Hayes Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHayes Castle
Alternative NamesHay; Hayescastle; Aykerist; Aykhurst; Dykhurst; Dykehirst
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishDistington

Hays or Hayes Castle: "There is practically no early history connected with this castle, which ... is supposed to have been the ancient manor house. ..." Camden mentions Hay Castle in 1600 and adds 'the inhabitants told me {it} belong'd formerly to the noble families of Moresby & Distington? It is described by Hutchinson, in 1794 as being ... 'a gloomy old tower on an artificial mount, surrounded with an outward or curtain wall, supported by many heavy buttresses and strengthened with a moat' Lysons in 1816 comments that ..."Hay or Hayes Castle of which there are some remains ... is supposed to have been the manorial site and the seat of the Moresby family who possessed a moiety of the manor as early as the reign of Edward III". "... Very little now remains of the fabric, except a portion of the north wall; the extent of the castle however, may be traced by the foundations, which cover a large area, and the course of the moat can be clearly made out." (Curwin).

"In the editions of the Britannia - the first mention of the site occurs in - 1600, when it was known as Haycastle or Haicastle, and its first appearance on a map seems to be on that of Speed in 1610. The site changed hands in 1608, and Haycastle is the name it received in the deed of conveyance. {it is reasoned that the original name for Haycastle was Aykhurst or one of its other medieval variants.} A grant of 1337 mentioned Aykhurst in Distington. On the death of the widow of Hugh de Moriceby in 1374, the forcelet of Aykerist, passed to Christopher de Moriceby (Inq pm 22 Edw II) when he died in 1392 among his possessions is mentioned a castle greatly ruined in Distington (Inq pm Ric II) A licence was issued on 13th March 1322, to Robert de Leyburn to strengthen with a wall of stone and lime his dwelling house of Aykhurst (Wilson).

Hayes Castle "Little now remains but the platform and ditch and a portion of the wall wherein are traces of a fireplace

The tenant of the farm stated two years ago that much was pulled down for the erection of farm buildings till this was stopped by the owner of the estate. There has been a well in the centre of the platform formerly enclosed by the castle buildings." (Letters and Card Index (Miss MC Fair 12.4.54; 16.4.54)).

"The OS published name is correct. I have been the tenant of this property and latterly the owner since 1933. When I first came I demolished a little of the stonework from the NW corner of the castle wall in order to build a wall in front of my farm house. Since then however nothing else has been touched or altered and the castle site remains as it was in 1933.

The wall that Miss Fair speaks of is unknown to me and she has most likely misidentified one of the old circular hay stack sites. The disused water mill adjoining the castle {NY 00142255} was working until as recently as the 1939-45 war by water from the moat which can still be filled at will by operation of modern sluices. No finds have been made, or evidence discovered of any buildings connected with the castle (F1 ECW 10-SEP-59).

All that now remains is the raised platform and part of the stone built curtain wall on the north. This stands to a height of approx 6m covered with foliage on its south face, and in a ruined condition. The western and parts of the south and eastern walls can be traced within a grassy bank 0.3m high. It has a good defensive position on all four sides. There are no signs of internal structures, or traces of a fireplace as mentioned by Authority 6. The Moat although dry at the time of investigation was in fair condition, though containing many stones from the demolished wall. It surrounds the platform on the north, south and western sides to a depth of 3.5m and can still be filled with water by means of an aqueduct connecting it with Distington Beck. On the sloping ground west of the platform a modern farm track has been built (F2 EJ 22-SEP-59).

Hayes Castle The present name is probably a corruption of Aykhurst for which a licence to crenellate was issued in 1322 to Robert de Leyburn; it was probably established before this date. The castle originally consisted of a tower house on a motte with a curtain wall and moat, now ruinous. The moat survives on the north and west sides, but only the north wall of the square plan tower house remains on the motte (Listed Building Report). (PastScape)

Castle. Present name probably a corruption of Aykhurst for which a licence to crenellate was issued in 1322 to Robert de Leyburn; probably established before this date. Originally consisted of tower house on motte with curtain wall and moat, now ruinous. Moat survives on north and west sides, but only north wall of square-plan tower house remains on motte. Sandstone block facings with rubble core; c4 ft thick and c20 ft high. Other stones re-used in surrounding buildings. (Listed Building Report)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY001225
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  • Grimsditch, Brian, Nevell, Michael and Nevell, Richard, 2012, Buckton Castle and the Castles of the North West England (University of Salford Archaeological Monograph 2) p. 108
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29)
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 58
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 263
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 48 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 59-60
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 86
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 279-80
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 315 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 408 online copy
  • Lysons, Daniel and Samuel, 1816, Magna Britannia Vol. 4: Cumberland p. 99 online copy
  • Hutchinson, W., 1794, The History of the County of Cumberland (Carlisle) Vol. 2 p. 98-99 online copy



  • Fraser, C.M., 1964, 'Four Cumberland widows in the 14th century' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 64 p. 136 online copy
  • 1925, 'Proceedings ' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 25 p. 351 online copy
  • 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. 257 online copy
  • Wilson, J., 1916, 'The Original Name of Hayes Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 16 p. 29-39 (history and identification with Aykhurst) online copy
  • Ragg F.W., 1914, 'De Culwen' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 14 p. 374 (Dykehirst castle) online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1904, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1321-24) Vol. 4 p. 82 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1912, Calendar of Charter Rolls Edward III 1327-1341 Vol. 4. (HMSO) p. 389 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward III Vol. 9 p. 94 no. 105 view online copy
  • Inquisitions Post Mortem 15 Ric II part 1 No 45