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Twizell Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Twyzell; Twysill; Twizel; Twisle; Twisell

In the civil parish of Duddo.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NT88294340
Latitude 55.68394° Longitude -2.18778°

Twizell Castle has been described as a certain Tower House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


The castle was first recorded in 1415 as the castle of 'Twysill' held by Sir John Heron, but it was destroyed by the Scots in 1496 and abandoned. A survey made in 1561 notes 'there has been one tower, or pele, which is of ancient time decayed and cast down, and there remains one part or quarter thereof, and a barmkin about it'.

Twizel medieval tower house, the probable village remains, 18th century folly and garden earthworks are well preserved and will retain significant archaeological deposits. The monument includes a medieval tower house incorporated into a ruined 18th century folly and the earthwork remains of a probable medieval village and former garden located above a river cliff on the north bank of the River Till. The ruins of Twizel Castle, which are Listed Grade II-star, comprise a roofless rectangular building of ashlar and squared stone, 29m by 9.5m, standing two storeys high with two wings on the north side and circular towers at each corner. Internally, there are four vaulted rooms along the south front, all of fine ashlar construction. The wings and towers are part of an incomplete 18th century folly, built over 50 years from about 1770 by Sir Francis Blake with the assistance of Nesbit of Kelso. It originally stood five storeys high and was stone or brick-vaulted throughout as a precaution against fire. At the core of the building is a medieval house with walls about 1.5m thick whose structure is partly revealed in the collapse of the north wall. Several pre- folly features are visible in the north wall and include blocked windows, a chamfered doorway and original north east angle quoins. To the north of the folly are a series of earthworks comprising terraces, banks, hollows and mounds which are interpreted as the remains of a garden. Amongst these features at the east and west ends of the monument are probable house platforms from a medieval village. (Scheduling Report)

Ruined house. Begun c.1770 by and for Sir Francis Blake with the assistance of Nisbet of Kelso, but incorporating some of the masonry of a medieval castle. Ashlar and squared stone; roofless. Gothick style. Rectangular with 4 round corner towers. Two storeys, though the house was originally five storeys high. Seven bays. Pointed windows with brick arches, the central window in a semicircular projection. Much taller pointed windows on 1st floor. On returns large blank quatrefoils. The original north wall, between the towers, has gone. The present north wall was formerly internal and is partly medieval with openings of the C18 and blocked earlier openings including large segmental arches and a 2-light mullioned window. This wall is c.70 inches thick. Interior: the ground floor has 4 large vaulted rooms along the south front. Three are tunnel vaults, the fourth, behind the central bow has a central groin vault with 2 flanking tunnel vaults. All of these are in fine ashlar. The west vault has holes for a timber floor. The angle towers were also vaulted on ground floor; of these the south-west tower has a shallow stone dome and the south-east tower a brick dome. In the north towers only the springing of the vaults remain. There are also 2 corridors with pointed brick tunnel vaults and two small rooms whose vaults have collapsed. On the present north wall the springing of a groin vault can be seen at 1st-floor level. Building on the house was continued for almost 50 years and never completed. The house was to be vaulted throughout as a precaution against fire. (Listed Building Report)

An assessment of the building by P. F. Ryder for Northumberland County Council showed that the castle was an upper-floor hall house of the mid 14th century; the principal hall may have been at second-floor level. A projecting tower housed the solar. (Med. Arch.)

The ruins of Twizel Castle, less than a mile from the Scottish Border in Northumberland, were until recently understood to be ‘a medieval tower house incorporated into a ruined 18th century folly’. This echoes the regionally common narrative of a medieval house or tower which survived the period when ‘warfare was still endemic’ to be enlarged and refaced in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The descriptions of many houses in Northumberland include this narrative. However, the author’s MA dissertation demonstrated an intermediate phase at Twizel, when the house was remodelled in the late-sixteenth century for a Berwick-based civil servant (subsequent research undertaken for this study shows it functioning as a summer ‘lodge’). (Kent 2016)

The form of the house in the C14 was a, stone built, vaulted hall house with a solar tower. This would make this house rather stronger than most contemporary gentry tower houses, which had basically unfortified attached halls. In the early C16 the house was recorded as 'decayed and cast down' although part remained and had a 'barnkin'. Does this suggest part of the house was being used as pele-house type tenanted farmstead until it became a gentry summer lodge?
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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