Tynemouth Castle and Priory

Once one of England's largest fortified sites, Tynemouth Castle and Priory is a great place for a fun family day. The amazing views overlooking the North Sea and Tyne River make it a popular spot for picnics, and its complex, 2000-year history offers an incredible learning experience for everyone. Be sure not to miss the "Live in the Stronghold" interactive exhibition in the Warrant Officer's House.

Visiting Tynemouth Castle


Pay and display parking is available in the town centre and at the Spanish Battery. A disabled drivers' car park is up the causeway from Front Street, through the gatehouse on the right.


Adult entry w/ donation - £7.60, w/o donation - £6.90

Child (5-17 years) w/ donation - £4.60, w/o donation - £4.10

Concession and Family pricing available on official website

Free entry for English Heritage Members

Note: The ticket office is in the gatehouse


Open Thursdays - Mondays from 10 am-5 pm between April and September. 

Advance booking is required.

Please note: Some parts of the site may be closed to comply with current government guidelines. Please visit the English Heritage site for updates and details.

Location & Access 

The sire is located off Front Street on the eastern edge of Tynemouth, overlooking the sea.

Pier Road, North Shields, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear NE30 4BZ

Know Before You Go

  • Family learning/children's worksheets are available
  • Vending machine available on-site and restaurants/cafes are in the town centre
  • Toilets including baby changing and disabled facilities are available
  • Vast grassy areas great for picnics and play - bikes, kites, or ball games are not allowed
  • English Heritage does not allow drone flying at any of their sites without explicit permission

History of Tynemouth Castle

The settlement of Tynemouth Castle dates to the Iron Age when the Votadini tribe occupied the fort. This enclosure fortification was built around a set Priority from the 6th century. It fell in the 9th century, sitting in ruins until the 11th century when a Benedictine priory was established. This led to the founding fortification that eventually evolved into the Tynemouth Castle we know today.

(Time Line)

-1095 (The “Castle” Begins/Norman Rule)

A wooden stockade was built atop earthen ramparts on the site when William Rufus captured Earl Robert de Mowbray's castle at the Tyne River's mouth.

Politics of the time had had Tynemouth as a subordinate to St Albans' abbot; an ongoing conflict resulted in a loss of local jurisdiction, yet the Priory never stopped trying to regain it henceforth. 

-1296 (Fortification Granted)

Tynemouth Priory prospered and expanded through the 12th and 13th centuries. To safeguard against raids when the First Scottish Independence War began, Edward I granted the priors a licence to fortify the site.

The headland was reinforced with several towers, and stone walls were raised encircling the entire summit plain. 

-1314 (Castle Withstands Attack)

Following a Scottish victory at the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce led an attack on the Priory. Yet the castle's fortifications proved effective, and a strong garrison successfully defended the site. Indeed, Tynemouth could now sufficiently deter invasion and concluded the war unharmed. 

-1349 (Enhancements)

Additional upgrades were carried out to the headland's fortifications, including Whitley Tower raised to overlook the north beach. By this time, the castle was noted as one of the border region's strongest fortresses. 

-1390 (Further Investments)

When Anglo-Scottish warfare again was on the rise, Richard II provided substantial financing to enhance Tynemouth. More money soon came from Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. 

Much of this funding went to building the gatehouse--its still-standing remains serve as a testimony to both its strength and the sophisticated architecture needed to defend the strategically important site effectively.

-1520 (Priory’s Independence Is Achieved)

With the help of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry VIII's leading minister, the Priory obtained its long-sought independence from St. Albans; however, the King declared himself head of the English Church within a decade and began to pillage its estates. 

-1536 (Reformation & Refortification)

The King's commissioners pressed charges against the Prior and captured the headland, prompting an international uproar that led to a massive fortification effort for several defences along the coast, Tynemouth included. 

A stone-fronted earth bank replaced the landward curtain wall, the southern curtain was made to fit gun ports, and Spanish Battery was established overlooking the river's estuary. 

-1539 (Dissolution of the Monasteries)

The Priory's short-lived independence was cut down with the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and Tynemouth and its belongings were surrendered to Henry VIII; monastic life at Tynemouth ceased to exist from this point. 

-1544-1545 (Enhanced & Garrisoned for War)

Henry VIII tried to 'resolve' the long-standing disputes between England and Scotland by forcing a marriage between his son, Edward, and Mary Stuart, then infant, Queen of Scotland. To support this, he began making enhancements to Tynemouth's fortifications.

Within a year, a 1,000-man workforce had raised a fortified line from the gatehouse running south to a low hill, the Spanish Battery, which gave guns the ability to direct fire upon the river mouth. The new fortress henceforth garrisoned to ensure its economic value was protected. 

-1642 (Civil War)

Royalists fortified Tynemouth once the Civil War broke out, and the Spanish Battery was enhanced. 

-1644 (Castle Surrendered)

The Battle of Marston Moor had not favoured the Royalists, weakening their cause in the North, which led to the surrender of Tynemouth to Parliament.


Royalist forces had a fleeting occupation of the castle during the Second Civil War until Sir Arthur Hesilrige, Parliamentary military commander, defended the castle and gained control. However, much of the Priory was destroyed soon afterwards. 

-1670s (Parish Church & Lighthouse)

Tynemouth remained a military garrison following Charles II's Restoration, though its role was not as significant when Clifford's Fort was raised riverside. 

Its buildings were focused toward the former Priory's outer court, and governor Colonel Edward Villiers used materials from its demolished buildings to construct his house and new barracks. A master gunner's house was built as well, and the gatehouse lodged soldiers of the garrison. At this time, gunpowder was stored in the church, and by 1677, the site included a lighthouse. 


British involvement sparked Tynemouth's revival in the French Revolutionary War.


At the close of the Napoleonic War, the ordnance depot reformed the gun platforms. New barracks were also raised adjacent to the gatehouse, and a master gunner proceeded to maintain its equipment. 

-1859 (Guns Modernized)

Defences were improved again, including a 20-gun upgrade on the headland, a gunpowder magazine, stores, and barracks. 

-1880s (Re-Commissioned to Defence)

New piers at the river mouth obstructed Clifford's Fort, turning the responsibility of the river's defence once more to Tynemouth Castle and Spanish Battery.

-1893 (Upgraded and Repopulated)

New structures were raised for breech-loading guns and later supplied with five guns at the castle and more at the Spanish Battery. Concrete emplacements along the eastern edge of the headland protected the artillery, with control and command buildings set behind, and underground magazines provided ammunition.

Furthermore, the medieval gatehouse remained in use, and by the late-19th century, several new buildings had been added, and the castle was occupied by military forces.


Fire results in most of the newer buildings being removed. 


The castle was a key component during WWII and was consequently subjected to multiple air raids. Military buildings filled the headland from 1945 and were utilised until the army finally evacuated in 1956. 

Portions of the emplacements were restored and are currently accessible for public viewing. The coastal defence includes a guardroom and the primary armoury, an area visitors can learn how skilled soldiers protected munitions and handled them safely. 

The site has since been purged of several military structures to display the remains as a historical monument.

Tynemouth later accommodated the Royal Coastguard, and Prince Charles built a coastguard station in 1980 that was utilised until 2001. Today, English Heritage manages the site as Tynemouth Castle and Priory.

Tynemouth Castle Governors and Lieutenant Governors

Indeed, Tynemouth's extensive history includes many keepers, and the list below is by no means complete. The following lists some more recent figures in history who acted as governor of Tynemouth Castle.

15th Century Governors

  • 1491: Sir Robert Lilburn and William de Norton

16th Century Governors

  • 1553: Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland
  • 1561-1583: Sir Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (reappointed)

17th Century Governors

  • c.1647: Sir Arthur Haselrig/Colonel Henry Lilburne (Deputy Governor) 
  • c.1655: John Topping (Deputy Governor)
  • 1660: William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle
  • 1662: Colonel Edward Villiers
  • 1687-1707: Henry Villiers 

18th Century Governors

  • 1708-1710: Thomas Meredyth
  • 1710-1750: Algernon Seymour, Earl of Hertford 
  • 1750-1771: Lt-Gen Sir Andrew Agnew, 5th Baronet
  • 1771-1778: Lt-Gen Hon. Alex Mackay
  • 1778-1796: Lt-Gen Lord Adam Gordon

19th Century Governors

  • 1796-1809: General Charles Rainsford
  • 1809-c.1820: David Douglas Wemyss

18th Century Lieutenant Governors

  • 1722-1753: Henry Villiers 
  • 1753-1763: Lt-Gen Thomas Lacey
  • 1763-1797: Lt-Col Spencer Cowper
  • 1797-1799: Lt-Col Alexander Hope

19th Century Lieutenant Governors

  • 1799-1821: Col. Charles Crawford
  • 1821-1826: Lt-Gen James Hay
  • 1826-1848: Lt-Gen William Thomas

 Images of Tynemouth Castle

Tynemouth Castle and Priory Tynemouth Castle and Priory Tynemouth Castle and Priory Tynemouth Castle and Priory
Tynemouth Castle and Priory Tynemouth Castle and Priory Tynemouth Castle and Priory Tynemouth Castle and Priory

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Tynemouth Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Was Tynemouth Castle?

Tynemouth Castle technically wasn't a castle so much as it was a fortified priory; unarguably, the headland's defensive structures have taken on castle-like appearances throughout the years. 

Nonetheless, Tynemouth has been noted as a probable Timber Castle, a certain Masonry Castle, a certain Artillery Fort, and a certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

When Was Tynemouth Castle First Built?

The headland has been fortified for two millennia or more, though the site as we know it today directly traces back to a Benedictine Priory established in the 11th century. History then notes two dates that could mark the first castle; The timber motte and bailey was built in 1095, and a Royal licence to fortify, which began the steady evolution of the defences for centuries to follow, was granted in 1296.

How Big Was Tynemouth Castle?

The towers and enclosure walls built around the monastery cover a boundary of 974 metres. Today, the visible remains include a gatehouse, a two-towered curtain wall, and the Whitley Tower, dating to the 13th and 14th centuries. A replacement gatehouse from the 15th century and a three-storey rectangular tower also survive. 

What Was the Main Use of Tynemouth Castle?

Tynemouth's fortifications have been used as defences for its religious communities, other settlements, and later, for the river mouth itself. 

Does Any of Tynemouth Castle Still Exist?

Though ruinous, the remains of the castle and Priory are well-preserved. Certain parts of the curtain wall surround the 15th-century gatehouse and keep. The eastern side of the Priory also survives, nearly at full height, and features large arches and narrow windows. There is also a modest chapel with a rose window


Location of Tynemouth Castle

The Castle is half a mile from the centre of Tynemouth, situated between the North Sea and the River Tyne on a headland neighbouring the North Pier.