+44 (0)7734 130 422 info@ilestours.co.uk

Newcastle’s Castle – The Great Hall

The first thing to say about The Great Hall is that the name is a Victorian name. It wouldn’t have been called the Great Hall during the Middle Ages. That would have been another building outside of the Castle Keep.

The Great hall, behind Newcastle’s Castle keep

Where today’s Vermont Hotel is, the original Great Hall would have been a two-storey building. It would have had a hall inside as a social space for eating and drinking. Below that, food and drink would be stored and prepared.

Up at the Hall of the castle, the space would have been used by the Monarch. He may have seen eating and drinking in this space but not in the same way as the original Great Hall.

In this Great Hall, the King would have held court. He would have knighted people, distributed land. The events taking place in this room would have been very official and a bit like a courtroom today. This room would have held a great deal of influence in both English and Scottish history.

Features of the room

The structure of the room would have been quite different in the past. There would have been a medieval roof below the current roof. The holes in the middle of the room would have been from the English Civil War. They would have housed massive oak beams, on which canons would be rested.

At that time, Parliamentarian forces had taken Gateshead and the canons would have been there to fire at Gateshead.

History in the making

Here in the Hall, Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks or the hammer of the Scots, took the oath of fealty from John Balliol who became the King of the Scots in 1292.

This all happened because the previous Scottish King had died and his closest living relative was Margaret, Maid of Norway who was the daughter of the Norwegian king and whose mother had been a Scottish princess.

Margaret came to England to marry Edward II to bring together the dynasties of England and Scotland. Had it happened, the Kingdom could well have been united back then.

Unfortunately Margaret died during her journey to England causing the Scottish Nobles to come together to work out who had the biggest claim to the throne. It boiled down to two families – the families of John Balliol and Robert the Bruce.

Edward decided to make John Balliol the King of Scots (perhaps after some background deal making by Balliol). They met in Newcastle’s Castle where Balliol paid homage and swore fealty to Edward, creating him a sub lord in the new Scottish King, making Edward the High King of England, Scotland and Wales.

Just off the Great Hall, there’s a ‘pleasant’ prison. It had easy access to the Great Hall to be a part of any events in the Hall and was a high-status prison as it had a toilet right next to it. For that reason, high-status individuals would have been imprisoned here. It would have had a nice bed, some form of entertainment and they’d have visitation rights.

It’s likely that Robert the Bruce’s sister was kept prisoner in that room in order to control her brother. She would have enjoyed a social life with other lords and ladies but was a prisoner, nonetheless.

At the other end of the Hall is the Queen’s Room. There isn’t any evidence that it was a royal bedroom but it would have been a room for high-status visitors. Just like in the prison, it also had a toilet of its own. It’s also special because it had a fireplace – one of the oldest in Britain, dating back to the late Norman period. The features in the fireplace are spectacular.

Why not visit the castle yourself and view this Great Hall with your own eyes?

Leave a Reply