The Percy lion is set to roar again Nov 8 2006

By Tony Henderson, The Journal

Work has started on the latest stage of preserving a tower which symbolises the power of a family dynasty.
The 14th Century Lion Tower is part of English Heritage's Warkworth Castle in Northumberland.

The castle, which dates from the 12th Century, was given by Edward III to Henry, the second Lord Percy of Alnwick, and has been in the family ever since.

The Lion Tower, so called because it has the Percy emblem - the lion - on its frontage, served as a public entrance to the Great Hall, which would have been filled with rich tapestries and gold plate as a visible display of the family's wealth and power.

The display on the tower features the Percy lion supported on brackets and above that two shields - the coats of arms of the Percys on the right and the Lucys on the left - Maud de Lucy was the first Earl's second wife. Kate Wilson, English Heritage ancient monuments inspector, said: "Warkworth Castle is one of the largest, strongest and most impressive fortresses in northern England and was once home to the Percy family, with their lion badge carved on many parts of the stronghold.

"Although the carvings on the Lion Tower are eroded, they remain a very visual display of the wealth and status of one of the North's great families.

"English Heritage is committed to ensuring we keep as much of this heraldic carving for as long as possible so that visitors will continue to be impressed by the ambition and power of the Earls of Northumberland."

Conservation work was carried out on the tower in 1985, applying a chemical called brethane to the masonry to help preserve it and the current work by Historic Building Services from Acomb in Northumberland will also assess how that has worked.

Kate said: "The firm shares our commitment to supporting traditional skills by training new apprentices in the art of the stonemason, as well as carpentry, and their apprentices will be among the team working on the tower."

The team working on the towers include stonemason Raymond Craig; Jonathan Hands, who has just completed his apprenticeship as a stonemason; mason's assistant Phil Taylor and 17-year-old Chris Buckley, who began his apprenticeship as a stonemason just a month ago. All are from Northumberland.


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Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle is a ruined, although reasonably well preserved castle , situated in Warkworth , Northumberland , on a defensive mound in a loop of the River Coquet .

Warkworth Castle was originally constructed as a wooden fortress, some time after the Norman Conquest . It was later ceded to the Percy family, who held it, and resided there on and off (dependent on the state of their often stormy relationship with the royalty of the time) until the 16th C. During this period the castle was rebuilt with sandstone curtain walls and greatly reinforced. The imposing keep, overlooking the village of Warkworth was added during the 15th C. It was refurbished, with much refaced stonework, by the Dukes of Northumberland in the late 19th C.

The castle formed the backdrop for several scenes in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 .
this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone, Where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland, Lies crafty-sick.

Although the village of Warkworth, Northumberland dates back at least to the 8th century, the first castle was not built until the mid-twelfth century. It was of motte and bailey construction and built by Henry, Earl of Huntingdon and Northumberland , son of David I of Scotland . At this time, Northumberland was part of Scotland.

In 1147, Northumberland was re-taken for the English by Henry II and the castle was given to Roger FitzRichard whose family continued to hold it until the early fourteenth century. During this period, the original wooden structure was replaced with a stone-built castle which, by the mid-thirteenth century, was described by Matthew Paris as "a noble castle".

The descendants of FitzRichard encountered financial problems, including the cost of the upkeep of the castle, and ownership reverted to the Crown in 1332. It was next granted to Henry de Percy, Lord of Alnwick. Under the Percys, additional building work took place, including fourteenth century keep.

However, in the rebellion of 1403, the castle fell to the King's cannon, suffering damage to the curtain wall. The castle was forfeited to the Crown, in whose ownership it remained until Henry V restored it to the Percy family. It was again forfeited to the King, during the Wars of the Roses and passed briefly into the hands of John Neville (brother of Warwick the Kingmaker ) but again returned to the Percys in 1470.

The Percys sided against Elizabeth I in the rising of the northern earls which began in 1558. Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland , was executed in 1572 and the castle was pillaged by royal servants. The castle fell into long-term disrepair, being further damaged by the Parliamentary forces who were garrisoned there in 1648 and then used as a source of building materials for other houses in the later 17th century.