The Castle: peeling back the layers

Lindisfarne Castle shown from the harbour

Lindisfarne Castle is really two buildings; the comfortable Edwardian holiday home with the Lutyens features and the cosy atmosphere is the obvious one as it is what we see today. But hiding behind all this is the old fort, dating from Tudor times and taking up three quarters of the Castle's history.

Lindisfarne Castle as we know it first appears in about 1550, but wasn't in any completed state until 1570. For the next three hundred years, the fort (as it was known then) was home to temporary garrisons of soldiers on detatchment from the larger force based at nearby Berwick. Their main job was to man the guns, watch the horizon for trouble, and try and stave of boredom with gunnery practice. Aside from a couple of incidents, the Castle could be said to have had a quiet military history through this period. The fact it was still standing when Edward Hudson discovered it in 1901 is testement to that. His friend the architect Edwin Lutyens was soon to dramatically change the building over the next few years, from a fort to a holiday home. 

Many of the features of the old fort were lost during the Lutyens renovation of 1903-1906 but if you delve a little deeper and don't accept what you see in front of you, parts of the old building reappear before you.

In the Dining Room, for example, Lutyens created a new fireplace, laid a distinctive herringbone brick floor and carved out a huge window bay with tracery window in stone. He left untouched a bread oven and salt hole from the soldier's time (probably dating from the 16th-century) along with the low vertical walls which are about as old as anything in the Castle. The vaulted ceiling, installed in the 18th-century to bear the weight of a new gun battery above. The Dining Room stands as the best surviving example in the house of building work from all periods of development.

Linda Lilburn worked at the Castle with her parents, brother, and sister-in-law
Linda Lilburn in the Dining Room at Lindisfarne, c.1930
Linda Lilburn worked at the Castle with her parents, brother, and sister-in-law

In the Kitchen there are wall paintings - found in the recent conservation project - which we think date to the late 17th-century. Similar pictures were also found in the East Bedroom but these are not on display.

Elsewhere there is the original staircase leading to the Upper Battery is a prominent feature along with the low ceilings of the western end of the building, and the surviving Victorian doors leading to the former gunpowder magazine - Lutyens' West Bedroom. 

Throughout the rest of the Castle, other features can be found from the old fort. All that is required is a little imagination, a copy of our guidebook and perhaps a chat with one of our helpful members of staff.

The holiday home from the early twentieth century is the building most on show, and we tell the story of those who worked here, those who visited, and those who called the place home over a hundred years ago. For the best part of seventy years, Lindisfarne was so much more to so many people than a old fort on a crag.