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A multi-phase castle, probably originally built as a ringwork by Guy de Balliol circa 1095, later fortified as a shell keep castle between about 1130-1200. The form of the 12th century castle was tith the Inner Ward in the north-west corner of the site above the River Tees, with a Middle Ward to the south of this and the Town Ward courtyard to the east of these two; further south adjaced to the Middle and Town Wards was the Outer Ward. Further construction occurred between about 1329-1380. From about 1230 to 1329 it saw a flourishing period as a great household of the Balliols, a family with high dynastic aspirations and political influence in both northern England and Scotland, particularly under both John Balliol the Elder and the Younger. Later it was a castle of the earls of Warwick (the Beauchcamps) and a Royal Castle. It was in disrepair through the 15th and 16th centuries, partly as a matter of official royal policy for ruling the north: it was then partly dismantled in the 17th century. The castle is in the care of English Heritage.

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