Priors Kings and Soldiers
A Place Fit for Kings. The strategic and dramatic setting of Tynemouth Priory and Castle provides the backdrop to a long and colourful history. Known by the Saxons as Benebal Crag, the history of Tynemouth and its’ Priory is one of constant change. It was sacked by the Danes in 800 and repeatedly during the 9th century. The Priory was finally destroyed in 875 and the Vikings used Tynemouth as their base to sack the surrounding area.
The Earl of Northumberland re-founded the religious house here in 1085 with a colony of Benedictine monks from St Albans Abbey. Building on the great Norman church began in 1090, and the whole monastery was substantially completed by the end of the 13th century. Having to maintain a priory, providing suitable accommodation and hospitality for many royal parties, was always a costly business but at Tynemouth Priory the priors were also responsible for the upkeep of the castle and the garrison. The wealth they accumulated from their coal industries was much needed.
Known to be one of the largest fortified areas in England, this site was retained by Henry VIII as a royal castle after the dissolution of Tynemouth Priory in 1539. A lighthouse also stood on this prominent headland before the lighthouse on Tynemouth pier took over the role of protecting ships from the headland and guiding them in to the mouth of the Tyne. Three kings were buried within Tynemouth Priory:Oswin, King of Deira was murdered in 651 by the soldiers of King Oswiu of Bernicia. He became St. Oswin and his burial place a shrine visited by pilgrims. Osred, King of Northumbria from 789 to 790 and then deposed, was murdered in 792.
Malcolm III of Scotland invaded England and was killed by Arkil Morel, nephew of Robert de Mowbray and Steward of Bamburgh Castle, at the Battle of Alnwick after being ambushed by Robert de Mowbray in 1093. His body is since believed to have been moved back to Dunfermline. Three crowns still adorn the North Tyneside coat of arms. Coastal Gun Batteries.
In 1545, the Spanish Battery was first fortified to protect King Henry VIII’s fleet as it assembled before invading Scotland. The name is said to derive from the Spanish mercenaries who were the first to be garrisoned there. By 1905 the majority of guns had been removed. The guns were also used to muster the life brigade with two shots signifying a ship ashore on the north side of the harbour, three, the south side.
Originating in the early 1880s the Tyne Electrical Engineers based at Clifford’s Fort, on Fish Quay, were a specialist unit responsible for defending the port with submarine mines and searchlights. It became a full-fledged unit of the Royal Engineers and in World War One the unit pioneered the use of mobile searchlights. They operated a searchlight battery from Spanish Battery.
Since 1584, artillery has been mounted on the Tynemouth Castle headland, to defend the Tyne against naval attack. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, threats such as Napoleon’s navy meant that the walls of Tynemouth Castle were adapted for coastal gun batteries that could better defend the mouth of the Tyne and the North England’s main outlet for iron, coal, shipbuilding and the manufacture of armaments. Did you know that the Tynemouth batteries were updated and operational during the First and Second World Wars? The army remained in residence at the castle until 1960 at which time much of the modern military evidence was removed. A coastguard station was built in 1980.