber block was converted into a kitchen; a function
it retained into the 20th century. 17th century alterations include the
subdivision of the east end of the hall to create new living quarters, and the
conversion of the medieval kitchen wing or agricultural purposes. Further
modifications were carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries when the manor
became a farmhouse on the Matfen estate. These include the construction of a
range of farm-buildings in the middle courtyard and the insertion of new
windows in the living areas. In addition, the medieval hall was divided to
create additional sleeping accommodation. These partitions, however, have
since been removed.
During the 10th and 11th centuries, Aydon was part of an important royal manor
centred on Corbridge. By the 12th century, however, Corbridge's position had
declined due to the rise of Newcastle upon Tyne and, by 1162, Aydon had been
granted to the barons de Bolam, the last of whom, Walter fitzGilbert, married
Emma de Umfraville. Walter died in 1206 and his estates passed to his widow
and two daughters. Emma's portion appears to have been Aydon, and it is likely
that the timber hall that predated the fortified manor was her home until her
death in c.1235. After her death, her second husband, Peter de Vaux, continued
to rent the hall from her daughters and, upon his death in 1256, it passed to
Emma's granddaughter Margery. Margery's son, Hugh de Gosbeck, succeeded to it
in 1284. The principal de Gosbeck estates lay in Suffolk and, together with
the family's remaining share in the fitzGilbert barony, Aydon was sold between
1293 and 1295 to Hugh de Reymes. Because de Gosbeck failed to seek royal
permission for the transfer, the estate was not released until 1296, having
been taken into royal custody. By this time, Hugh de Reymes was dead and,
instead, it was his son Robert who went north and undertook the construction
of Aydon Castle.
Although the de Reymes family remained owners of Aydon till the mid-16th
century, during the preceding two hundred years they had declined both
socially and financially, and, at some time in the early years of the 15th
century, they retired to their seat at Shortflatt, letting the house at Aydon
to tenants. A survey of 1450 described the house as being in a ruinous state
and there is no sign that any repairs were subsequently carried out. In 1541,
Robert Reymes IX exchanged his portion of the manor of Aydon, which included
the castle, for lands belonging to Sir Reynold Carnaby of Hexham. Carnaby died
in 1543, leaving the house to his brother Cuthbert who made it his home and
carried out the alterations dating to that period. The house remained with the
Carnabys until 1654 when it was sold to William Collinson. Collinson carried
out the 17th century conversions and, together with his son, Henry, was the
last owner-occupier. In 1702, Henry Collinson sold the house to William
Douglas of Matfen, and it remained an estate farm until 1966 when it passed
into State care. The entire monument is now managed by English Heritage and is
a Grade I Listed Building.
A number of features within the area are excluded from the scheduling: these
are all English Heritage fixtures and fittings, including the ticket office,
and the surfaces of the trackways through the monument, but the ground beneath
these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
Books and journals
Dixon, P, Aydon Castle, (1988)
Wood, M E, Thirteenth Century Domestic Architecture, (1950), 51-5
Dixon, P, Borne, P, 'Archaeological Journal' in Coparcenary and Aydon Castle, , Vol. 135, (1978), 234-8
Ellison, M, 'Archaeologia Aeliana' in Archaeologia Aeliana, , Vol. 4, (1976), 133-8
Machin, R, 'Archaeological Journal' in Barnston Manor And Aydon Castle, , Vol. 134, (1977), 297-302
Weaver, J, 'Archaeological Journal' in Aydon Castle, , Vol. 133, (1976), 193-5
National Grid Reference: NZ 00135 66316
The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1011645 .pdf
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This copy shows the entry on 30-Sep-2016 at 12:47:13.
End of official listing