Chipchase Castle
Chipchase Castle

Chipchase Castle is a marvellous Jacobean mansion near Wark, Northumberland, built onto one of the best preserved medieval peles in the north of England. The castle was built in 1621, and is probably one of the finest early 17th century houses in England. The castle is set in 3 acres of gardens, and both castle and gardens are regularly open to the public.
The first dwelling at Chipchase was built in the 14th or early 15th century, at a time when a strong defense was necessary in this turbulent region close to the Scottish border. That original house consisted of a Pele tower with corner turrets, which still stand. The original pele was greatly extended to form the Jacobean house, which was in turn extended in the mid-18th century. The interiors feature fine examples of Victorian furniture.

The west lawn and pele tower
The west lawn and pele tower
The tower rises to 4 storeys, with a vaulted cellar and further watchtowers at each corner, linked by a crenellated parapet walk. The medieval portcullis is still in place. The exact date of construction is unknown, but it was definitely in existence by 1415.

Current opening details are on the Chipchase Castle Nursery website at http://www.chipchaseplants.co.uk (the nursery is a popular garden centre created from one of two walled gardens beside the castle).

Visiting

When we visited the castle itself was closed to the public but the gardens were open. There were no apparent signs on the surrounding roads, but once we found the main entrance drive to the castle all we had to do was follow signs for the nursery. There is only parking for a few cars, and there did not at first appear to be anyone about. However, as we tried to figure out what to do next a gardener appeared and welcomed us, with directions for the best route to explore the gardens.

We had to pass through the large nursery area, no hardship for our family, and then into a beautifully lush walled garden, with clipped hedges and a terrace of glasshouses at one end. Beyond the walled garden a trail led through woodland, with glimpses of a small lake, until we came to a gateway in a stone wall that took us onto a wide terraced garden to the west of the castle. Directly in front of us was the huge

Directly in front of us was the huge pele tower. This is where you really get a sense of the true age of Chipchase Castle, for the pele gives way almost immediately to the later Jacobean and Georgian additions. We were not allowed to walk past the pele tower; the front of the house was off-limits to visitors, but we could still get a very good view of the whole house from the garden path, which looped back around the lake top the walled garden.

The gardens at Chipchase are small but quite enjoyable, and you really get a sense of the site's age and history. The pele tower is particularly impressive, and you can easily make out the original 14th century features.