Although the place of Warkworth is at least as old as the eighth century, the first castle built here was in the mid-twelfth century, a motte and bailey structure probably of wood. This original castle was built by Earl Henry of Northumberland who was the son of King David I of Scotland, who held the land at that time. The site was on high ground at one side of the peninsula of land formed by the curving River Coquet, with the village and river crossing protected by the castle.
By 1158 however, Northumberland was back in the hands of the English King Henry II and he gave the lands and castle to Roger FitzRichard, whose descendants retained it until the mid-fourteenth century. Roger set about building a stone castle immediately and the pressing need for a fully defensible home and garrison was proved as early as 1173, when Warkworth was easily captured by a Scottish raiding party. Work continued under Roger's son Robert and the castle grew,funded by the services to King John that Robert undertook. The village church also dates from the twelfth century and the interior retains the most complete Norman church in Northumberland, the stonework showing the influence of the great cathedral at Durham to the south. Robert completed the gatehouse and other parts of the castle and construction continued during the thirteenth century.