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Ford Castle, Northumberland

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Fowrde; ffurde; Forde; Foord

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NT94413749
Latitude 55.63111° Longitude -2.08971°

Ford Castle, Northumberland has been described as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Ford Castle is an early example of a quadrangular or courtyard castle. It later became a country house and is now a field study centre. Granted a licence to crenellate in 1338 it is the earliest quadrangular castle in Northumberland. Of the four original corner towers, three are surviving. The castle was converted into a mansion 1694 and given Gothic style detailing in 1761 by George Raffield for Sir John Hussey Deleval. It was restored to 17th century style and a new north wall added, as well as internal alterations in the mid-19th century by David Bryce for Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford. It is constructed mainly of ashlar with medieval squared stone and stone slate and graduated Lakeland slate roofs. (PastScape)
Crenellated in 1338. It is of the quadrilateral type with four corner towers, three of which survive.King James's, the largest, is at the N.W. corner, the S.W.tower is isolated, and that at the N.E corner submerged in later buildings. The fourth has gone completely. The N range is Elizabethan, but was largely rebuilt, together with the forecourt and gateway in 1861 (Pevsner).
The N and W curtain walls remain (Vickers 1922).
The buildings now serve as a field study centre for the Northum Education Committee and are generally correctly described. Remains of the curtain are incorporated in the N range and W wall of the forecourt. The probable site of the S E tower, and E wall are marked by an ornamental platform at NT 94453751 (F1 RWE 10-JAN-67).
Ford was the earliest example of a quadrangular, or 'courtyard' castle built in Northumberland, building commencing in 1338. It replaced an earlier fortified residence built after 1288 (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

Country house, now field study centre. C14 (licence to crenellate 1338), converted into mansion 1694, given Gothick detail 1761 by George Raffield for Sir John Hussey Deleval. Restored to C17 style, new north wall added and altered internally from 1862 by David Bryce for Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford. Mainly ashlar, medieval work squared stone; stone slate and graduated Lakeland slate roofs. Originally a quadrilateral castle with 4 corner towers; three of these survive but one is now detached (see the Flagpole Tower, item 17/88). Present house E-plan, 3 storeys plus attics. 5-bay centre with projecting porch tower; projecting wings with 4-storey, one-bay stair towers in re-entrant angles. Rusticated basement. Steps up to 2-leaf door. 2-light mullioned windows in basement, cross windows above. Wings have large 4- and 5-light mullioned-and-transomed windows on ground floor. 4-light window above door. C18 modillion cornice and castellated parapet. Gabled roofs with tall diagonally-set stacks of several conjoined shafts.

Left return has C18 masonry to right, medieval masonry in centre and C14 King James' Tower to left with blocked arched window on 1st floor and irregular C19 openings.
Rear facade has King James' Tower to right with original slit window in sub-basement, blocked window above. The centre is by Bryce with consciously irregular Gothic openings including to the right a stone balcony on large stone brackets and in the centre a large oriel on 4 huge brackets. Tower to left has old masonry with C18 quoins, perhaps a reconstruction of the late C18?
Interior: King James' Tower has vaulted basement approached by stairs in thickness of wall with 2-centred arched doorways top and bottom. Pointed tunnel vault with 5 square-section transverse ribs. Walls 15 ft. thick at this level, 8 ft. thick above. On 1st floor 2 pointed-arched doorways, a C16 or C17 ceiling with stop-chamfered main beam and square close-set joists and a stone fireplace with Tudor-arched lintel and moulded surround. On 2nd floor a Gothic room of 1862; mural stair between these floors. In the angle of the east wing a restored 016 newel stair with a fragment of earlier stair in the wall beside it. Elsewhere in the house seven C16 or C17 stone fireplaces, one of granite with a bold incised curve in the lintel. Good Arts-and-Crafts-style doors throughout inserted by Lord Joicey, 1907. (Listed Building Report)

Ford Castle has its origins in the 14th century. Sir William Heron was given permission to fortify his residence here in 1338 when four towers were positioned on each corner. Of these, three survive, but one is detached 'the Flagpole Tower. The biggest tower was the King James's Tower on the north-west corner; it stands five storeys high if you count its vaulted basement. The basement is approached by a stair hidden within the thickness of the walls. The northern part of the castle is mainly 16th century in date, but was rebuilt, together with the forecourt and gateway in 1861. The main part of the castle was converted into a country house in 1694 and restored in 1862. Once the house was purchased by Lord Joicey the grounds around Ford Castle were improved. A wooded valley was laid out as a wild garden and crossed by bridges. The castle stands on a plateau and in the north-west corner is a small formal garden. A fountain designed by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, stands in the grounds. Unusual blue and white patterned tiles are on the walls of the Tower Room. They may be 19th century and Portuguese in origin and part of the alterations made by the Marchioness. The castle is now maintained by Northumberland County Council as a field study centre. (Keys to the Past)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1338 July 16 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


Possibly the castle itself and the licence to crenellate were inspired by Naworth Castle licenced in 1335, although comparisons can be made with other C14 northern castles. Doods (1999) assertion that a 'strong house' existed here before the castle is not unreasonable but Gatehouse has not been able to reconcile the brief uncited history he gives with the detailed and fully cited history given in Vickers (1922).
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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