Sources for Warkworth Castle and Hermitage

The following lists provide a summary of the main sources for our knowledge and understanding of Warkworth Castle and Hermitage.

Engraving of Warkworth Castle and Hermitage by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck.
Engraving of Warkworth Castle (1728) by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck. This view is important in showing the Carrickfergus Tower, bottom left, still complete

Primary Sources

The history of Warkworth Castle is well documented by primary sources. Repositories with collections relating to the castle include the British Library, The National Archives and the archive of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle.  

Alnwick Castle Archive

The Alnwick Castle archive is the richest source for the castle’s history, but it does not have a public catalogue. For details contact the archivist at Alnwick Castle. Guides to the collection are available in:

  • Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Guide to Sources for British History 11. Principal Family and Estate Collections: Family Names L–W (London, 1999), 59–61
  • Appendix to the Third Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (1872).

JC Hodgson’s A History of Northumberland, vol 5 (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1899) makes extensive use of the Alnwick Castle archive and through transcription and quotation offers the fullest insight into the original material. Little primary material relevant to the hermitage survives, but Hodgson offers the fullest account of early references from the Alnwick Castle archive.

The National Archives

Some of the most important medieval sources for the castle are among the State Papers in The National Archives, especially those relating to the Privy Council. A key volume of the catalogue for Warkworth sources is:

Surveys and Inventories

There are surviving inventories or surveys dating from:


The Northumberland Household Book

In about 1512 two large volumes of household regulations were drawn up for Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland. Together these are known as the Northumberland Household Book.

Although they were not necessarily written for Warkworth Castle they give an important view of day-to-day life at other properties held by the Percys. The first volume, which is published and can be viewed online, deals with the household:

The second is available only as an original manuscript and covers the regulation of the earl’s chapel:

  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Eng Hist b.208. 

The Castle in the 19th Century

In the 1850s Anthony Salvin oversaw a substantial campaign of restoration and rebuilding at Warkworth Castle. Most of the documents relating to this period are held in the Alnwick Castle archive.

A small collection of documents relating to the sale of the castle in 1805–6 is held by the Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock. They include a plan of the castle and catalogues of material at Warkworth:

  • DRO, D5336/2/25/15
  • DRO, D5336/2/25/93, 94 and 95
  • DRO, D5336/3/78.
Mid-19th-century carved oak furniture decorated with the Percy arms, on display in the Duke’s Rooms at Warkworth Castle and Hermitage
Mid-19th-century carved oak furniture decorated with the Percy arms, on display in the Duke’s Rooms at the castle

Material Sources

English Heritage

The collections from Warkworth Castle held by English Heritage comprise:

  • more than 30 pieces of medieval architectural masonry held in the English Heritage North archaeology stores
  • three small signalling or saluting cannon and a swivel cannon, all from the 18th century and on display in the Duke's Rooms
  • a Norwegian signalling cannon (c 1855) and a sea-service cast-iron carriage, held in the English Heritage North archaeology stores
  • mid-19th-century oak furniture and room fixtures of late 16th- and 17th-century style, carved with the Percy arms, and currently displayed in the Duke’s Rooms at the castle (see above).


Alnwick Castle

Wallpaper from the Duke’s Rooms at Warkworth is held in the collection at Alnwick Castle.

Visual Sources

Early Views

Early views of Warkworth Castle include:

  • map by Robert Norton in ‘Mayston’s Survey’ (1623), Alnwick Castle MSS [reproduced in Hodgson, op cit, facing p 136; see also Beresford, MW and St Joseph, JK, Medieval England: An Aerial Survey (Cambridge, 1979), p 142]
  • view from the east, oil painting, c 1700, Alnwick Castle [reproduced in Goodall, J, Warkworth Castle and Hermitage (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2006), 44–5]
  • engraving by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, 1728 (see above).

Late 18th Century

In the late 18th century the leading British artists JMW Turner and Thomas Girtin produced several watercolours of the castle and hermitage at Warkworth, including:

The castle was the subject of a number of pencil sketches in Turner’s North of England Sketchbook of 1797 (Tate, Turner Bequest XXXIV):

19th Century

The Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings Collection holds Anthony Salvin’s topographical drawings, sketches and plan of the castle and hermitage (SC99/21(1–4)).

Warkworth Castle features in a series of studies of medieval buildings and furnishings by AWN Pugin (on 22 leaves from a sketchbook), which he made during a tour of England in August and September 1848, after his wedding. These are held in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Prints, Drawings and Paintings Collection (E.80:45-1970).

An important series of mid-19th-century views of Warkworth Hermitage was published in CH Hartshorne, Feudal and Military Antiquities of Northumberland (London, 1858), 212–28 [accessed 12 August 2012].

Historic England Archive

Items in the Historic England Archive at Swindon relating to Warkworth Castle include:

  • file of 180 drawings of the castle dating from 1897 to 2006 (PF/WAR) [contains drawings from the early 20th century, including plans of the courtyard and great tower, and of the stairs at the entrance to the great tower]
  • late 19th-century photograph of the Little Stair Tower and Lion Tower (BB89/01450) [see Research on Warkworth Castle]
  • photograph showing the castle in the course of clearance in the 1920s (FL01140) [reproduced in Goodall, op cit, p 48].

More details of these and many other items can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed online, including a large collection of aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the search team.

Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archive price list.

Secondary Sources

Works marked * represent key works in which our understanding was significantly altered, summaries showing the state of knowledge and theories at particular dates, or recent works detailing the latest discoveries.  

Published Works

Anon., ‘Proceedings of the 58th congress, at Newcastle upon Tyne, 1901’Journal of the British Archaeological Association, new series, 8 (1902), 57–60 [accessed 10 August 2012]

Bean, JMW, The Estates of the Percy Family, 1416–1537 (1958)

Birley, EB, ‘A piece of Tier ware from Warkworth’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 4th series, 11 (1947), 84–6

Blair, CHH and Honeyman, HL, Warkworth Castle, Northumberland (Ministry of Works guidebook, London, 1936 and subsequent edns)

Blair, CHH and Honeyman, HL, Warkworth Hermitage, Northumberland (Ministry of Works guidebook, London, 1936)

Cathcart King, DJ, Castellarium Anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands, Volume II: Norfolk–Yorkshire and the Islands (London, 1983), 343–4

Clay, RM, ‘Some northern anchorites, with a note on enclosed Dominicans’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 33 (1955), 202–17

Dickson, W, ‘Roman altar found at Gloster Hill, in the parish of Warkworth’, History of the Berwickshire Naturalists’ Club, 4 (1858), 86–8

Dixon, P, ‘Design in castle building: the controlling of access to the lord’, Château Gaillard, 18 (1996), 47–56

Dodds, JF, Bastions and Belligerents: Medieval Strongholds in Northumberland (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1988), 206–10

Emery, A, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales, 1300–1500, vol 1: Northern England (Cambridge, 1996), 144–50

Forster, RH, ‘Notes on Warkworth’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, new series, 15 (1909), 149–56

*Goodall, J, The English Castle (New Haven and London, 2011)

Goodall, J, ‘Warkworth Castle, Northumberland’, Country Life (4 May 1995), 82–8

Goodall, J, ‘Old Wardour, Wiltshire’, Country Life (28 April 2005), 94–9

Goodall, J, Warkworth Castle and Hermitage (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2006) [buy the guidebook]

Harbottle, B, ‘An excavation at Warkworth Castle, Northumberland, 1966’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 45 (1967), 105–22

*Hartshorne, CH, Feudal and Military Antiquities of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders (London, 1858) [accessed 10 August 2012]

*Hislop, MJB, ‘The date of the Warkworth donjon’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 19 (1991), 79–92

Hislop, MJB, ‘A missing link: a reappraisal of the date, architectural context and significance of the great tower of Dudley Castle’, Antiquaries Journal, 90 (2010), 211–33

*Hodgson, JC, A History of Northumberland, vol 5 (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1899) [accessed 10 August 2012; this volume is an updated version of the account of Warkworth published in Bates, CJ, Border Holds (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1891), 81–166]
Hutchinson, W, A View of Northumberland with an Excursion to the Abbey of Mailross in Scotland (Newcastle upon Tyne, 1778) [accessed 10 August 2012]

James, EM (ed), Estate Accounts of the Earls of Northumberland, 1562–1637, Surtees Society, 163 (Durham, 1955 for 1948)

Martin, MT (ed), The Percy Cartulary, Surtees Society, 117 (Durham, 1911 for 1909)

Miller, E, ‘The inscription on the effigy in Warkworth church’, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 4th series, 11:3 (1947), 115–17

Milner, L, ‘Warkworth keep, Northumberland: a reassessment of its plan and date’, in Medieval Architecture and its Intellectual Context: Studies in Honour of Peter Kidson, ed E Fernie and P Crossley (London, 1990), 219–28

Nicolas, H (ed), Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council of England, vol 1 (London, 1834) [accessed 10 August 2012]

Pattinson, T, ‘Excavations of the Magdalene Chapel, Warkworth, Northumberland, 1977’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 5th series, 9 (1981), 251–65

Percy, T, The Hermit of Warkworth: A Northumberland Ballad (London, 1806) [accessed 12 March 2018] [at the end of this edition of Bishop Percy's 1771 poem are some historical notes, including an extract describing the hermitage from F Grose, Antiquities of England and Wales, vol 4, London, 1775]

Simpson, WD, ‘Warkworth, a castle of livery and maintenance’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 15 (1938), 115–36

Simpson, WD, ‘The Warkworth donjon and its architect’, Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th series, 19 (1941), 93–103

Viollet-le-Duc, E, Lectures on Architecture, trans B Bucknall, vol 2 (London, 1881), 370–80 [accessed 10 August 2012]

Unpublished Works

Cambridge, E, ‘The masons and building works of Durham Priory, 1339–1539’, unpublished PhD thesis (University of Durham, 1992)

Howard, RE, et al, ‘Scientific dating of timbers from Grey Mare's Tail Tower, Warkworth Castle, near Alnwick, Northumberland’, unpublished report, English Heritage Research Department Report 34/2006 (2006) [accessed 12 March 2018]

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