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The Douglases of Lindisfarne










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Lindisfarne Lindisfarne castle War memorial
The Holy Island
of Lidisfarne
Lindisfarne Castle War memorial
Mark Douglas Mark Douglas Shuttle Bus
Mark Douglas Mark Douglas The Shuttle Bus

The first documented Viking raid on Holy Island occurred in AD793. The monastery was harassed by Vikings until it was abandoned (or destroyed) in the mid- or late ninth century. For the monks, formal monastic life was not restored until 1083, when the Bishop of Durham re-founded the site as a cell of the Benedictine monastery of Durham.

In the 16th and 17th centuries Holy Island played a role in the defence of the North East coast when the Crown built a small fort in 1549-50 on the outcrop now occupied by Lindisfarne Castle, possibly replacing an earlier lookout tower; the fort continued in use as a garrison until 1819. During the Tudor period additional defences, including Osborne's Fort immediately adjacent, were built in recognition of the strategic importance of the island harbour. These consisted of a possible remodelling of the settlement, the conversion of a medieval house to a military supply base and the possible construction of bulwarks around the harbour.

In the 19th century a large-scale lime industry flourished. Its remains are still scattered around the island and include kilns and waggonways. The manufacture of quicklime was carried out on Holy Island, with the earliest lime kilns dated 1344 and were used by the Priory Monks. In the 1800s the trade developed extensively necessitating the building of further jetties. Coal was imported to fuel the kilns and the resulting quicklime exported on sailing vessels of between 60/90 tonnes with regular trade between Holy Island and Dundee. The last recorded departure of a lime cargo was in 1883.

Fishing from the harbour was as its peak on Holy Island during the mid 1800s when the Census of 1861 records a population of 614. The size of the island's fishing fleet has varied over the years from 10/12 in the 1790s, to 36 in the 1880s to the present day level of 6 boats. The Herring Houses, close to the shore, (refurbished in the 1970s and now predominantly holiday homes), were used to smoke and preserve the large herring catches. The introduction of the large herring steam drifters in the early 1900s led to a decline in local fishing and by 1914 the last large wooden boat was laid up. Some of these large vessels are the upturned boats along the harbour that are now used as stores.

Location has always been the main attraction for the owners and occupiers of Lindisfarne Castle.

From a former fort to the holiday home of a wealthy Edwardian bachelor seeking a quiet retreat from London, the idyllic location of the Castle has intrigued and inspired for centuries.

The renovation by Arts and Crafts architect Edwin Lutyens both hides and emphasises the old fort, all the while overlooking Gertrude Jekyll's enchanting walled garden and the unexpected grandeur of the Lime Kilns, an imposing and striking reminder of Lindisfarne's industrial past.

Lindisfarne Priory is the original home of the Lindisfarne Gospels and the site of grisly Viking attacks. Sitting offshore on Holy Island and reached by a causeway at low tide, the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful views from the priory make a visit here well worth the effort. Lindisfarne Priory was an important centre of early Christianity, and the home of St Cuthbert. Today you can marvel at the ornate carvings on the extensive ruins of the monastic buildings and enjoy the serenity that first drew the monks here.


Research notes:

  • Mark Douglas, of English Heritage has some sort of responsibility for Lindisfarne. Is this the same Mark Douglas who runs 'Causeway House - Holy Island' guest house?
  • Mrs. Lesley Douglas also runs holiday accommodation, Twizell Cottages
  • J.H. Douglas runs the shuttle bus service to Lindisfarne Castle
  • Ryan Lawrence Thomas Douglas has been employed at Holy Island of Lindisfarme Community Development Trust since 01 February 2011 currently as a Director (Student). He is also an employee of English Heritage and a coast guard with a 4x4 rescue vehicle.
  • Mr Tommy Douglas is the Holy Island Harbour Master.
  • Andrew Douglas, Owner at Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours & Sovereign Diving Ltd, of Seahouses, Northumberland
  • Able Seaman James Douglas married Mary Cromarty, his 'childhood sweetheart', in St. Mary the Virgin Parish Church in 1941, as seen in a Pathe newsreel.
  • The death in 1941 in Egypt of Sergeant George Cromarty Douglas(1),  son of Thomas and Isabella Douglas, of High Heaton, Newcastle-on-Tyne, is commemorated on the Lindisfarne War Memorial.
  • A number of Douglases are buried in St. Mary the Virgin Parish Churchyard.


1.  Sergeant George Cromarty Douglas, 124th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery was killed in action against the German Afrika Corps in Egypt on 20th June 1942, aged 23. He was the son of Thomas and Isabella of High Heaton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Egypt. He fell in the Battle of Gazala where the British were forced to retreat back into Egypt till Alamein was reached as the last defensive line before Cairo and the Suez Canal.

See also:
  • St. Mary the Virgin Parish Churchyard
  • (Includes details of the war memorial)


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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024