For 450 years Norham Castle, first built in the 12th century, was one of the great English strongholds along the river Tweed, a barrier against the Scots. The Scots besieged it nine times, capturing it on four occasions. The remains of the impressive great tower still reveal signs of many building phases between the 12th and 16th centuries.
Norham?s founder was Ranulph Flambard, Bishop of Durham from 1099 until 1128. In the medieval period the Bishops of Durham enjoyed near-kingly powers, in return for enforcing order along the English?Scottish border.
The region could be wild and lawless, and sometimes erupted into open conflict. In wartime Norham?s English garrison defended the Tweed fords, an easy crossing point into England. Together with the nearby castles of Berwick and Wark, Norham was an essential part of the defences of the eastern border.
The importance of Norham was illustrated when Henry II ordered Hugh du Puiset, who became Bishop of Durham in 1153, to rebuild the castle. This Bishop Puiset did on a grand scale, erecting the great tower on the site of Flambard?s original two-storey hall to provide high-status accommodation.