One of the most dramatic and traumatic episodes in Newcastle’s long history will be remembered at the weekend.
Sunday will be the 370th anniversary to the day when a Scottish army finally broke through Newcastle’s defences to occupy the town.
For 10 weeks in 1644 the Scots, on the side of Parliament in the English Civil War, had besieged Newcastle, which was under the control of its Royalist mayor, Sir John Marley.
From Friday to Sunday, the Castle Keep and St Nicholas Cathedral will hold a series of events as part of the Siege! festival.
Re-enactments will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Keep when the Earl of Loundon’s Regiment of Foote will be firing cannons, demonstrating pike drills, and teaching Civil War battlefield medicine.
The Black Gate Combat Academy, named after the castle’s gateway, will demonstrate fencing techniques across the two days.
There will also be a lecture by John Sadler, author of The Great Siege of Newcastle, on Sunday at noon in the Keep.
The events are included in the normal entrance fee to the Keep (£4 adults, under 18s free).
The Time Bandits will lead walks (£5) on Friday at 10.30am and 2pm from the Keep to the town walls. There will be free guided tours of St Nicholas Cathedral, where an exhibition on the building’s role in the Civil War will be staged.
At 2pm on Sunday visitors will be able to climb the lantern tower (£5). The Scots had threatened to destroy the tower with cannon fire, so mayor John Marley responded by placing his Scottish prisoners to the top.
On Friday at 7.30pm at the Keep, Hexham musical collective Lyra will perform “Borderlands” using medieval and early 17th Century instruments (tickets £8/£6).
The following week, on Saturday October 25 at 7.30pm, “Keep Fiddlin’ with Tradition” will see award winning Border fiddler Shona Mooney and guitarist Andy Watt take on two fiddle manuscripts from either side of the border (£6, £4).
Behind the festival is the Heart of the City Partnership, set up between the Castle, St Nicholas Cathedral and Newcastle City Council.
To book, telephone 0191 230 6300 for events at the Castle, or 0191 232 1939 for St Nicholas Cathedral.
During the siege, with the Scottish army camped at Elswick, the Ouseburn and Gateshead, Newcastle came under regular cannon bombardment.
When Newcastle finally fell, after mines had blown away sections of the town walls, there was desperate hand to hand fighting, with a last stand in the Cloth Market-Bigg Market area.
William Lithgow was one of the 22,000-strong Scots army which had crossed the River Tweed in January under Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven.
Lithgow wrote of the Newcastle fighting: “The carcases of men lie like dead dogs upon the groaning streets and man against man to become the object of barbarous cruelty.”
One legacy of the three-month siege is the Latin motto on Newcastle’s city crest ‘Fortiter Defendit Triumphans’, which translates as “triumphing by a brave defence”, and was bestowed on the town by Charles II after the Restoration of the monarchy.
The Scots also entered Sunderland, which was pro-Parliament, and with Newcastle on the opposite side this is thought to be at the root of Tyne-Wear rivalry