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BELSAY CASTLE

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Belsay Castle. The tower was constructed between 1391 and 1396. It is known that there was an earlier manor house, which received Edward I in 1278, but its location has never been confirmed, although fragments of 14th and 15th century paintings survive. The tower is a 3 storey rectangular stone building with two short projections or wings at the south west and north west corners. It is capped by 4 rounded corner turrets with battlements in between and constructed of square blocks of sandstone. The tunnel-vaulted ground floor was probably used as a kitchen, with the great hall on the floor above. Traces of 15th century painted wall plaster survive in the hall. In 1614 a low two storey range was added to the tower house, possibly on the site of an earlier range of buildings. The building, one of the earliest undefended houses in the county, reflected the more settled conditions in the Border area after the union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603. An extensive levelled platform in front of the south front defines the probable extent of an associated formal garden compartment. A terrace defines the probable eastward extent of another compartment containing a dry depression which probably represents a canal-like pond, possibly ornamental (previously suggested to be part of a pre-1439 moat). The 1614 house was re-modelled in 1870s and the tower restored and re-roofed in 1897. Attached to the west of the main range are the remains of a three storey block, probably built in 1711. Situated immediately north of the tower house is a 2 storey range of buildings, originally freestanding but joined by a small building to the tower in the 19th century. This building, known as the north wing, displays obvious medieval masonry, especially in the eastern wall. The gable end and the roof of this building were replaced in the 19th century but the remainder is thought to be of a similar date to the tower house.

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