This week’s midweek mini takes us up north towards the borderlands of England and Scotland and to a Castle called Blenkinsopp. Situated near Greenhead, Northumberland, most of the castle is now in ruins.
The origins of the castle lie with the family whose name will live as long as the castle – the Blenkinsopp’s. Known for their feuds and for being “a right ancient and generous family” (Mark Antony Lowe). They built a tower house on the site of today’s castle. In 1399, they were given permission to crennelate making the tower house into a castle, which was the seat of the family for many centuries to come. It appears in the list of border Castles of 1416. The family’s motto was Dieu defende le droit (God defends the right).
What is in a name – it is not entirely clear what is behind the Blenkinsopp name. It could be from the medieval cumbric language “blaen” – ‘top’ and “kein” – ‘back or ridge’ mixed with the Old English “hop”- valley.
The Blenkinsopp family would cease to live in the castle around the 14th century when a survey reported that the roof was in bad decay and was in need of repair. The family moved and relocated to Blenkinsopp Hall, which is now a private home.
The castle would pass by marriage to the Coulsons of Jesmond in 1727. In 1832, John Dobson built a mining agent’s house alongside the castle. Then in 1877, William Blenkinsopp Coulson would develop the site into a large mansion house. Soon after all the Blenkinsopp estate under the Coulson ownership would be sold to Edward Joicey, He would turn the mansion into a functioning hotel, which was open to the public until a fire, which caused much damage in 1954. As a result, large parts of the manor were demolished for safety and what exists today is all that remains of both the manor and castle.
Back to the present, those who wish to see it can visit the castle today. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The house was listed in 1952 as grade II and is privately owned. It has four bedrooms, two reception rooms and a Pele Tower. Much of what would have been the families land is now a residential caravan park. When visiting the castle in 2018 I had a great lunch at the Blenkinsopp Castle Inn, which was once the stable block of the castle. The owners are very friendly along with the rustic decor and great homemade food it is a place I highly recommend visiting.
On a final note, it may be best not to go at night, as there is a spooky tale which goes with this castle that of the Ghost of the White Lady. The story goes that Bryan de Blenkinsopp, Lord of the Manor in … wanted a wife who would bring with her a lot of wealth, a chest of gold to be exact. He soon found his bride and chest of gold while fighting in the holy wars. His wife was said to be dusky skinned and the servants of the castle believe she may have been a ‘child of darkness’. The couple were not well matched and arguments ensured. The story continues that she ordered her own servants to bury the chest of gold in the castle and not to tell her husband driving him to anger and frustration. Eventually both man and wife would disappear in mysterious circumstances with the chest never being discovered.
The woman in white apparently haunts the castle to this day offering her hoard to those who want it if they would go with her. Will the truth to this tale ever been uncovered or will the woman in white haunt the castle for the rest of her days? I leave that for you to decide.
Historic England (nd) Blenkinsopp Castle. Available from: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1370313 [Accessed 8.6.19]
Crossley, L (2015) The castle that costs less than a London semi. Available from: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2906426/Historic-castle-complete-watchtower-14th-century-ruins-GHOST-325-000-price-average-London-semi.html Accessed
Anon (2012) The White Lady of Blenkinsopp Castle. Available from: https://www.blenkinsoppcastleinn.co.uk/the-ghost [accessed 16/6/2019]
House of Names (nd) Blenkinsopp Family Crest. Available from: https://www.houseofnames.com/blenkinsopp-family-crest [Accessed 10/5/2019]