Bamburgh seen from the castle
Bamburgh is a large and ancient village on the coast of Northumberland. Once the capital of a kingdom, today it has a population of just 454, as at the 2011 census.
The village is dominated by the imposing Bamburgh Castle, overlooking the beach, seat of the Kings of Northumbria of old, and at present owned by the Armstrong family. The village is also known for its association with the Victorian heroine, Grace Darling, who is buried there.
The coast at Bamburgh has a long, sandy beach. The Bamburgh Dunes, an area of sand dunes here, are a Site of Special Scientific Interest; they stand behind the beach. Bamburgh is popular with holidaymakers and is within the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Bamburgh Castle may have been Din Guardi, the capital of a British kingdom of the Old North to 547. In 547 the fortress rock was taken by the invading Angles led by Ida son of Eoppa and was named Bebbanburgh by one of his successors, Æthelfrith, after Æthelfrith's wife Bebba, according to the (somewhat suspect) Historia Brittonum of Nennius. From then onwards the castle became the capital of the English kingdom of Bernicia until it merged with its southern neighbour, Deira, in 634. After the two realms united as Northumbria the capital was moved to York.
Bamburgh was again the capital of local Bernician rulers after the Viking destruction of the old Northumbrian kingdom in 867. Initially puppets of the Vikings, they later had more autonomy under either the Vikings or Kings of united England. The rulers of Bernicia held the title of High Reeve of Bamburgh from at least 913 until 1041, when the last was killed by Harthacnut; sometimes – 954–963 and 975–1016 – they also served as Earls of York. The castle was destroyed in a renewed Viking attack in 993 and in 1018 the Lothian part of Bernicia was ceded to Scotland, significantly reducing the area controlled from Bamburgh.
During the Wars of the Roses, the House of Percy, the Earls of Northumberland, was based at Bamburgh Castle.
Thomas Malory considered Bamburgh to be Lancelot's castle Joyous Gard. The Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne agreed and called it "The noblest hold in all the North."
- "They saw the help and strength of Joyous Gard,
- The full deep glorious tower that stands over
- Between the wild sea and the broad wild lands..."
Swinburne swam here, as did the novelist E M Forster who adopted the Forsters of Bamb-bra as his ancestors.
St Aidan's Church
According to Bede, St Aidan built a wooden church outside the castle wall in 635, and he died here in 652. A wooden beam preserved inside the church is traditionally said to be the one on which he rested as he died.
The present church dates from the late 12th century, though some pre-conquest stonework survives in the north aisle. The chancel, said to be the second longest in the country, 60 feet, was added in 1230; it contains an 1895 reredos in Caen stone by W S Hicks, depicting northern saints of the 7th and 8th centuries. There is an effigy of local heroine Grace Darling in the North Aisle. Her memorial is sited in the churchyard in such a position that it can be seen by passing ships.
Bamburgh Lighthouse was built by Trinity House in 1910 to guide shipping both passing along the Northumberland coast and in the waters around the Farne Islands. It was extensively modernised in 1975 and is now monitored from the Trinity House Operations and Planning Centre in Harwich. Routine maintenance is carried out by a local attendant. It is the most northerly land-based lighthouse of Trinity House.
When originally built, the lamp was mounted on a skeletal steel tower (the footprint of which can still be seen within the compound) which stood alongside the white building which housed an acetylene plant to power the lamp. (A similar arrangement can be seen today at Peninnis Lighthouse.) During electrification in 1975 the tower was removed, and the lantern was placed instead on top of the (now redundant) acetylene building. Keepers' accommodation has never been needed, as the light was automated from the start.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- Bamburgh Photos
- Local History and Information on Bamburgh, The Farne Islands and surrounding areas.
- Stained glass windows at St. Aidan's Church, Photos by Peter Loud
- Bamburgh Tourist Attractions
- Bamburgh Online
- GENUKI (Accessed: 5 November 2008)
- Northumberland Communities (Accessed: 5 November 2008)
- "North East England History Pages". Northeastengland.talktalk.net. http://www.northeastengland.talktalk.net/Bamburgh%20and%20the%20Farne%20Islands.htm. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
- Purves, Churches of Newcastle and Northumberland, Tempus, Stroud, 2006
- "Bamburgh Lighthouse". Trinity House. http://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouses/lighthouse_list/bamburgh.html.
- Vintage postcard showing original arrangement.