The hidden history of Sunderland's Hylton Castle

Not everyone realised that Sunderland is home to one of the region’s most historic castles.

Improved Hylton Castle will soon reopen to the public.
Improved Hylton Castle will soon reopen to the public.

Now surrounded by housing, Hylton Castle stood alone on the outskirts of Sunderland for centuries.

The historic castle is expected to reopen later this summer as a visitor attractions.

Here is a guide to the colourful history of Sunderland’s hidden castle.

Previous restoration work to improve the castle back in 1951.

Hylton Castle was built by Sir William Hylton as a fortified manor house in about 1400.

While only the imposing gatehouse remains today, archaeological work and historic documents suggest it included a hall, chambers, barns and a kitchen.

The rich Hylton family had estates in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland and by the 13th century had assumed the title of a barony within the Bishopric of Durham.

The Hyltons owned the castle for more than three centuries before it became both a carpenter's workshop and a farmhouse in the 1800s. It even served as a boarding school for a short time in the 1840s with pupils including lightbulb inventor Joseph Swan.

Shipbuilder William Briggs bought the castle in 1862 and gave the gatehouse the gothic appearance it has today.

In the early 20th Century the castle became offices for the Wearmouth Coal Company, later the National Coal Board (NCB) and then a First World War solders’ training camp.

In the 40s the surrounding area became built-up with housing and the castle was subject to theft and vandalism.

Now owned by English Heritage, the castle is a Grade I-listed building and is undergoing £4.2m of improvements thanks to Sunderland City Council and Heritage Lottery Fund cash.

The castle also has its own ghost – namely Roger “The Cauld Lad” Skelton.

He was supposedly murdered by a 17th Century baron with a pitchfork for not readying his horse quickly enough, or for courting the Baron’s daughter depending on which story you believe.

St Catherine's Chapel within the grounds is open 10am-4pm daily.