Cockermouth Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCockermouth Castle
Alternative NamesCokermue
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishCockermouth

Despite partial 17th century destruction designed to prevent the castle's refortification after the Civil War, Cockermouth Castle survives reasonably well and still retains significant remains of upstanding medieval fabric. It is a rare example in Cumbria of a medieval enclosure castle which developed from an earlier motte and bailey castle and as such provides a significant insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies used in medieval castles.

The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Cockermouth enclosure castle together with the site of its motte and bailey precursor. It is strategically located on the western edge of a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Derwent and Cocker, and the town of Cockermouth. The first castle to be built on the site was a motte and bailey constructed by William de Fortibus II in the mid-12th century at the extreme western edge of the ridge. The motte was an earthen mound raised some 2m above the height of the bailey which lay to its east. On the summit of the motte there would have been a central building or a number of smaller buildings constructed against a surrounding wooden palisade. The bailey would have contained barracks, stables, barns, workshops, and storehouses placed against the timber boundary fence. There was possibly a defensive ditch between the motte and bailey and another fronting the bailey. Around 1225, William de Fortibus III replaced the timber castle with a stone triangular castle on the same site. Remains of this early stone castle survive in the basement of the west tower and the lower courses of the south and north curtain walls. During the mid to late 14th century the castle was strengthened by Thomas de Lucy; the upper parts of the north and south curtain wall, the west tower, and the bell tower are all of this date

Internally there are surviving low stone walls of the Great Hall, the Lord's Chamber and the Lady's Chamber which probably replaced earlier timber buildings. The entrance to this castle still exists adjacent to the bell tower where a door jamb remains. An outer bailey which was slightly smaller than the present one existed, and buried remains of a circular tower at its south east angle are known to exist close to the later flag tower. During the latter years of the 14th century major rebuilding work was undertaken by Maud de Lucy and her first husband the Earl of Angus, and completed by Henry Percy. Much of this work survives today and includes the kitchen tower and other rooms, collectively known as the 'Percy Wing', which were built above the ditch of the earlier castle, with the ditch itself being used for cellars and the Mirk Kirk, traditionally the chapel. Two large fireplaces are still visible in the south wall of the kitchen. The inner gatehouse, flanked by guardrooms below which are dungeons, gives access from the outer bailey and a new ditch, now infilled, was dug in front of this extension. The walls of the outer bailey were extended to their present size and a new defensive ditch, now infilled, was dug outside the east curtain wall. An outer gatehouse and barbican were constructed at the north east angle and still provide access to the castle. At the south east angle the flag tower was built and used for the holding of manorial courts and audits. Documentary sources dated to 1568 and 1578 indicate that the castle was in a state of decay during the latter half of the 16th century. In August and September 1648 a garrison of Parliamentary soldiers were besieged in the castle by Royalist troops. Little damage was done to the castle during this siege but in the following year the ditch outside the inner gatehouse was infilled, the roofs of many of the internal buildings were removed along with the upper parts of the curtain walls, and some looting occurred. In 1676 there were only four bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen in use, together with stables and cellars, a bakehouse and a courthouse. Four years later the castle passed from the Percy family to Charles Seymore, Duke of Somerset. In 1750 it passed to the Wyndham family, now Lord Egremont, in whose hands it remains. Until the beginning of the 19th century the castle was rarely visited by its owners. In 1802-5 Lord Egremont decided to live at the castle every July and August, and built some residential rooms along the north wall of the outer bailey and a stable block along the south wall. By 1850 further building completed the residential wing between the outer gatehouse and the kitchen tower and an office block had been built along the east wall of the outer bailey. In 1904 further offices were added along the east wall between the outer gatehouse and the flag tower. (Scheduling Report)

The site is on a promonotory between the Rivers Cocker and Derwent, and there has been a castle since before 1221. The Hall, 1360, Flag Tower 1387, Gatehouse rebuilt circa 1400. Full curtain walls and 2 wards. Masonry in good order externally. An important building in a fine setting. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Most authorities have assumed that the recorded timber precursor castle, of c. 1150, to this castle was at this site but see Cockermouth Tute Hill (NY124307) which may be the actual precursor.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceNY122308
Latitude54.6651611328125
Longitude-3.36215996742249
Eastings312230
Northings530850
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Keith Fitton All Rights Reserved
Copyright Keith Fitton All Rights Reserved
Copyright Keith Fitton All Rights Reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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Books

  • 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. 106
  • Brears, Peter, 2011, 'The Administrative Role of Gatehouses in Fourteenth-Century North-Country Castles' in Airs, M. and Barnwell, P.S. (eds), The Medieval Great House (Donington: Shaun Tyas) p. 200-213
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 269, 326
  • Winchester, Angus J.L.., 2007, 'Baronial and Manorial Parks in Medieval Cumbria' in Liddiard, R. (ed) The Medieval Park new perspectives (Windgather Press) p. 165-184
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 90-1 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 40-3
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 39-40
  • Cope, Jean, 1991, Castles in Cumbria (Cicerone Press) p. 82-6
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 46-8 (plan)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 84
  • Bradbury, J.B., 1981, History of Cockermouth p. 38-61
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 211
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 69-73
  • Sanders, I.J., 1960, English Baronies. A study of their origin and descent 1086-1327 p. 134-5
  • Pevsner, N., 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (London, Penguin) p. 107-8
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 127-33
  • 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. 304-8 online copy
  • Taylor, M.W., 1892, Old Manorial Halls of Westmorland and Cumberland (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 8) p. 336-8 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 409-18 (reprint of 1874 article) online copy
  • Wyndham, c1850, Sketches of Cockermouth Castle
  • Mannix and Whellan, 1847, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland (Beverley) p. 526 online copy
  • Lysons, Daniel and Samuel, 1816, 'Antiquities: Castles' Magna Britannia Vol. 4: Cumberland p. ccii-ccvi online transcription
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 38
  • Grose, Francis, 1783 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 1 p. 49-51 online copy

Antiquarian

  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 93, 97, 338
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 51, 54, 55 online copy

Journals

  • Nevell, Richard, 2012-13, 'Castle gatehouses in North West England' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 258-81 online copy
  • Winchester, A.J.L., 1986, ' Medieval Cockermouth' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 86 p. 109-28 online copy
  • 1974, Country Life Vol. 156 p. 146-9, 210-3
  • King, D.J.C. and Alcock, L., 1969, 'Ringworks in England and Wales' Château Gaillard Vol. 3 p. 90-127
  • Graham, T.H.B., 1929, 'The Honour of Cockermouth' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 29 p. 69-80 online copy
  • Curwen, J.F., 1911, 'Cockermouth Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 11 p. 129-58 online copy
  • Jackson, Wm, 1880, 'An Historical and Descriptive Account of Cockermouth Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 109-38 online copy
  • Clark, 1874, The Builder Vol. 32 p. 944-7
  • Rev. Dr. Bruce, 1866-76, 'Observations on a Roman Inscription at Cockermouth Castle' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 7 p. 80 online copy
  • 1-7-1830, The Citizen Vol. 25 p. 755-7
  • 1797, The Gentleman's Magazine Vol. 67 Part 1 p. 9 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 2 p. 199b (order for destruction in 1221) online copy
  • 1906, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1232-47) Vol. 3 p. 258 online copy
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 152-3
  • C145/78(11) (Survey of 1316) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 75 No. 297 [online copy > https://archive.org/stream/calendarofinqu02grea#page/75/mode/1up])
  • SC11/959 (Survey of 1538) The National Archives reference
  • Green, M.A.E.(ed), 1872, Calendar of State Papers Domestic: Elizabeth, Addenda 1580-1625 p. 17-18 no. 44 (Reference for for Dacre's 1580 survey of the West March) online copy

Other

  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk North West Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 12 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North West (London: English Heritage) p. 13 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North West (London: English Heritage) p. 13 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North West (London: English Heritage) p. 28 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North West (London: English Heritage) p. 28 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North West (London: English Heritage) p. 26 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North West (London: English Heritage) p. 34 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2006, Extensive Urban Survey - Cumbria (Cumbria County Council) Download copy
  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online