Kirkoswald moated site

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown), and also as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameKirkoswald moated site
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishKirkoswald

NY 555409 A Medieval moated site, near St Oswalds Church, Kirkoswald, consists of a trapezoid-shaped enclosure, c.250x175m defined by two parallel ditches, circa 15m apart, c.4m wide, 75cm deep and flat bottomed in shape. At the centre of the enclosure is a rectangular area circa 20x50m surrounded by a ditch, 5-8m wide, similar in shape and size to the outer ditches. "The sites relationship to nearby Kirkoswald Castle is uncertain. It is possible that the 1201 licence to fortify his manor, granted to Sir Hugh de Morville, applies to this site and not the castle, as generally assumed (The castle, rebuilt, has only 14th century masonry) (G J Fairclough).

Visible on OS air photographs as a double ditched enclosure with low central mound. From its situation, being over looked by a high mound, surmounted by the bell tower, it is difficult to imagine this as a defensive site. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Site is south-west of St Oswald's Church. The proximity to the church suggests either an early castle site or a fortified vicarage. However, the large size probably excludes this as a vicarage but the regular square form would exclude it as the early castle known to exist at Kirkoswald. However, Hugh de Morville was granted a licence to crenellate his manor house here in 1201, and work associated with that licence may have resulted in an alteration of the form of the earthworks of the earlier castle. A licence to crenellate of 1201 does not mean a fortified masonry castle was intended or built or that significant amounts of masonry were used in the domestic house that such licences usually resulted in. Hugh de Morville's house may still have been mainly timber in construction. However the licenced house is usually considered to be a precursor structure on the site of Kirkoswald castle the the details of the licence are recorded in the castle record. A castle is recorded as burnt by the Scots in 1314 after which Kirkoswald castle was built. It should be noted that some motte like features are identified at Kirkoswald castle, although these may be doubtful. However, if so, the the early castle was there and that leave this as the site of a fortified vicarage, perhaps with an associated grange. A C15 fortified vicarage tower remains at Kirkoswald college and it is likely the earlier vicarage was at that site but it is not impossible that it was here. N.B. A C19 bell tower stands on a small, steep sided, natural hill of motte like form and size. If this did function as a motte for the early castle at Kirkoswald then the church and the moated site could be in a bailey to SW

- 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 ReferenceNY555409
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Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reservedView full Sized Image
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reservedView full Sized Image
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reservedView full Sized Image
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reservedView full Sized Image
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reservedView full Sized Image

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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 125
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 68
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 68