Thirlwall Castle

Thirlwall Castle, Northumberland

Thirlwall Castle is a 12th-century castle in Northumberland, England, on the bank of the River Tipalt close to the village of Greenhead and approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of Hexham. It was built in the 12th century, and later strengthened using stones from nearby Hadrian's Wall, but began to fall into disrepair in the 17th century. The site is protected by Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument status.

The origin and meaning of "Thirlwall", is a combination of the Greek word "θύρα" ("Thura") and more familiar English word "wall", related to nearby Hadrian's Wall. The name "Thirlwall" is often pronounced "Thura wall" (thoo•rah•wall).

"Thirl" is old English derived from the Greek "Thura". The root and meaning of the name "Thirlwall" is further understood by the following information provided in Strong's Enhanced Lexicon.

2374 θύρα [Thura /thoo•rah/] n f. A root word [cf "door"]; TDNT 3:173; TDNTA 340; GK 2598; 39 occurrences; AV translates as "door" 38 times, and "gate" once. 1 a door. 1a the vestibule. 1b used of any opening like a door, an entrance, way or passage into. 1c in a parable or metaphor. 1c1 the door through which sheep go in and out, the name of him who brings salvation to those who follow his guidance. 1c2 "an open door" is used of the opportunity of doing something. 1c3 the door of the kingdom of heaven (likened to a palace) denotes the conditions which must be complied with in order to be received into the kingdom of God.
Sources: TDNT Theological Dictionary of the New Testament TDNTA Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume GK Goodrick-Kohlenberger AV Authorized Version Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario.

An article appearing in "Atlantic Monthly" magazine describes "thirl" as "a small passage built into a wall to allow sheep but not cattle to pass through". This derives from and corresponds to the Greek definition for "Thura". "Wall" within this name refers to Roman-built Hadrian's Wall between Northeast England and Scotland in Northumbria."

The home of the Thirlwall family, it was fortified in about 1330 by John Thirlwall. In a survey of 1542 it was reported as in the ownership of Robert Thirlwall and in a 'measurable good' state of repair.

Sir Percival Thirlwall of Thirlwall Castle was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field whilst fighting in the Yorkist cause in 22 August, 1485. He was Richard’s standard-bearer in the final charge at Bosworth. He held up the standard even after his legs had been cut from under him (possible source Bennett, Michael. The Battle of Bosworth, 1985, rev. 1993. pp. 114 and 116).

Earliest area history

Hadrian's Wall forms the earliest recorded record of history in the local area; however, some accounts indicate that an even earlier construct was made along the Wall alignment created by the Picts themselves.[1] The Roman Wall incorporates Agricola's Ditch and was constructed primarily to impede harrying by small bands of raiders and unwanted immigration from the north, not as a fighting line for a major invasion.[2]

Post medieval

Eleanor Thirwall, the last of the Thirlwall family line, abandoned the castle as a residence and the estate passed to the Swinburne family by her 1738 marriage to Matthew Swinburne of Capheaton Hall. Swinburne sold the estate to the Earl of Carlisle for £4000 in 1748.

Thereafter the castle fell into decay. In 1832 and again in 1982 there were serious collapses of masonry.

In 1999 the Northumberland National Park Authority took over the management of the castle, protecting it from further dereliction.

Line notes

  1. ^ Archaeologia Aeliana, Or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, 1891, Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne n. s., v. 14 (1891)
  2. ^ Stephen Johnson (2004) Hadrian's Wall, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc, 128 pages, ISBN 0713488409


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