Harbottle And The Castles of Henry II
The castle seems to have been in existence by 1174, when one chronicler records it was captured by the forces of William the Lion (Benedict i, 65; cf. Ridpath 1848, 67). It is generally assumed that construction took place shortly after Henry had recovered full control of Northumberland (e.g. NCH XV (1940), 480; Hunter Blair 1932-34; 1944, 135-6), when work was also undertaken on the king's orders at Wark-on-Tweed and probably Norham.
However there are certain puzzling aspects to this interpretation. The specific threat posed to the border, which presumably inspired the construction of Harbottle, arose because the Scottish crown, and in particular the last earl, William, was never reconciled to the loss of Northumbrian earldom, a threat which intensified after William ascended to the Scottish throne in 1165.
However we have seen how closely connected with the Scottish court the Umfravilles were before 1157. William certainly considered Odinel de Umfraville II, who probably inherited the lordship of Redesdale and Prudhoe in the 1160s, to be his man, as Odinel had been brought up in the household of William's father, earl Henry, and was enraged by what he saw as Odinel's treachery in rallying to Henry II in 1173-74 (Jordan Fantosme, 29).
It is perhaps curious therefore that Henry II put such effort into the building of a castle close to the border which was then to be handed over to a baronial lineage whose future loyalty in the event of Scottish invasion must have been in some doubt in 1157-58. It is possible therefore that the events described in Richard's letter should be assigned a somewhat later date, perhaps in the 1173-74 when Odinel was working on his main Northumbrian stronghold of Prudhoe.