Chillingham Castle is a fourteenth century, four cornered towered building, constructed around an old pele tower. De Gray, a Normandy noble man who established the castle as his family's estate, built the original tower after the Norman Conquest. A hundred years later Chillingham was granted a Royal Licence to "crenellate" or expand. A stonewall was erected for extra protection and domestic accommodation for visits from royalty and family.
By the seventeenth century, Chillingham Castle had been subjected to a number of battles. These were in the form of attacks by the Border Reivers or Mosstroopers, tribes of men who had the legal right to attack neighbouring villages and castles situated on the Scottish/English borders. Chillingham was especially vulnerable for its rare "White Cattle" herds.
The dungeons often held inmates captured during the skirmishes and even today, one can see initials and lines scratched into the walls as the days passed by of their imprisonment.
The battles ensured that Chillingham was further strengthened and rebuilt in parts to make it less vulnerable to attack. By the end of the sixteenth century, the entrance to the castle was transferred to the north curtain wall, and the southern part of the courtyard was rebuilt with decorative pillars.
The Greys made further changes to the castle in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century. The famous landscape architect, Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, who had recently laid grounds at Windsor Castle, was commissioned to create "landscape refinements and extravagancies". Wyatville replied with designs of an Italian garden and major landscape changes.
Structural alterations included providing a central stairway from the courtyard to the upper level of the castle, and the east range was completely remodelled. The last major works at Chillingham Castle were carried out around the middle of the 19th century when a new service wing was constructed.
Maybe due to the heavy burden of running costs, in 1933 the castle was abandoned, the Grey family moved to a smaller house close to Chillingham village. The castle began to rot and was infested by pigeons and rats.
Recently Sir Humphrey Wakefield and Lady Mary Grey took over the estate and began the enormous task of restoring it back to the ancestral home of the Grey family. Its medieval character has been kept throughout. Today visitors can stay and experience its history and ghosts.