A Northumbrian Stronghold
arkworth Castle and Hermitage form one of the most
unusual pairs of medieval monuments in Britain. The castle was
probably laid out in its present form in about 1200 and was the
favoured residence of the powerful Percy family from the 14th to the
17th centuries. As the Earls (and later Dukes) of Northumberland, they
were among the greatest landowners in northern England.
he castle and town of Warkworth occupy a naturally
fortified site in a loop of the river Coquet, less than a mile from
the Northumberland coast. The castle developed around two main
elements - a high artificial mound, or motte, and a fortified
enclosure, or bailey.
n the banks of the nearby river Coquet, and
accessible only by boat, are the remains of a chapel known as the
hermitage, carved directly out of the cliff rock.
he Hermitage is reached by boat and was almost
certainly established in about 1400 by the 1st Earl. Rather than a
secluded dwelling for a religious recluse (hermit), it was in fact
probably a chantry, or private chapel, where a priest performed
services in return for a stipend.
he chapel, with three vaulted bays, was carved
directly out of the rock. To the right of the altar is a cluster of
worn sculptures forming an almost life-size Nativity scene. The inner
chamber was probably a closet from which the earl and his retinue
could view the service, as there are viewing slits and windows cut in
the wall adjoining the chapel.