Nicholas Crane explores the link between Britain's coastline and its citizens. He visits Bamburgh in Northumberland, whose castle sits on a basalt crag.
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This is one of the most iconic places on Britain's coastline -
the great Norman castle of Bamburgh -
but we're also in the heart of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.
This castle was at its most powerful before there was even an England.
During the time of the Anglo Saxons, Angleland, as it was then known,
was divided up into seven major kingdoms,
of which Northumbria was the most powerful.
The 6th-century kings of Northumbria chose this rock to be their capital.
And what a rock!
The huge basalt crag that Bamburgh Castle stands on was chosen for its commanding position.
Connected to the sea by a natural harbour,
it was visible along the coast for miles.
For the last two years, Graham Young has been exploring beneath its magnificent facade.
Graham, I can look around and see all these lumps of masonry,
-but presumably these are Norman or later?
The majority of the standing structure is the last 1,000 years.
So where's the Saxon?
Well, under the ground.
We know it's here because it's written about in documentary evidence.
We've been excavating. We have a number of Anglo-Saxon features at this level.
There are pits and post-holes and so forth.
The evidence is that when we stop seeing pottery, we're getting back into the first millennium AD.
Our prime dating evidence is the absence of things.
-What about this wall...? I presume it's a wall?
It's a rubble foundation to what is a massive timber structure,
probably part of the gate complex.
The first documentary evidence of a fortress here is in the year 547
and Graham's find may well date back to that time.
The reason that there's so little of that Anglo-Saxon fortress left
is that after pillaging Lindisfarne,
the Vikings hit Bamburgh.
In the year 993,
the original fortress was razed to the ground.
But it wasn't a ruin for long.
William the Conqueror's forces arrived in England in 1066,
and within 50 years, they had made Bamburgh Castle great again.
That it's in such good condition today, nearly 1,000 years later,
is not quite as surprising as it first appears.
This may seem to be the quintessential mediaeval castle,
but the only really genuine bit is this Norman keep.
Most of the rest was rebuilt by the 19th-century industrialist, Lord Armstrong,
as a fairy-tale castle,
and that's this castle's secret.
Because, despite its outward appearance,
Bamburgh was last used in anger over 500 years ago.
Attacked during the War of the Roses,
it soon fell into ruins and has never regained its powerful status.
Its final abandonment by James I reflects the decline in this area's fortunes
at the beginning of the 17th century
as the political importance of the border regions ebbed away.
Nicholas Crane explores Britain's coastline and the relationship between citizens and the sea. He visits Bamburgh in Northumberland, whose castle sits on a basalt crag by the shore.