Even if you’ve never visited Alnwick Castle, you’ll know it from film and TV. After all, its dramatic exterior and opulent interior have stood in for everything from Harry Potter’s Hogwarts to Brancaster Castle in Downton Abbey

But there's so much more to Alnwick Castle than being a movie star. And the history and intrigue of this spectacular place continues to capture our imaginations. But have you ever wondered who owns Alnwick Castle and encourages visitors to explore its grounds?


We’ve delved into Alnwick Castle's history to find out more about the family behind one of the most famous castles in Northumberland. 

Who built Alnwick Castle, and when? 


Dating back to the Norman period — the ‘age of castles’ — Alnwick Castle has stood for almost 1000 years. In 1096, the original wooden building was remodelled by Yvo de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick (you may see his name spelt in a variety of ways, from Ivo Vescy to Yves II de Vesci).


The building’s circular keep helped repel any unwelcome intruders during the turbulent early years of its life.  Alnwick quickly became known as one of the strongest castles in Northumberland. Constantly under siege, it withstood every enemy. 


Yvo de Vescy, the Baron of Alnwick, continued to own the castle until 1297 when the line died out. Ownership passed to the Bishop of Durham, Anthony Bek, who later sold the castle to Henry Percy. This strategic stronghold was now under the control of a trusted and highly successful warrior. 

When did the Percy family move in? 


Henry Percy, 1st Baron Percy, took possession of Alnwick Castle in 1309 and quickly set about a major renovation. He transformed its military defences, creating a formidable fortress. He also added private rooms and lodgings, which are still in use today. 

The Percy family has an astonishing history, filled with rebellion, romance and intrigue. Perhaps most famous of all was Sir Henry Percy, nicknamed ‘Harry Hotspur’, the mighty warrior was immortalised in Shakespeare's Henry IV. Hotspur died in battle in 1403, while leading a rebellion against the very same king. A statue in his memory stands in Alnwick today. 

Hotspur’s descendants continued to make their mark, remaining at the pinnacle of politics and the monarchy. For example, Henry, the 4th Earl of Northumberland, played a critical role during the Wars of the Roses. At the Battle of Bosworth he commanded his army to refrain from getting involved within the battle action, this action played a role in the ultimate downfall of Richard III losing the battle to Henry the 4th Earl of Northumberland, who became King Henry VII. 

The 6th Earl was allegedly secretly engaged to Anne Boleyn before she married Henry VIII. Some years later, Thomas Percy rebelled against Elizabeth I, and in the 17th century, Algernon Percy laid the foundations for Alnwick Castle's fabulous art collection. 

But it was Elizabeth Percy (1716–1776), who really transformed Alnwick, now known as  the second largest inhabited castle after Windsor. She and her husband, Sir Hugh Smithson, had the grounds landscaped by Capability Brown and the interiors refashioned by Robert Adam.  

In the next century, the Algernon’s  took the property’s decor in a completely different direction. They enlisted famous architect Anthony Salvin to refashion Alnwick Castle into one of the most distinctive castles to visit in Northumberland. Salvin created the superb Italianate state rooms seen in Transformers: The Last Knight and Downton Abbey. 

Does the Percy family still live in Alnwick Castle? 

It's an extraordinary fact that the Percy family has resided at Alnwick for 700 years. Over the decades and centuries, each inhabitant has put their individual stamp on the castle. Today, restoration and improvements are ongoing but the rich history of this extraordinary building is present in every stone. While the castle is open for the public to visit, Percy family members do indeed still live there. 

Wondering who owns Alnwick Castle today? Ralph Percy, the 12th Duke of Northumberland, inherited the castle after the death of his elder brother. With his wife Jane, the Duke and Duchess have developed this castle at the heart of the history of Northumberland into a modern-day attraction.  

Who else has lived at Alnwick Castle? 


Since 1309, the Percy Family has lived almost continually at the castle.

But that's not to say that Alnwick itself hasn't been through many changes. Over the years, the family has seen the castle transformed into a refuge for evacuees, a training college and a military outpost. 

But for many of us, especially younger visitors, Alnwick Castle’s most famous resident will always be the boy wizard Harry Potter. The castle transformed into Hogwarts for the first two films in the franchise and has also stood in for locations in Blackadder, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  

Who will inherit Alnwick Castle? 


Over the past thousand years of its history, the Percy family has battled against the Scots, rebelled against monarchs and carved their names in Northumberland’s history. 


Today, amongst the historic suits of armour, you can take Broomstick Training sessions in the same spot where Harry Potter learned to fly. Or marvel at the spectacular State Rooms where scenes for the finale of much-loved Downton Abbey were filmed. 


But who will inherit this extraordinary castle? George Percy, Ralph and Jane's eldest son, will become the proud owner of one of the best castles in Northumberland, thus continuing the family tradition.

Visit us and discover the history of Alnwick Castle 


With its long and storied history, this magnificent building is one of the best castles to visit in Northumberland. And if you want to learn more about the history of Alnwick Castle, why not plan your visit and book online? With an annual pass, you can return again and again to delve into the castle’s history and learn more about the Percy family.  


We’re waiting to welcome you to a day of magic, mystery and intrigue!