Chillingham Castle was originally a monastery in the late 12th century. In 1298, King Edward I, or “Edward Longshanks”, stayed at the castle on his way to Scotland to battle a Scottish army led by William Wallace. A window was specially installed for the king, a rarity in such buildings at the time.
The History of Chillingham Castle
The castle occupied a strategically important location in medieval times: it was located on the border between two feuding nations. It was used as a staging post for English armies entering Scotland, but was also repeatedly attacked and besieged by Scottish armies and raiding parties heading south. The site contained a moat, and in some locations the fortifications were 12 feet thick.
The building underwent a series of enhancements, and in 1344 a license was issued by King Edward III to allow battlements to be built, effectively upgrading the stronghold to a fully fortified castle, of quadrangular form.
In 1617, James I, the first king of both England and Scotland, stayed at the castle on a journey between his two kingdoms. As relations between the two countries becames peaceful following the union of the crowns, the need for a military stronghold in the area declined. The castle was gradually transformed; the moat was filled, and battlements were converted into residential wings. A banquet hall and a library were built.
In the 18th and 19th century the grounds underwent landscaping, including work carried out by Sir Jeffry Wyatville. The once extensive park, now under a separate ownership from the castle, is home to the famous Chillingham Wild Cattle.
During World War II, the castle was used as an army barracks. During this time, much of the decorative wood is said to have been stripped out and burned by the soldiers billeted there. After the war, the castle began to fall into disrepair. Lead had been removed from the roof, resulting in extensive weather damage to large parts of the building. In the 1980s, the castle was purchased by Sir Humphry Wakefield, 2nd Baronet, whose wife Catherine is remotely descended from the Greys of Chillingham. He set about a painstaking restoration of the castle. The castle is now run as a country house hotel by the Wakefields.
The Haunted History of Chillingham Castle
It is said that Chillingham Castle has many ghosts. The most famous is the “blue boy”, who as midnight rang out would cry and moan in agony (or maybe fear). The noises could be traced to a spot near a passage cut through a ten foot wall.
When the bloodcurdling wails die away a soft halo of light appears around an old four poster bed. Anyone sleeping there, even today, can see the figure of a young boy dressed in blue, and surrounded by light. Behind the wall the bones of a young boy and fragments of blue clothing were discovered.
Another ghost, Lady Mary Berkeley, searches for her husband, who ran off with her sister. Lady Mary, desolate and broken hearted lived in the castle by herself with only her baby girl as a companion. The rustle of her dress can be heard as she passes you by in the turret stairs.