The Castle Keep of Newcastle Upon Tyne stands on a steep sided promontory overlooking the River Tyne. The site has been occupied for nearly 2000 years, with flint flakes and a stone axehead found in archaeological excavations testament to much earlier prehistoric activity.
The History of Castle Keep
From the mid 2nd century till the beginning of the 5th century the Roman fort of Pons Aelius stood on the present castle site guarding the river crossing. From the 8th century the site of the fort was used as a Christian cemetery.
The New Castle Upon Tyne was founded by Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror in 1080 and was a motte and bailey type. The castle was rebuilt in stone during the reign of Henry II, between 1168 and 1178. In this time the keep and the curtain wall, with a gatehouse (Bailey Gate) were added to the site.
During the reign of King John (1207 – 1216) an aisled hall was built in the bailey and during the reign of Henry III between 1247 and 1250 a barbican – the Black Gate – was added to the north gate. The town wall was completed in the mid 14th century and the castle became isolated within the new defences. By 1589 it was described as old and ruinous.
The Black Gate was a formidable addition to the exposed western side of the castle site in A.D. 1247 by King Henry III. It is essentially a barbican : in this case an unusually designed outwork consisting of two parallel walls extending from a gateway with a secondary gate at the outer end. Two walls, one of which remains, projected across the Castle moat from a gate that existed in the curtain wall and the Black Gate stood across them at an angle of 45?.
It`s unique unusual position enabled the whole length of the western wall and ditch of the castle to be monitored from the Black Gate.
The castle site declined in military importance over time and excluding the Keep and Moot Hall, was leased by King James I in 1618 to his courtier; Alexander Stephenson who in turn let accommodation to various tenants.
The Black Gate is believed to derive its name from one such tenant by the name of Patrick Black. By the middle of the 19th century the Black Gate had been reduced to slum dwellings and accommodated 12 families and a public house.
The first serious rehabilitation of the Black Gate was undertaken by the Society of Antiquaries in 1883. They were leased the property and spent over sixteen hundred pounds repairing and improving it. The Society of Antiquaries still occupy the Black Gate to this day, using the building as a meeting place and library.
The Haunted History of Castle Keep
There have been many tales of activity emanating from the Keep for many years. These range from the sounds of footsteps in the narrow corridors that appear to be empty on investigation, strange unexplained mists that have been seen visually and caught on camera, cold spots that appear and disapear without reason and people being touched by unseen hands.
A lady has been seen many times in an area of the Keep known as the Queens Chamber and many people have reported chanting that can be heard echoing around the walls of the Keep, especially the Chapel.
On past visits by members of the Northern Ghost Investigations team, we have heard laughing and heavy breathing in the Kings Chamber, had our clothing tugged and heard footsteps running in the corridors behind us.
Once during a seance held within the Kings Chamber, all present felt a breeze whirling around the circle and a few of the participants of the circle took ill and started to feel nauseous.
in May 2006, a charity investigation was conducted at the Keep where an apparent apparition was snapped. The charity night was attended by many local investigators who appear to have no explanation for the dark shadow that was captured.
On subsequent visits, a dark monk like figure – similar to what was captured on film – was spotted by two separate people as it followed Jay around the galleries.