Whelp Castle, Kirkby Thore

Has been described as a Questionable Masonry Castle, and also as a Questionable Fortified Manor House

There are no visible remains

NameWhelp Castle, Kirkby Thore
Alternative NamesCastellum Welp; Wheallep; Wellop; Whellop
Historic CountryWestmorland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishKirkby Thore

Castle, mentioned in a charter of between 1199 and 1225. 'Scarce remains' were seen in 1777. No recent physical evidence found. A square enclosure at High Burwens traditionally said to have been built in the early C12 from the ruins of a nearby Roman fort. The ruins were said to have been used to supply stone for the construction of Kirkby Thore Hall. (PastScape)

Whelp Castle. Whelp father of Gamel is said to have built this castle from the ruins of the Roman fort here in the first half of the 12th century. Nicolson and Burn say that the square inclosure, called the High Burwens on rising ground at the bank of the Troutbeck seems to have been the area of it, containing eight score yards in diameter. (Curwen 1932)

The hall or manor house, as also most part of the present town (Mr. Machel says), have been built out of the ruins of Whelp Castle; of which there are now scarce any remains. The main body of it hath stood (as may be conjectured, he says, from the ruins under ground) in a place called the Burwens, on a rising ground, at the bank of the rivulet called Troutbeck, and not far from the river Eden. The square inclosure, called the High Burwens, seems to have been the area of it, containing 8 score yards in diameter, now ploughed and cultivated; and the outer buildings, mantle, and gardens, to have run down along the said rivulet at least as far as the fulling-mill, and possibly further, beyond the high street or Roman way; thence up the west side of the said street about 8 score yards, and thence up again in a straight line to the west angle of the said area

For in all these places the vestigia of it may be discovered, by conduits underground; subterraneous vaults; fair pavements of floors made with flags; tiles, and slates, with iron nails in them, by which they have been fastened: but principally, by the foundations of walls, both of brick and stone; as also by coins, altars, and urns, with other fictilia, osten found thereabouts.

... All which do loudly proclaim the same to have been Roman. (Nicholson and Burn 1777)

Gatehouse Comments

Machell and Camden are certainly describing the Roman fort of Bravoniacvm. A question remains as to if there was a C12 occupation of part of the site by a manor house and what form that manor house took. A charter dated 1199-1225 has a reference to Whelp's Castle (Ragg 1916) but does this 'castle' refer to a medieval defended house or an undefended house in a Roman site or merely the Roman site itself? Given the ready made source of fine stone there is no reason that there could not have been a fortified C12 house here but the historical evidence is open to interpretation and there is no actual archaeological evidence to support this. Certainly the manor is not the centre of the sort of lordship that would have supported a significant castle although it must have had a manor house. The unfortified C14 Kirkby Thore Hall is certainly the later medieval manor house and may well be the site of the earlier medieval manor house.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY637255
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  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 99 (slight)
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 318
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 91
  • Smith, A.H., 1967, Place Names of Westmorland. Part II: The barony of Westmorland, analyses, index, maps (English Place Name Society 43) p. 118-9
  • RCHME, 1936, An inventory of the historical monuments in Westmorland (HMSO) p. 145 no. 1 plan [online transcription > http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/westm/pp144-148]
  • Curwen, J.F., 1932, 'Parishes (East Ward): St Michael, Kirkby Thore' The Later Records relating to North Westmorland: or the Barony of Appleby (Kendal: CWAAS Record Series 8) p. 153, 157 online transcription
  • Taylor, M.W., 1892, Old Manorial Halls of Westmorland and Cumberland (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 8) p. 139 online copy
  • Hodgson, J., 1810, Topographical and Historical Description of Westmoreland p. 89 online copy
  • Pennant, T., 1801, A Tour from Downing to Alston-Moor (London) p. 150-1 online copy
  • Nicolson, J. and Burn, R., 1777, History and Antiquites of Cumberland and Westmorland Vol. 1 p. 379 online copy



  • Charlesworth, D., 1964, 'Recent work at Kirkby Thore' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 64 p. 63- online copy
  • Taylor, M.W., 1876, 'On some of the Manorial Halls of Westmorland' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 2 p. 246 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Ragg, F.W., 1917, 'Five Strathclyde and Galloway Charters - four concerning Cardew and one the Westmorland Newbigging' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 17 p. 228-29 online copy