Castle Crags Bampton

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Ringwork)

There are uncertain remains

NameCastle Crags Bampton
Alternative NamesCastle Crag; Mardale
Historic CountryWestmorland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishBampton

A natural promontory which has been used as a defensive site and displays the typical characteristics of an Iron Age fort. There is a steep drop down from the north-west, north-east and south-east sides. There is an internal enclosure which is defined by a rampart which survives along the south-west side, where it comprises a high stone banks. There are two ditches cutting across the neck of land which connects Castle Crag to the fell side. There is a possible entrance to the enclosure around the north-west corner. Within the fort there were several levelled areas which could have accommodated huts. The interpretation as a hill-fort is fairly secure and it would warrant a more detailed survey (Lake District HER)

Castle Crag Fort (Plate 1), in Mardale 700 yards W.S.W. of the present foot of Hawes Water, is a small work occupying the top of Castle Crag, from which the ground falls precipitously in all directions except towards the S.W., where it rises towards Birks Crag. Along the N. and N.E. sides there is now no sign of any rampart and after a very slight fall there is a precipice on these sides. The site was, however, excavated in part some years ago and traces were found of a wall on the N.E. which would appear to have been rather a parapet for the protection of the inmates. The description (C. and W. Trans., N.S. XXIII, p. 285) reads "a parapet rampart was found on the N. side built up to a perpendicular height of 10 ft. from the under edge of the brow of the precipice, using the natural outcrop. On the inside it was found to be composed of tightly laid flat stones without any distinct facing." The enclosure is protected along the S.W. side by a high rampart of stones beyond which are two fosses cut across the neck of land which connects Castle Crag to the fell side and Birks Crag

There are traces suggesting an entrance to the inner enclosure at the N.W. corner up a ledge of rock, which would be easily defensible. The cutting of the two fosses has left a wide platform of rock between them. Towards the S. end of the S.W. side of this rock rampart there is the suggestion of a cutting in the rock to form an entrance, and on the top of the rampart are some roughly circular sinkings and cuttings which suggest that this rampart was itself possibly occupied as a sort of outer enclosure. Within the fort proper were found several floors of levelled clay and charcoal. (RCHME 1936)

Castle Crag slight univallate hillfort survives well. Limited archaeological excavation revealed the existence of living floors within the main enclosure and use of the outer enclosure. It will retain further evidence for the settlement at this site and for the construction methods employed in the monument's defences.

The monument is Castle Crag slight univallate hillfort. It is located on the top of Castle Crag, a projection of rock extending north-east from Birks Crag. The ground falls precipitously from the north-west, north-east and south-east sides of the crag. The hillfort includes an oval-shaped internal enclosure measuring approximately 46m by 22m that is protected on its south-west side by a rampart of stones up to 2m wide and 1m high. The precipitous slopes on the other sides preclude the need for ramparts there. There is an entrance at the south-west corner of the enclosure leading up a narrow ledge of rock. Within the enclosure are three artificially levelled areas - two circular areas measuring c.3m diameter, and an irregularly-shaped area measuring a maximum of 6.5m by 4.6m. Outside the stone rampart is a rock-cut ditch 4m wide and up to 3m deep and beyond this a second rock-cut ditch 10m wide and 2-3m deep. Between the ditches a rocky knoll has been used as an outer enclosure and contains further artificially levelled areas. Towards the south-eastern end of the outer enclosure is a cutting in the rock forming an entrance 2.5m wide. Outside the outer ditch is a rectangular artificially levelled area measuring c.19m by 15m which enhances a terrace in the adjacent hillside. Limited archaeological excavation during the early 1920's located a parapet rampart on the north side of the internal enclosure constructed of tightly laid flat stones. Clay floors and charcoal were also found within this main enclosure. Circular pits were found within the outer enclosure located to the south-west. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Crag made into oval 'ringwork' 46m by 22m. Excavated by R G Collingwood in 1922. Although described as a medieval ringwork by some authors the isolated location is most unlikely for a medieval fortification of any type. Even in violent periods of the Iron Age there can have been little reason for defence in this area except from wolves and small bands of roving thieves, although it could be a place of retreat. It may constitute a crude type of shieling given a 'castle' name because of a vague resemblance to a castle.

- 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 ReferenceNY469127
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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 271
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 37
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 41-2
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 495 (possible)
  • Challis, A.J. and Harding, D.W., 1975, Later Prehistory Trent to Tyne (British Archaeological Reports British Series 20.2) p. 46
  • Smith, A.H., 1967, Place Names of Westmorland. Part II: The barony of Westmorland, analyses, index, maps (English Place Name Society 43) p. 194
  • RCHME, 1936, An inventory of the historical monuments in Westmorland (HMSO) p. 31-2 no. 68 plan [online transcription >]


  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Baily and others, 1923, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 23 p. 285-6 online copy


  • Clare, T., 1982, A Report on Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria (Cumbria CC)