Sowerby Castle How

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are earthwork remains

NameSowerby Castle How
Alternative NamesSourebi
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishCastle Sowerby

Castle How is the probable site of Castle Sowerby which is mentioned in the pipe rolls of Henry II. It would have been dismantled before 1237 when the manor of Castle Sowerby was assigned to the King of Scotland. According to Cathcart King, the site is mentioned in 1186-7 and the castle may be an unfinished work. (PastScape)

Natural features interpreted as an unfinished castle site.

T.H.B. Graham considered this an extinct castle and gave a manorial history.

King considered the site and described it. He points out that although the 'castellum de Sourebi' is mentioned in 1186 'the rolls hereafter never concern the administration or expenses of a castle.' Jackson states that in a survey of Inglewood Forest in 1300 the boundary is said to run by 'Stainwath below the castle of Souerby'. He argues this may be further evidence for the existence of a castle.

SMR record; 'A name only by the time of Edward I's reign and unlikely to have been a medieval castle.' Jackson; Possible ringwork at NY 360 401. Not thought to be a castle site on the balance of evidence presented. (Perriam and Robinson 1998)

The remains traditionally associated with Sowerby Castle consist of the slope of a hill that retains some evidence of scarping. The castle at Sowerby is mentioned in the Pipe Rolls between 1185 and 1188 (PRs: 32 Henry II p. 99; 33 Henry II p. 95; 34 Henry II p. 191) and with three further references in 1190 (PR 2 Richard I p 50), 1193 (PR 5 Richard 1p 75) and 1195 (PR 7 Richard I p. 214). Each of these references mentions the castle at Sowerby; that dating to 1195 refers to spending of 3s on the plate of the church of the castle of Sowerby. The present location of this site consists only of a scarped hill overlooking a farm known as Castle Farm

Sowerby's existence, and identification, as a castle is dependent upon the documentary references from the Pipe Rolls, these have been linked with the scarped hill at this site to create a castle. Any interpretation of Sowerby is difficult due to the limited nature of the evidence at this site. Sowerby stands within an area of Cumberland known as Inglewood; an area of the county retained by the crown under Henry I (Perriam and Robinson 1998, 193). Within the wider landscape the castle site at Sowerby is located at the interface between the uplands ot the Inglewood forest and the lowland pastoral landscape of the Carlisle plane. It is most likely that this site was constructed to exploit these landscapes. It appears from the early Pipe Roll entries that the sheriff, Robert de Vallibus, was actually rendering payments from the castle indicating that it is providing a source of income for the crown. Most probably this income is from farming the lowlands or hunting the uplands, but probably a combination of both. Possibly the foundation of this site represents the establishment of a demesne estate in this area in the later twelfth century. (Constable 2003)

Gatehouse Comments

An example of the varied way the term 'castle' was used in the medieval period. Was it intended to make a hunting lodge here? Jackson's alternative/precursor site at How Gill . has not generally been accepted as a medieval site.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY360384
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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 198
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 37
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 45
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 83
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 315
  • Sowerby, R., 1954, Historical Castle Sowerby and Mid Cumberland p. 26-7
  • Jefferson, S., 1840, History and Antiquities of Leith Ward in the county of Cumberland p. 138


  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Collingwood, W.G., 1923, 'An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Cumberland' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 23 p. 240 online copy
  • Graham, T.H.B., 1922, 'Salkeld Regis, Scotby and Sowerby' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 22 p. 114-21 online copy
  • Graham, T.H.B., 1912, 'Extinct Cumberland Castles (Part IV)' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 12 p. 183-7 online copy

Primary Sources

  • 1914, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirty-second year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1185-1186 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 36) p. 99
  • 1915, Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirty-third year of the reign of King Henry II A.D. 1186-1187 (London: Pipe Roll Society 37) p. 95 online copy
  • 1925, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the thirty-fourth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1187-1188 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 38) p. 191
  • Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1925, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the second year of the reign of King Richard the First, Michaelmas 1190 (Pipe Roll 36) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 39) p. 50
  • Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1927, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fifth year of the reign of King Richard the First, Michaelmas 1193 (Pipe Roll 39) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 41) p. 75
  • Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1929, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the seventh year of the reign of King Richard the First, Michaelmas 1195 (Pipe roll 41) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 44) p. 214


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) p. 210 Available at Durham E-Theses Online