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Black Gate and Castle Keep, Newcastle

Newcastle Black Gate and Castle by Barbara Ballard For 2000 years this site was occupied. Located on a steep promontory above the Tyne river, it’s a natural defensive site. Both prehistoric remains (flint flakes, stone axe) and Roman remains (Pons Aelius fort) have been unearthed. In the 8th century the site served as a Christian cemetery.

It was in 1080 that Robert Curthose, oldest son of William the Conqueror, founded the New Castle, presumably a motte and bailey one. It wasn’t until 1168-1178 that a stone castle and curtain wall took shape here. In the south-west corner a gatehouse was built (Bailey gate). Somewhere between 1207-16 the castle had an aisled hall built in the bailey. A barbican (Black gate) was constructed between 1247-1250. During the 1450s a town wall was built cutting off the castle and rendering it useless for defense. By 1598 it was in ruins.

Newcastle Black Gate Castle courtesy Graeme Peacock Newcastle Tourism The castle keep that survives today is a Grade 1 listed building—a scheduled ancient monument. The keep’s ground floor had two sections: a chapel and a garrison room. The chapel consisted of a nave at right angles to a chancel and was originally entered from the outside through a small door. The garrison or storage room was reached by a spiral staircase from the first floor. After medieval times it was used as a prison.

The first floor of the castle was much altered before the 19th century obscuring the medieval plan. It had one large hall, a solar with a garderobe on the north wall, and on the east side a second chamber that overlooked the main entrance stairway. The second floor was the location of the great hall and was entered from the external main stairway set off by a decorated arched doorway (now a reproduction). The earlier roof was a steeply pitched timer one, whose remains can be seen in parts.

Newcastle Black Gate and Castle by Barbara Ballard On this same floor was an apartment (King’s chamber) with fireplace and garderobe. On the north side is the well room. It was 99 feet deep and had stone basins set into the wall for the water to collect in. Pipes led from the basins to the rooms in the keep. A smaller chamber may have served as a prison on the north side of the great hall. A fireplace with lintel dated 1599 is on the west wall. Steps lead up to the roof and another set of stairs goes through the east wall to spiral stairs; both led to a gallery that circles the great hall.

Above ground only parts of the south and east curtain wall survive. Sections of the east curtain wall are on view at the top of the dog leap stairs. This wall may date from the 13th century.

Visitor Information

Black Gate and Castle Keep
Newcastle NE1 1RQ
Tel. 0 191 232 7938
Open: daily, April-Sep, 9.30am-5.30pm; Oct-March until 4.30pm; closed: Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Years Day; last entry 30 minutes before closing
Disabled facilities: virtual tour of the keep and castle on ground floor by appointment only, free of charge

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