Upper Denton Moat

Has been described as a Rejected Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Rejected Pele Tower, and also as a Possible Uncertain

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameUpper Denton Moat
Alternative NamesOver Denton
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishUpper Denton

much decayed motte (Curwen 1914)

Called a damaged motte and bailey (Curwen; Ferguson). A trifling earthwork, though certainly curious, built well down a steep slope. (King 1983)

A much destroyed mound in a circular or oval ditch, about 14 yds in diameter (Ferguson). Situated on a gentle N slope the work consists of a sub-rectangular platform, circa 10.0m x 9.0m raised on the N side to a height of 1.2m to make it near-level. This is surrounded by a denuded sub-rectangular banked enclosure, circa 25.0m x 30.0m overall, scooped to a depth of 1.4m on the S side, where an original entrance occurs, with an internal ditch on the W, N and E sides, which attains a maximum depth of 1.0m. Topographically the ditch is an impracticable moat, while the platform is too small to support anything larger than a tower, and the whole possibly represents an earlier site of the vicar's peel 50.0m to the SE (Field Investigators Comments–F1 DS 27-OCT-71).

Scheduled as a Medieval moated site (Scheduled Monument Notification–10-DEC-1995). Possibly not a fortified site because on too steep a site. The suggestion that it may be a vicar's pele may be more appropriate (Perriam and Robinson). (PastScape)

The moated site at Upper Denton survives reasonably well, its earthworks remaining well preserved. It is unencumbered by modern development and will retain evidence for the building which originally occupied the island. It is an unusually small example of a moated site and demonstrates the diversity in form of this class of monument.

The monument includes a medieval moated site located at the northern end of Upper Denton village on gently sloping ground at the top of the valley side overlooking the River Irthing. It includes an island or platform surrounded by a dry moat which in turn is flanked by an outer bank

The island has been artificially levelled to create a flat platform on which a building would originally have stood; it measures approximately 12m north-south by 8m east-west. The surrounding dry moat measures up to 2m wide by 0.3m deep and the sloping land indicates that it never held water but was used to channel water around the building platform and down the hillslope. The moat is flanked by an outer bank measuring 2m-3.5m wide and up to 0.4m high. There are gaps at the outer bank's north west and north east corners from where the water would have run down the hillslope. There is an entrance through the outer bank at the centre of the monument's south side and faint traces of a low causeway c.2m wide can be seen crossing the ditch and giving access to the island. The moated site is thought to be the precursor of the bastle which is located some 35m to the south east. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

In this area a moated site would almost certainly have some other defensive features. It is therefore entirely possible this was a vicars 'pele' and, if so, presumably replaced by the nearby Upper Denton Vicarage bastle in C16. However the form of the building within the moat is not known, the lack of remains may be suggestive of something mainly of timber although the site may have been robbed for the vicarage. Can safely be rejected as an early timber 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 ReferenceNY615655
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  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 176
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 98
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 97 (reject as motte)
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 22, 28
  • Collingwood, W.G., 1901, 'Remains of the pre-Norman Period' in H.Arthur Doubleday (ed), VCH Cumberland Vol. 1 p. 292 online copy


  • Ferguson, R.S., 1882, 'Earthworks in Cumberland' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 6 p. 194 online copy