National Recording Project


Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Battlement Figures


Type Sculpture

     Seven apotropaic figures, some with histrionic combative poses. They stand at various points on the merlons of the battlements of the barbican and gatehouse (c.1310-20): on the south west projecting tower of the barbican; above the portal of the barbican; on the north west projecting tower of the barbican; on the south west gatehouse; and on the north west gatehouse. All wear fanciful, eighteenth-century versions of medieval armour or classical attire. There are similar figures on the battlements elsewhere but they are less easy to see from outside the Castle.
     The figures were installed by the first duke of Northumberland as part of his wholesale refurbishment of the Castle (1750-86) in the Gothic style under the direction of James Paine and Robert Adam. The work of James Johnson, they reportedly took him 'upwards of twenty years' to complete. (1) They replace earlier figures which had become decayed.(2) Nineteenth-century engravings and written descriptions suggest the Alnwick figures have long been a key element of the tourist image of the town.(3) There are similar apotropaic figures in the region, on the battlements of Bothal, Raby, Hylton and Bambrugh.(4)

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Johnson, James Stonemason

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Each figure Sandstone 100cm high

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
General condition Poor
Surface condition
  • Other
Structural condition
  • Broken, missing parts
  • None
Road The Peth
Precise location Alnwick Castle, Barbican
A-Z ref None
OS ref NU186136
Date of design 1750-86
Year of unveiling 1750-86
Unveiling details Erected 1750-86
Commissioned by 1st duke of Northumberland
Duty of care Northumberland Estates
Listing status I
At risk? No known risk

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