Felton, History Society

A view of Felton
A view of Felton

Felton and District History Society met to hear Nick Lewis, National Trust house steward for Lindisfarne Castle, deliver an engaging and entertaining presentation with the intriguing title Lindisfarne Castle – It’s The Fort That Counts.

Nick traced the castle’s history from the mid-16th century to the current renovation works that are instantly recognisable by its protective ‘white hat’, which covers the extensive scaffolding.

Lindisfarne Castle was built because of its strategic importance of protecting the English coastal trade links that passed close to the Scottish border. However, its value in military and trade protection dropped off following the Act of Succession of 1603 that proclaimed King James VI of Scotland, as well as King James I of England. The two countries had been in frequent conflict for centuries, but those enmities fell away as they were rendered obsolete.

Throughout its military lifetime the only occasion when Lindisfarne Castle’s defences were ‘used in anger’ was during the English Civil War when a Parliamentarian ship lay siege to it in 1643. A considerable amount of ammunition was expended on both sides, but to little effect – no great recommendation to the efficiency or accuracy of the gunnery teams.

During the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 the castle was captured in a very amateurish and comical manner, which, apparently, was ‘all over a shave’. The seizure only lasted one night and appears to have involved a fair amount of alcohol consumption. Contemporaneous reports suggest that this capture proved to be a ‘bit of headache’ in more than one respect.

At the end of the 19th century the castle was decommissioned and began its transformation into a home for Edward Hudson, the owner of Country Life magazine.

Thereafter famous names are a regular feature – Charles Rennie Mackintosh sketched the castle, Sir Edward Lutyens was responsible for changing its function from defence to residence, and Gertrude Jekyll designed the flower and vegetable gardens. Throughout this period the Lilburns were the housekeepers.

Nick outlined the painstaking work undertaken by the National Trust between 2013-2018 to protect and restore the nature of the castle as it was portrayed in a Country Life publication in the 1920s. It was fascinating to hear about the ‘behind the scenes’ work that will guarantee Lindisfarne Castle is preserved for future generations.

Thanks go to Nick for his passion and commitment, which were evident throughout his presentation and Q&As.

The next meeting is on Monday, October 16, at 7.30pm, at Felton Village Hall, Main Street, when chairman Eleanor George will delve into the history of Acton Hall and Acton House to explain how visits by the author E.M Foster inspired its inclusion in one of his books.

Members and non-members are welcome. Members’ annual fees are £15 whilst non-members are charged £3 per talk.