The knights tournament at Tynemouth priory brings history to life. Knights battle it out in beautiful surroundings overlooking the North Sea.
If you visit Tynemouth you can’t help but notice Tynemouth priory and castle. It stands on a rocky outcrop above King Edwards Bay. The stone walls dominate the skyline and are visible from a distance.
We often go to Tynemouth when visiting the coast. The bustling town centre is full of restaurants and interesting shops. The lovely sandy beach is a great place to paddle and the rocks round the cliff are great to explore. The knights tournament was a good excuse to visit Tynemouth priory. We have been before but it was a long time ago
The grounds of Tynemouth priory have been inhabited since the Iron Age. In Anglo Saxon times a monastery stood here. These times were a golden age for learning across Northumberland and many monasteries were in existence. Viking raids led to most of these falling out of use. Tynemouth was one of these.
Read more: Vikings at Lindisfarne
In Norman times a Norman Priory and Castle were built. The castle defended the priory from the Scots during the border wars. In later times cannons were added and during the world wars a gun battery became part of the defences. Tynemouth priory and castle has always had a major defensive role due to its position at the mouth of the river Tyne.
Tynemouth priory and castle has plenty to explore. The castle gatehouse stands at the entrance to the priory. You need to walk though it to get into the grounds. The castle walls run around the outside and there are great views across the North Sea from the walls.
The ruins of the priory are great to explore. Wandering under the arches you discover new things around each corner. There is plenty of information about the history of the priory and what went on in each part. Much of the priory is intact and you can imagine what it must have been like.
Hidden behind a door in the remains of the church a small chapel can be found. The beautiful stained glass windows are still intact standing below and ornate ceiling. The Oratory of St Mary or Percy chapel is a restful place to sit and reflect. On our previous visits to the priory we had never seen the chapel. It was one of the highlights of our visit.
One of the more modern buildings on the grounds is the coastguard station. This was built in 1980 and was in use until 2001. Behind it are the coastal defence emplacements from World War II. These include a guardroom and armoury which are open to the public. We did not visit on this occasion.
The most interesting thing about the coastguard station is that it stands on the site of the original lighthouse that lit the way into the river Tyne. This was replaced by Whitley Bay lighthouse in 1895.
The knights tournament at Tynemouth Priory is one of a number of events taking place on English Heritage sites over the summer. The side of the priory was a bustling medieval encampment. An armourer was making chain mail, women were spinning wool and cooking over open fires. We even found a jester wandering about. Plenty of demonstrations were going on though the day. We listened to a talk about medieval instruments which was fascinating.
After wandering round the priory we saw that one of the knights tournaments was about to start. The archers were lining up in front of the priory walls. A group of knights stood in full armour ready to be the targets. Each archer got three chances to fire at each knight. After each shot the knight moved closer to the archer. Would the archer hit the target? Suspense was high. Some archers were better than others but most of the knights got hit.
Read more: Knights at Belsay Castle
We always enjoy these English Heritage events. It is a great way to learn more about history and it really gives you a sense of what it would have been like when the buildings were in use. These events go on though the summer, check for events near you on the English Heritage website.
Tynemouth Priory is open all year round but opening times vary depending on the season. Check the English Heritage website for more details.
Entry is free if you are an English Heritage member. When events are on there is a small charge.
Dogs are welcome (on leads)
There is a gift shop on site. Food is not available on site. You can bring your own picnic or just walk into Tynemouth and choose from the large selection of restaurants, cafes and pubs.