Barnard Castle life - picture of the view from the castle over the tees with views of the silver bridge and old railway line

Text taken from the 1951 'A guide to the town and neighbourhood' published by the Barnard Castle Publicity Society and Chamber of Trade.


Of the Scandinavian settlement in the 10th and 1lth centuries, names such as Thorpe, Staindrop (Stainthorpe), Raby, Rokeby and Hunderthwaite are the more interesting examples, while the names of streams remind us of Norse mythology such as Thorsgill and Baldersdale, even though they may be earlier. It is significant that the stream names ending in gill or beck, which are so frequent in Teesdale, Supplanted the Anglo-Saxon burn and give an indication of the northern limit of the Scandinavian occupation of the district, where as in Upper Weardale, the next river valley to the north, the streams leading into it are mostly called burns.

With the Norman Conquest great changes took place and more imposing remains exist. A feudal state of society took the place of the looser organisation of the earlier settlements. The motte and bailey castle constructed on the Tees above the Roman ford was its first symbol. This castle was made before A.D. 1100 by Guy de Baliol, lord of Bailleul in Picardy. The castle erected by him was a mound formed by cutting a deep ditch through the rock on the Scar and the excavated material thrown up to form a high mound (the motte). A wooden tower was then constructed on this mound and a palisade of stakes round it. An outer bailey was made by enclosing another area by a similar palisade or a bank and fence. This area would be used to stable the horses and form a marshalling ground for the knights and retainers who served as the garrison.

In the latter half of the 12th century Guy's nephew or grand- nephew. Bernard, rebuilt the castle in stone and thereby perpetuated his name in Bernard's Castle. To Bernard Baliol the town owes its historic charter of about A.D. 1178, which is still extant with others by succeeding generations of Baliols and of which the community is especially proud.

When the castle was first erected there was no settlement of sufficient importance to be known by a name. The charge brought about by the establishment of a feudal castle, and the re-organisation of the community which this invoked, soon led to an influx of people to cater for the needs of the fortress and gain protection under its walls.

They would not be allowed to erect their rude dwellings near the castle. The main area occupied would be the flat ground near the river at Thorngate and Bridgegate. In the later Middle Ages dwellings would gradually creep up the Bank and in the late 17th century, after the castle had fallen into disrepair, they encroached on the ditch surrounding the outer wall of the castle bailey, and on the ditch itself.

The charters, now in the Council offices, give an indication of the position of the lords of the castle towards the community, the hunting proclivities of the Normans, and the magnanimous spirit which actuated the Baliols. The first charter, given by Bernard Baliol II, about 1178, records the grant of privileges which his father had already given. Hugh, Bernard's son, gave to the inhabitants land on the east and the north towards Stainton. John Baliol, in the 13th century, gave to the townsmen a large tract of land in Maywood, later known as Barnard Castle Moor in place of land on the Stainton road which he wanted to add to his deer park along the bank of the river.

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