At first a 12th century stronghold, Chillingham became a fully fortified Castle in 1344. The castle is steeped in local and national history, often besieged and always winning through. The family were made Dukes and Earls in their early warrior days. They achieve many mentions in Shakespeare’s History plays and in Royal archives. The many Grey commanding generals, eighteen Knights of the Garter and royal appointments were balanced by no less than eight Executions, invariably for high treason. So, family members did espouse a losing cause? But other family members chose different sides so the Chillingham estate survived.
Chillingham occupied a strategic position during Northumberland's bloody border feuds, as often under attack as basking in the patronage of Royal visitors, a tradition that remains to this day. Sir Henry Wakefield was Treasurer of England to King Edward 1V and, in the last century, Sir Humphry’s father, Sir Edward Wakefield, was both Treasurer and Comptroller of the Queen’s Household. In 1245, King Henry111 came to Chillingham as did the Kings Edward 1 and James 1. Charles 1 stayed here for three frantic nights before he was imprisoned, Edward V111 came to hunt here, and members of today’s Royal family continue the tradition with private visits to the Castle this century.
There have been very few architectural additions since those early days, apart from elaborate galleries added in Tudor days. These were in preparation for the visit of James V1, en route to his English coronation. The commanding Grey of that day was Queen Elizabeth’s godchild, and the trusted ‘go-between’ for the English/Scottish courts during those difficult times of the royal succession.
The 18th century saw landscape refinements by Capability Brown and Robert Adam’s pupil Paterson in action on the East wing. In 1828 came the extravagant gardens and avenues laid out by Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, fresh from his triumphs at Windsor Castle.
Throughout the centuries the architectural detail and massive walls have remained largely unchanged with its same underlying medieval strength and character.