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Barnard Castle Welcome to Our Beautiful Little Tourist Town

Barnard Castle

& Richard III

The town takes its name from the fortress built for its Norman founder Bernard de Baliol, originally named "Bernard's Castle". The castle was granted to Richard III in 1475 as part of the Neville inheritance. Richard probably undertook some building here, as his boar badge can be seen on the slab over an oriel window which was once part of the Great Chamber.

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

But, following Richard's death, the castle was neglected and today is an iconic ruin, best seen from various viewing points on the southern banks side of the River Tees, which it overlooks. There are more Richard III connections to the town detailed later in our St. Mary's Church & The Bank sections.

Photo courtesy of Beamish Museum, the living museum of the North.

The entrance gates to the castle are tucked away behind the Methodist Church at the Scar Top, but the gates are also accessible from the County Bridge below by a steep winding pathway.

Photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

The castle remains are classed as a Grade 1 listed building, whilst the Chapel in the outer ward is Grade 11 listed. Both sets of remains are now in the care of English Heritage and open to the public.

Sir Walter Scott was fond of exploring Teesdale. He begins his epic poem Rokeby (1813) with a man standing on guard on the round tower of the Barnard Castle fortress.

First page & this page main photos (c) Trevor Brookes

The County Bridge

"Broomstick Bridge" & King Edward VII

This arched bridge was probably late medieval originally, dating from the 14th Century. It was rebuilt after the siege of Barnard Castle. It bears a date stone of 1596, which replaced an earlier stone - a mistake by the stonemason, that stated 1569 (the year of the siege of the castle).

It was called the "County Bridge", as it was formerly the boundary between County Durham and Yorkshire. It was also known at one point as the "Broomstick Bridge" as the upstream bay in the middle of the bridge was once a temporary chapel where Illicit wedding ceremonies were performed by an 18th Century bogus parson named Cuthbert Hilton. At the end of each ceremony the newly wedded pair were obliged to jump over a broomstick, held by Hilton, to seal the knot. The phrase "living over the brush" used to describe an unmarried couple who live together. The tiny bay was also a cobbler's cottage at one point.

County Bridge Toll House

On the castle side of the bridge behind the traffic light used to be the toll-house. The original building was washed away by the 1771 flood, but another was built in the same place. lts window faced the road, for the toll-keeper to watch out for traveIlers. There was a little hatch to the right of the door to accept payment.

The building adjoining the bridge, until recent years, was the White Swan pub. This was originally weavers' cottages. The steps to the left of the building looking from the river are all that remains of three other houses.

A visit by King Edward VII in 1907, coming back from a shooting party. He used to come to the area regularly for this.

All colour photos this page (c) Trevor Brookes

The Bowes Museum

& The Royal Family

There's a "wow" factor when first seeing this magnificent building on the outskirts of the town, built in the style of a French château in 1892, by discerning art collectors John & Joséphine Bowes.

Workmen building the Museum.

The Museum houses a permanent collection of fine and decorative arts and has a vast programme of exhibitions and events that run throughout the year. Its most famous exhibit is the 18th-century Silver Swan automaton, though art includes work by Canaletto, Turner, Goya and El Greco.

On reflection.. a great day out!

Outside the Museum boasts a stunning parterre garden, woodland walk and children's play area in its grounds which are always open to the public.

All colour photos this page (c) Trevor Brookes

The Bowes Museum & The Royal Family

The most recent visit by a member of the Royal Family was by HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales in 2018. The Museum also had the privilege to receive a very private visit from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh in the early ’90’s but it was Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother that had a very special relationship with the Bowes family and visited the Museum on many occasions.

The Queen Mother on a visit, with The Bowes Museum Curator Frank Atkinson - who went on to found Beamish Museum.

The Museum itself is open daily except Christmas Day, Boxing Day & New Years Day. It has a cafe & shop in addition to 3 floors of exhibits.

Photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

The Museum is licensed for weddings, hosts a variety of indoor & outdoor events, offers disabled access and parking is free.

Photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

Main page photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

Horsemarket to Market Place

With Charles Dickens, Daniel Defoe & William Wordsworth

Barney's version of a High Street is "Horsemarket" & "Market Place", an eclectic mix of mostly independent shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and other buildings, many of which are of significant historic interest. They oppose each other across "the cobbles", which form an island between a narrow access road and the main road through the town.

The cobbles are used mainly for parking except when taken over weekly on Wednesdays by the town's general market traders and on the first Saturday of each month by Farmers Market stallholders.

The "street" starts and ends between the distinctive "Buttermarket" and a sharp bend near the prominent spire of the town's Methodist Church.

A horse and carriage outside the Kings Head.

Charles Dickens and his illustrator Hablot Browne (Phiz) stayed at the King's Head (now Kings Court), while researching his novel Nicholas Nickleby in the winter of 1837–38. He is said to have entered William Humphrey's clock-maker's shop, then opposite the hotel, and enquired who had made a certain remarkable clock. William replied that his boy Humphrey had done it. This seems to have prompted Dickens to choose the title "Master Humphrey's Clock" for his new weekly, in which The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge appeared.

Humphrey's Shop opposite the Kings Head

Daniel Defoe, writer of "Robinson Crusoe, also visited here in the early 18th century and commented 'Tis an ancient town, and pretty well built, but not large'.

Then William Wordsworth spent a night in Barnard Castle on 28th October 1798.

Main Photo (c) Teesdale Mercury

The Witham

Named after local philanthropist, Henry Witham and built in his memory in 1846, this grand, Grade II listed, Victorian building, in the centre of town, is the local venue for theatre, music, comedy, art and social events.

Photo (c) Courtesy of Beamish. Living Museum of the North

Facilities range from an architecturally award-winning café bar atrium to a Victorian music hall.

Photo (c) Courtesy of Beamish. Living Museum of the North

The Witham also hosts an art gallery, box office, gift shop & the town’s tourist information point.

Witham rear entrance

The rear of the building is enhanced by a hay meadow, a shepherdess caravan and an outside seating area, perfect for enjoying food and drink before a show - when the weather permits.

Main Photo (c) This Is Durham

The Buttermarket

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Built in 1747 and also known locally as "The Market Cross", this iconic structure was the gift of Thomas Breaks, a local wool merchant, to shelter the farmers' wives, who came to the town to sell their produce.

Photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

It has also functioned as a town hall. The centre section was at one point used as cells for prisoners with the market traders selling around the perimeter & the courtroom upstairs. The building also housed the town's fire engine for a while.

In 1808, a soldier from the Teesdale Legion of Volunteers and a local gamekeeper, who were drinking in a nearby pub, argued over who might be the best shot. They took aim at the weathervane on the cupola and both hit the target. The bullet holes can still be seen today.

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Main page photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

St Mary's Parish Church

& Richard III

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Close to the Buttermarket and on the corner...... some say "Amen Corner", St Mary's Church dates back to 1130. Features of note include 12th Century carved headstones, a 13th Century effigy of a priest and a 15th Century Tees marble font bearing medieval guild marks.

Churchyard including 12th Century carved headstones Photo (c) Julian Harrop

After his marriage Richard III acquired the Lordship of the town and from 1474 to 1475 he spent time and money here. He founded a chantry here and paid for extensive works within the church.

Shop in Newgate near the church with boar - since demolished. The boar carving was rescued & is now in the Bowes Museum. Photo (c) Courtesy of Beamish. Living Museum of the North

The church boasts a chancel arch decorated with the heads of Edward IV & Richard III - then then Duke of Gloucester - and Richard's boar badge can be seen on the exterior of the south transcept's east window. Richard's boar "badge" was on several buildings in the town - more than anywhere else in England

Richard III head on the chancel arch

The entrance porch contains a number of military honours, including flags of the Duke of Wellington, dating from the Peninsular Wars and the Crimea. The porch also contains Victorian memorials including that of an officer who died of wounds received in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. The Memorial Doors were created to commemorate those local to Barnard Castle who lost their lives in World War One.

This picture of St Mary's Church shows the clock on the corner of the tower which was changed to how it is now in 1873-4.

Main page photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

The Bank to Thorngate

Oliver Cromwell & Richard III

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes.

The challenging hill leading up from the river ending at the Buttermarket literally describes itself! On both sides, the Bank has many of the oldest buildings in the town including perhaps the oldest, Blagraves House - which has hosted travellers for some 500 years. Oliver Cromwell was once a visitor there. It too has a link to Richard III as explained in this video.

Well known mainly for antiques shops and artisan businesses, there are also pubs, cafes and restaurants, the Old Well inn boasts a well which can be viewed on request by CCTV.

The market used to extend past the Market Cross down the Bank.

Gray Lane at the bottom of the Bank leads to an extensive green area bordering the river, known as the Demesnes, which is very popular for picnics.

Thorngate

Further down is Thorngate with many spacious 17th &18th century properties including former woollen mills, which have been tastefully converted into flats. Many houses have "weaver's lights" on their top floors.

Main page photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Lots More To Do

With the scenic river Tees running beside the town, Barnard Castle is naturally popular for fishing & canoeing.

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

The woods and riverside also make the town a great place to come for a picnic, go dog walking, rambling & more.

You'd be barking mad to miss this dog friendly town.

Cyclists and motorcyclists also like it here, because of the winding & undulating roads with beautiful scenery.

Go anywhere else?.. On your bike!

For the more adventurous, TCR Hub on the top edge of town offers kayaking, BMX, canoeing, raft building, high ropes & archery

While the Teesdale Leisure Centre has swimming, a gym, badminton & fitness classes.

Barney is also well known for its fantastic independent shops - as well as our regular markets.

Farmers Market (1st Saturday of each month). We also host a weekly Wednesday market, a weekly country market in St Mary's Parish Hall and regular fairs in the Witham.

Main Page Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Barnard Castle Old Photos & Audio Walk App

If that were not enough, we also have a free app to keep you busy in the town for a while. With it you can step back in time and see how Barnard Castle looked a hundred years ago. Our video shows how it works..

With it you can look at over 250 vintage photos on your phone - shown to you where they were taken. We have 50 locations on our lovely circular walking tour that takes your round the town and along by the river.

Travel Back In Time

Listen too, to the fascination history of our 21 Historic Blue Plaques as told by our late, local historian Alan Wilkinson at each plaque itself.

This is a fascinating, but fun, insight into the past... a giant, then and now, spot the difference.

The cattle market on Galgate

The app has video links too, so you can see incredible footage of the town in 1913, a Hitler impersonator on a tricycle in 1939... and more.

With our app you can have a great time, independently, at your own pace, looking back at the past of this wonderful historic town.

Download the free Tour Buddy Historic Tours App now and you will find our tour there.

Occasional Attractions

Barney, like many other market towns, has several traditional events, that take place throughout the year and others that are "evolving".

"Not the Boat Race" on Whit Saturday. Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

The most famous of these is the "Meet" parade, that has been going for over a century at Whit weekend.

Spitfire Fly Past Photo (c) Stuart Laundy

A 1940's weekend was recently introduced and is gaining in popularity. Individuals and organisations dress up and recreate scenes and entertainment from that era and weather permitting, a WW2 Spitfire flies over the arrangement. This weekend is normally in late June.

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

For up to date details of events in the area, follow this link.

Main page photo (c) Stuart Laundy

Our Great Outdoors

In the footsteps of JMW Turner.

The town and its surrounding areas host many caravan and camping sites with pitches for tourers, statics and tents. All benefit from pleasant peaceful locations and many with dazzling views of open countryside.

Photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Some offer easy walking distance into town, while others offer pleasing access routes for serious walkers, cyclists or motorists.

Being an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, many walks are well documented.

Heart of England Walks Free App

Explore the little known gem of Teesdale. Let us take you to the sites that inspired the creative talents of revered artists such as JW Turner and Sir Walter Scott. This free app has maps & directions along 11 beautiful walking trails in Teesdale, along with GPS tracking.

It also includes fascinating audio information about historic and cultural places of interest that make Teesdale unique, with a focus on music and dialect and the importance of place to local people. Search Heart of England on your app store.

Heart of England Walks Free App

Main photo (c) Trevor Brookes

Nearby Attractions

For A Grand Day Out

Eggleston Abbey (2 miles from BC)

There is a wonderful view across the River Tees of the ancient monument of Eggleston Abbey. Its origins can be traced back to 1195 and records indicate that early in the 13th century, it was so small it warranted re-classification only as a priory.

Local landowners including those occupying nearby "Rokeby" held guardianship of the site until it was given into public ownership in 1925 and is now managed by English Heritage. Popular, in passing, with walkers, admission is free and there is adjacent parking, with vehicular access via a narrow lane next to the Tees.

All colour pics this page (c) Trevor Brookes

Rokeby (3 miles from BC)

And Sir Walter Scott

Rokeby, described as one of the purest examples of a neo-palladian villa, was designed by its owner Sir Thomas Robinson and built between 1725 and 1730.

But the history of the site goes back many centuries earlier. Nearby Greta Bridge was a Roman Encampment. By the reign of Edward II the land belonged to the Rokeby family; their early medieval home was burned by the Scots in a raid following Bannockburn. A house was later built on the same site which passed from the Rokebys to the Robinsons in James I’s reign.

Rokeby is set in a magnificent park located between the A66 and the rivers Tees and Greta which come together at a local beauty spot known as “The Meeting of the Waters.” Sir Walter Scott visited and described the scene in his poetic history, “Rokeby” published in 1813.

It is open for visiting - but only on Mondays and Tuesdays - between May and September. Getting there is a picturesque walk for serious walkers from the town centre with views of The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle School and Eggleston Abbey en route or take 5 minutes by car.

Main Pic Dairy Bridge, Rokeby (c) Trevor Brookes

Raby Castle (6 miles from BC)

Readily available, just 6 miles out of Barney past the pretty village of Staindrop towards Bishop Auckland, the castle is often seen with the estate's deer herd grazing in the foreground.

Raby Castle, built in the 14th Century, is the home to Lord Barnard, the area's major landowner. It immediately provides that quintessential "look" associated with Britain's medieval castles.

It is open to the public throughout the year & regularly hosts events such as classic car rallies, flower shows, seasonal markets and outdoor theatre productions. It has a tea room, gift shop and children's play area.

Main page photo (c) Mark Brownless (Night Time Teesdale)

Kirkcarrion (10ml from BC)

Above the quiet hamlet of Bowbank in Teesdale a copse of trees silhouetted against the sky draws our attention skywards.

These trees mark the site where in Bronze Age times - 2,000 to 500 BC, humans piled lots and lots of stones on the top of Kirkcarrion to mark the prehistoric tomb of a Bronze Age chieftain.

All photos this page (c) Trevor Brookes

Hamsterley Forest (12ml from BC)

Head to Hamsterley Forest for bird watching, dark-sky gazing, adventure play and high-octane mountain biking.

A great value day out where you can refresh in the cafe or paddle in and picnic by the river.

High Force (15 miles from BC)

If you head up the stunning dale itself to High Force, you will pass through lovely Middleton-In-Teesdale, before arriving at Teesdale's most spectacular waterfall, to enjoy sightings of a vast array of wildflowers, ferns and towering trees. There is also the opportunity to spot roe deer and many bird species.

It is also worth checking out Low Force & the Bowlees Visitor Centre on your way up.

Main Pic (c) Trevor Brookes

How To Get To Barney

We are situated in an excellent rural environment, but with great transport links to the rest of the country.

We are only 20 minutes away from the A1(M) and Darlington Railway Station; the main line to London Kings Cross takes 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Barney is also half an hour away from Durham Tees Valley Airport and an hour away from Newcastle International Airport. Leeds Bradford is one and a half hours away.

Further, we are adjacent to the A66 which is the doorway to the Lake District, M6 and the West Coast.

Website (c) Geoff Dixon - Making Barney Brighter Together 2019

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