Barnard Castle

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Barnard Castle is a market-town and chapelry, in the parish of Gainford, union of Teesdale, S. W. division of Darlington ward, S. division of county Durham, 25 miles (S. W. by W.) from Durham, and 244 from London.


Barnard Castle is supposed to have originated soon after the Norman Conquest from the decay of a more ancient town called Marwood. It was formerly a member of the ancient wapentake of Sadberge, and for a certain period was exempt from the jurisdiction of the Palatinate. A Roman coin of the Emperor Trajan was dug up in the churchyard, in the year 1824.


About 1093, the Crown bestowed extensive possessions in the vicinity upon Guido Balliol, a French nobleman, who is said to have accompanied the Conqueror to England. His eldest son Bernard built a castle here about 1178, and by a grant of privileges, encouraged the erection of houses near it, thus laying the foundation of the present town, to which he imparted his own name. The illustrious family of Balliol, who held it for five successions, exercised jura regalia within the franchise. A hospital, for the residence and maintenance of three aged widows, was founded by John Balliol, about 1230, and dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

Barony changes hands

After being forfeited to the Crown, the feudal barony, with its members, was granted to Guy Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and continued in the possession of his descendants until 1398. It was then given by King Richard II to Scroope, Earl of Wiltshire, but was restored in the following year to Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and subsequently passed by marriage with Anna, daughter and co-heiress of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, afterwards Richard III, who, before ascending the throne, resided here, and whose badge (the boar) may still be seen on the walls of the castle. In 1477, he obtained a license to found a college in the castle, for a dean and twelve secular priests, ten clerks, and six choristers; but it does not appear that the design was carried into effect. During the rebellion of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmorland, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the castle, which was then again the property of the Crown, was garrisoned by Sir George Bowes of Streatlam, who defended it against the insurgents, but was obliged to surrender on honourable terms. In the great civil war it was held for King Charles I, and was besieged by Oliver Cromwell, to whom, after a severe cannonading, the garrison surrendered. Subsequently to the battle of Newburn, in 1642, part of the Scottish army was quartered here. After frequent grants and reversions, the castle, lands, and appurtenances, were purchased by an ancestor of the Duke of Cleveland. The ruins of this important baronial edifice occupy an area of nearly seven acres, on an elevated rock near the margin of the river Tees, and indicate the strength and extent of the original structure: one of the towers was some years since fitted up as a shot-manufactory, and the inner area was converted into a garden.


The town is situated on an eminence rising abruptly from the southern bank of the Tees, the bridge over which at this place was repaired in 1771, after the injury it had sustained in that year by the memorable flood that swept away most of the bridges on the Tees and Tyne. The town underwent considerable improvement by the formation of new streets, and the removal of unsightly objects. The houses are built of white freestone, and have a very handsome appearance: the streets are well paved; they were lit with gas in 1834, and the inhabitants for centuries were supplied with beautiful water from springs in the neighbourhood. The town hall, situated in the market-place, is an octagonal structure, erected in 1747, by Thomas Breaks, a native of the place; the upper part is used for the transaction of the town's business, and the lower formerly for the market. The chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, is an ancient and spacious cruciform structure, in the decorated and later English styles, with a square embattled tower at the south-west angle.

The environs are remarkably pleasant, and the Vale of Tees abounds with romantic scenery.