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Great Swinburne Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Great Swinburn; West Swinburne; Westswynburn; Westswynborn; Swinburn Castle; Swinburne Castle; Mickle Swinborne; Mykle Swynburne

In the civil parish of Chollerton.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY93477534
Latitude 55.07269° Longitude -2.10393°

Great Swinburne Castle has been described as a certain Tower House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Site of pele tower extant in 1346, fortified manor house or tower house. A licence to crenellate was granted in 1346, but the house was described as 'in decay' by 1541. The remains, comprising two tunnel vaulted basements east of the present house, which is late 16th century in date and represents the west wing of a larger country house, were demolished in the 1980s. The current building was altered in the early 17th century and a stable was attached in the early 18th century. (PastScape)

The only remains are two tunnel-vaulted basements east of the present house. This is late 18thc, but it incorporates a 17thc manor (Pevsner).
There are no visible remains of the 'castle' which seems to have been a fortified Manor or even a peel. The manor house, which forms the west wing of the present is not outstanding (F1 DS 7.8.67).
The 18th century mansion was demolished in the 1980's, including the remains of the tower house (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

The first mention of the castle of Great Swinburn is the licence granted by Edward III., 16th March, 1346, to Roger de Widdrington, to crenellate 'mansum suuin de West Swvnborn.' Roger Widdrington in 1343 had acquired certain lands from Gilbert de Colwell ; he was high sheriff of Northumberland, 1361-1369, and warden of the Middle Marches, 1369-1371. In the list of fortalices drawn up in 1415, the castle is entered as being in the possession of Sir John Widdrington (Roger Widdrington's son and successor), who having attained the patriarchal age of 100 years died, 1443, seised of the manor and vill of West Swvnburn. the manor and vill of Colwell, and of lands in Little Swinburn and Gunnerton. Mention is made of the wall surrounding the castle (muri circumdantis castrum) in 1479. In the Great Survey of the Borders made by Sir Robert Bowes and Sir Ralph Ellerker in 1541, it is said: 'At Mvkle Swvnburne hath bene a great towre of the inherytaunce of Sr. John Wethcrington, knight, hut all the rooffes and Hoores thereof bene decayed, and nothinge standinge but the walls.' Fourteen years later, Sir John Widdrington, by indenture, dated 23rd July, 1555, gave the castle and town of Swinburn to his second son, Edward Widdrington, who died there, and to whose goods administration was granted at Durham, 6th March, 1577.° Edward Widdrington's eldest son, Henry Widdrington, in 1592. succeeded his uncle, Sir Henry Widdrington, hut as the widow of the latter (who remarried the famous Sir Robert Carey) held Widdrington castle in dower, he continued to reside at Swinburn.
The tower ... is traditionally said to have stood on the lawn, but it is more probable that its actual site is occupied by a portion of the west wing of the present house. If this be so, it would be attached to the long, narrow building, erected about 1600, which stands on the edge of the dene through which runs the Swin bum. This building is two storeys high, and its east front has a series of nine windows on the upper floor, the original chamfered jambs, head, and label moulding of which still remain, but the mullions have given place to wooden sashes.
On the ground floor the windows are all modernised. A door probably occupied a central position on this front. On the west side of the building, the windows had originally mullions and transoms; they have suffered much alteration. The massive chimney stacks with their numerous splayed offsets, shown in the sketch, form a picturesque group. An outer door on the ground floor opens into a room, once a brew house, and over it was a room which, until 1841, was used as a domestic chapel; the latter was reached by a flight of stone steps, and access obtained through the opening, now a window. Another wing at right angles to the last is now used as offices; on one of the door-heads is the date 1728, and the initials for Thomas and Mary Riddell.
The old castle of Swinburn was pulled down by Thomas Riddell. (Hodgson 1897)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1346 May 16 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


The form of the C14 licenced house is a bit obscure but seems to have been a fairly substantial tower with barmkin.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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