Only Elsdon, itself also located within the Redesdale liberty, has a castle which may originally have approached Harbottle in status, but the complete absence of any reference to this fortification in documentary sources and fact that it was devoid of any surviving masonry suggests that Elsdon Castle was a relatively shortlived site, perhaps abandoned in favour of Harbottle. Inevitably, the presence of such an important administrative seat had a profound impact on the development of the settlement at Harbottle in the medieval and early modern period.
The surviving structural remains of Harbottle Castle have been comprehensively discussed in several recent surveys (Ryder 1990, Bowden 1990, Crow 1998, and ASUD 1998) which summarise and bring up to date earlier descriptions (e.g. Hartshorne 1858; Hunter Blair 1932-34; 1944; NCH XV (1940)). Of the latter the most important is that incorporated in volume XV of the County History (NCH XV (1940)), which includes the results of Honeyman's excavations in the 1930s. Similarly, Rushworth considers most of the available documentary evidence in his detailed discussion on the origins and function of the castle. However, while attention has been focussed on the castle, the medieval and later village of Harbottle has received very little attention from an archaeological perspective.
The area of study adopted is represented by the 19th century townships of Harbottle and Peels, which fell in the historic ecclesiastical parishes of Holystone and Alwinton respectively, now combined into the modern parish of Alwinton and Holystone. Although the study is primarily concerned with Harbottle village and any former or extant monuments in immediate physical association, the various wider territorial frameworks of township, parish, manor and lordship have played important roles in the history and development of the settlement and cannot be ignored.