top of page

Portfolio > City Of Sunderland 1 > Hylton Castle                                                                      Click on an image below to reveal enlarged version

Hylton Castle, Sunderland, England, UK


Hylton Castle is a stone castle in the North Hylton area of SunderlandTyne and WearEngland. Originally built from wood by the Hilton (later Hylton) family shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066, it was later rebuilt in stone in the late 14th to early 15th century. The castle underwent major changes to its interior and exterior in the 18th century and it remained the principal seat of the Hylton family until the death of the last Baron in 1746. It was then Gothicised but neglected until 1812, when it was revitalised by a new owner. Standing empty again until the 1840s, it was briefly used as a school until it was purchased again in 1862. The site passed to a local coal company in the early 20th century and was taken over by the state in 1950.


One of the castle's main features is the range of heraldic devices found mainly on the west façade, which have been retained from the castle's original construction. They depict the coats of arms belonging to local gentry and peers of the late 14th to early 15th centuries and provide an approximate date of the castle's reconstruction from wood to stone. Today, the castle is owned by English Heritage, a charity which manages the historical environment of England. The surrounding parkland is maintained by a community organisation. The castle and its chapel are protected as a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In February, 2016, plans were announced to turn the castle into a community facility and visitor attraction, with the Heritage Lottery Fund awarding £2.9 million, and Sunderland Council £1.5 million, to provide classrooms, a cafe and rooms for exhibitions, meetings and events. The west façade of the castle has square towers flanking the central bay, with others at the south west and north west, all topped with octagonal, machicolated turrets. The north and 

south façades are relatively simple. The east façade has a central projection in the centre rising a storey above the parapet, to form a tower. The tower's south angle is splayed to accommodate the main staircase and only the corbels of its parapet survive. The screen closing off the east entrance has a three-bay cusped arcade on the ground floor and three ogee arches on the shafts above. 


There is a local tradition that Hylton Castle is haunted by the spirit of Robert Skelton, known as the Cauld (a pronunciation of "cold" in Mackem) Lad of Hylton. Various versions of how he was killed exist, the most popular being that he was decapitated by Sir Robert Hylton (later de jure 13th Baron Hylton), after falling asleep and failing to get his master's horse ready on time. Skelton's spirit then began to haunt the castle and would move objects, either misplacing them or tidying up. The spirit was said to have been finally laid to rest when the castle servants put a cloak out for him.

The castle and chapel have been Grade I listed buildings since 1949 and form a Scheduled Ancient Monument under the care of English Heritage, who took over the site in 1984, although Sunderland City Council own the land. In 1999, the Friends of Hylton Dene group was formed by residents of the estates around North Hylton "with the aim of co-operating with Sunderland City Council, Durham Wildlife Trust and other agencies to actively involve the local community in the development and upkeep of Hylton Dene and Castle". In December 2007, the group was awarded £50,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a survey for the future for the site. Once restored, the castle could be opened. The chairman of the Castle in the Community John Coulthard described the castle, Sunderland's second oldest building, as "an asset in the city – it is a lovely setting and we would love to see it bring in some income". There have been four organised International Reunion(s) of Hylton Families over the past few years; most notably on 4 July 2004, when around fifty American descendants of the Hylton family visited the castle to present a flag featuring the Hylton blazon. The flag now flies from the recently installed flagpole, provided by English Heritage.

bottom of page