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Belsay Castle, Northumberland;
THE SEAT OF
SIR CHARLES MILES LAMBERT MONCK, BART.
Ir is not known by any certain record when this Castle was built; but it is one of the old border towers of Northumberland, and having been always maintained as a family residence, is in good preservation. From the style and masonry, it is conjectured that it may have been built in the reign of King Richard the Second. The walls at the bottom of it are ten feet thick, and the apartments vaulted; in these the cattle were used to be secured at night against the incursions of the moss troopers. There is a well within it.
Belsowe, now written Belsay, has been the residence of the Middleton Family from the earliest notice of it in any known records. King Henry the Third, in the fifty-fourth year of his reign, confirmed to Richard de Middleton, his Chancellor, and to his heirs, free warren in all their demesne lands of Belsowe, Thorneburgh, Bechelfeld, and Shotton.
John de Middleton forfeited Belsowe, with many other estates in Northumberland, by his rebellion, in the eighth year of the reign of King Edward the Second, who four years afterwards granted them to John de Crombwell, and his heirs in descent.
King Edward the Third, in the ninth year of his reign, (Crombwell having died without heirs,) granted them to Sir John de Stryvelin; and on the south front of the Tower, over the uppermost window, there are carved the arms of Stryvelin quartering those of Middleton. On the oldest part of the house adjoining the Tower, this order is reversed, and the arms of Middleton are made to quarter those of Stryvelin, on a tablet, under which there is this inscription—“Thomas Middleton and Dorothy his wife, builded this house, anno 1614.”
In the fourteenth year of the reign of King Richard the Second, John de Middleton, and Christian his wife, succeeded upon the death of Jacoba, widow of Sir John de Stryvelin, to many estates in Northumberland and Cumberland, which had been settled upon them in case of her death without issue. How and when Belsay was recovered to the family, is not certainly known: but from this last mentioned John de Middleton, the pedigree is complete to the present possessor, Sir Charles Miles Lambert Middleton, who exchanged the name and arms of Middleton for those of Monck, in compliance with the will of his maternal grandfather the late Lawrence Monck, of Caenby, in Lincolnshire.
Belsay is situated fourteen miles from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and ten from Morpeth, in a pleasant part of Northumberland. The old family Mansion, added at different times to the Tower, is decayed, and the greatest part of it will soon be taken down. Sir Charles has built a new family Mansion at a short distance from the Tower, in a situation better adapted to the present modes of life.
THE SEAT OF THE
DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND.
This immense pile, containing about five acres of ground within its outward walls, stands on an elevation that gives great dignity to its appearance, on the south side of the river Alne, which in its course marks the extensive boundaries of the fine lawns that surround the Castle.
'Alnwick Castle is believed,” says Grose, “ to have been founded by the Romans; for when a part of the Castle Keep was taken down to be repaired, under the present walls were discovered the foundations of other buildings, which lay in a different direction from the present, and some of the stones appeared to have Roman mouldings. The fretwork around the arch leading to the inner court is evidently of Saxon architecture; and yet this was probably not the ancient entrance, for under the Flag Tower, hefore that part was taken down and rebuilt, was the appearance of a gateway, that had been walled up, directly fronting the present outward gateway into the town.”
The Castle underwent a remarkable siege in the year 1093, from Malcolm III. King of Scotland, who with his eldest son, Prince Edward, lost his life before it; this event has been commemorated by a cross, which was restored by the Duchess of Northumberland, in 1774; her Grace being lineally descended from him through his daughter, Maude, the Queen of Henry I., King of England. The cross was erected on the very spot where Malcolm fell, one mile north of the Castle.
In the year 1174, William III. King of Scotland, was taken prisoner, during a siege; a circumstance which is also commemorated by a monument with this inscription :-" William, the Lion, King of Scotland, besieging Alnwick Castle, was here taken prisoner, 1174.”
From length of time, and the various shocks it had sustained in ancient wars, this Castle had become quite a ruin, when by the death of Algernon, Duke of Somerset, in 1750, it devolved, together with all the estates of this great barony, &c. to Hugh, grandfather to the present Duke of Northumberland. He imme. diately began to repair the Castle, adhering to the castellated style of the ancient building as much as possible; and in its present state nothing can be more striking than the effect produced at the first entrance within the walls from the town. It has three courts or wards; the inner court is entered by a very ancient gateway, flanked by two octagonal towers, adorned with numerous shields of arms, erected about 1350. From the inner court in the centre of the citadel we enter a staircase of a very singular form, expanding like a fan, the roof enriched with a series of one hundred and twenty armorial escutcheons of the alliances of the Percy family.
The first chamber on the left is the Saloon, arranged in corresponding taste with the exterior; it is 42 feet long by 39 feet wide, and is adorned with portraits of the Earls of Northumberland. The Drawing Room is 46 feet 7 inches long, by 35 feet 4 inches wide, and 22 feet in height; it is of an oval form, with a large semicircular projecting window. The great Dining Room was one of the first executed; it is 54 feet long by 21 in width, 27 feet in height, exclusive of a large bay window, towards the upper end, 19 feet in diameter.
The Library is a beautiful room, in form of a parallelogram, fitted up in the ancient style ; this leads to the chapel, which occupies the upper space of the middle ward ; the several parts of the chapel have been designed after the most perfect models of ecclesiastical architecture. The great East window is a copy of one in York Minster; the groining of the roof is in the manner of King's College Chapel, at Cambridge; and the walls are painted like the great Church at Milan : exclusive of a circular recess for the family, the chapel is 50 feet long, 21 feet 4 inches wide, and 22 feet high.
The late Duke of Northumberland, who succeeded to the family honours in 1786, devoted much time and attention towards completing the improvements begun by his father, and for many successive years, upwards of a million of trees were annually planted at Alnwick. The large income of his Grace enabled him to keep up the ancient feudal splendour in the Castle of the Percies.