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Heart of Hadrian's Wall

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Featherstone Castle

Location

Featherstone Castle
Northumberland
NE49 0JG
England

Featherstone Castle, now a private residence, stands just over two miles to the south of Haltwhistle. The oldest part of the castle still standing dates back to the 14th century is a tower built by Thomas de Featherstonehaugh in the 1320’s. The most recent additions date from the 19th century. The Featherstonehaughs retained ownership of the castle until the 18th century. It is the home of one of our more famous ghost stories concerning Abigail Featherstonehaugh, who lived in the late 17th century. Legend says she was to marry a neighbouring Baron’s son, but was in love with a local Ridley. As the bridal party rode the bounds of the estate, the spurned lover made an attack, but the new bridegroom put up a good fight. All were killed in the fray. At midnight the sound of horses’ hooves were heard outside the castle, the door opened into the banqueting hall and the ghostly apparition of Abigail and the rest of the party entered. The Baron fainted at this spectral procession. It is claimed the ghostly wedding party can be seen each 17th January in Pynkin’s Cleugh, a narrow valley just over the river from the Castle.

In the early 1940’s, a training camp for American troops was built beside the river at Featherstone. It was nicknamed ‘Death Valley’ by some of the inmates because of its isolated location, but the Americans soon made way for Italian prisoners of war and then ‘intransigent’ German Officers. Between 1945 and 1948 some 25,000 Germans were housed at Featherstone camp. There were many compounds surrounded by barbed wire and watch towers. The camp was highly regarded and was one of the six most successful rehabilitation camps in the country, knows as the ‘camp of confidence’ and also as ‘the University on the Tyne’. The regime was relaxed in 1945 when Lt. Col Vickers became Commandant; the divisions, watch towers and barbed wire disappeared to be replaced by parole, voluntary labour outside the camp, workshops and political or cultural courses. The roles of Captain Sulzbach, the camp interpreter from 1946, was important in the success of the camp to rehabilitate prisoners. He was a Jewish refugee from Germany who had been decorated by the German Emperor in World War I and went on to be awarded the OBE by King George VI for ‘dedicating himself to making this camp a seed bed of British-German reconciliation’. There were 3 orchestras and 2 theatres in the camp and instruction in all modern and classical Languages. Remains of the camp survive today as foundations and a scattering of brick buildings in the parkland and visitors come regularly from Germany to maintain the spirit of friendship.

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