Tuesday, 18 March 2014

King John’s Palace (NZ267656)

© Copyright Weston Beggard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Despite being one of Newcastle’s most ancient relics, the ruin known locally as King John’s Palace is a bit of a mystery. Situated on high ground in Heaton Park overlooking the Ouseburn valley, it may be more correctly described as the House of Adam of Jesmond.

Dating, as it does, from the 1250s, it has nothing to do with the much maligned King John, who died in 1216. John was known to have stayed in the immediate vicinity on his journeys north, but almost certainly stayed elsewhere – and the ruin which remains today has perhaps understandably become confusingly entwined in the story of the old king. Instead, the building was most likely built and first occupied by one Adam of Jesmond, a deeply unpopular local landowner and Sheriff of Northumberland.

Adam was a knight and a supporter of King Henry III. He was always in trouble for embezzlement and extortion, and when he failed to return from a crusade in 1270 no one seems to have been too upset. His house was allowed to fall into disrepair thereafter, though it was periodically revived for use as farm buildings in the ensuing centuries. In 1879 it was given to the city, and in 1897 the various farm-related attachments were removed and the building was consolidated. 

What remains of Adam’s dwelling essentially amount to the north wall, north-west turret, and part of the east wall, plus earthworks to north and south.

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