Egremont Castle

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

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameEgremont Castle
Alternative NamesEgermond
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishEgremont

Despite its ruinous condition, substantial upstanding and buried remains of the medieval fabric of Egremont Castle still survive. Its proximity to the Scottish border meant that it functioned as part of the English line of defence against attacking Scottish armies, particularly during the 12th and 14th centuries when it was besieged. As such it provides an insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castle construction.

The monument includes the earthworks and the upstanding and buried remains of Egremont Castle, together with its associated castle garth which formed the outer defences of the monument. It began as a Norman motte and bailey castle but later developed into an enclosure castle. It is strategically located on an elevated knoll high above a crossing point of the River Ehen, and consists of an artificially raised earthen mound known as a motte together with an enclosed associated bailey. A broad ditch on the west side separates the motte and bailey from a lower castle garth which runs around the west, north and east sides of the motte and bailey.

Egremont Castle was constructed in about 1120 by William de Meschines and consisted of a motte topped by a timber tower or keep within which the occupants would have resided. An associated bailey, separated from the motte by a dry ditch, was constructed to the south of the motte. This was used for sheltering people and animals and would have contained numerous buildings such as storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and bakehouse. During the late 12th/early 13th centuries a stone curtain wall was built around the foot of the motte and crossed the intervening ditch between the motte and bailey to fully enclose the bailey. The castle's defences were further enhanced by the digging of a broad dry ditch on the west side. An outer gatehouse was added to the castle's west side and access was provided via a drawbridge across the ditch

A narrow postern gate was provided in the east curtain wall. At about the same time the timber keep on the motte was replaced by a circular stone structure known as the Juliet Tower. The ditch between the motte and bailey was infilled and stone buildings such as the great hall were constructed within the bailey to replace earlier timber structures. During the mid-14th century the stone curtain wall was considerably raised in height and its base strengthened. By the 1570s documentary sources indicate that the castle had been abandoned and lay in ruins apart from one chamber which remained in use as a courthouse. This courthouse continued in use until 1786.

The castle's west curtain wall and gatehouse displays the earliest surviving stonework and includes substantial amounts of herringbone masonry consisting of thin rubble, bedded diagonally and alternating with thin horizontal courses. This architectural style was introduced to Britain by the Romans and copied by the Normans. It was undertaken at Egremont not for ornamentation but for tie, the object being to secure the greatest amount of strength in the wall in the least possible time. The west gateway was originally of three storeys; a round-headed entrance arch survives as do columns in each corner which carry remains of a domed rib-vault. The postern gate partially survives in the east wall of the curtain wall. The curtain wall survives to varying heights around the bailey as do two short sections of the wall surrounding the motte. Within the bailey the south wall of the great hall survives almost to its original height and contains three windows with traces of two others together with partial remains of its doorway. Elsewhere within the bailey are the remains of the kitchen and the building which was used as a courthouse until the late 18th century. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Surviving curtain walls were badly damaged when Robert the Bruce raided the Castle on at least two occasions shortly after Bannockburn. The castle finally met its end after the Rising of the North when it was slighted.

- 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 ReferenceNY009104
Latitude54.4799118041992
Longitude-3.52965998649597
Eastings300970
Northings510460
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All rights reserved

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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. 107
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 138-9, 269
  • 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
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 50-1
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 102-3 (plan)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 41
  • Cope, Jean, 1991, Castles in Cumbria (Cicerone Press) p. 81-2
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 55-6
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 86
  • Clare, T., 1981, Archaeological Sites of the Lake District p. 78-81
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 227
  • Hudleston, C.Roy and Boumphrey, R.S., 1978, Cumberland Families and Heraldry p. 225, 272, 376-7
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 85-7
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 181, 183
  • Pevsner, N., 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (Harmondsworth: Penguin) p. 124
  • Sanders, I.J., 1960, English Baronies. A study of their origin and descent 1086-1327 p. 115
  • Parker, C.A. (new edn rev. Collingwood, W.G.), 1926, The Gosforth District: Its Antiquities and Places of Interest (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 15) p. 5-17
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 23,134-7
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Parker, C.A., 1904, The Gosforth District p. 4-20
  • Collingwood, W.G., 1901, 'Remains of the pre-Norman Period' in H.Arthur Doubleday (ed), VCH Cumberland Vol. 1 p. 291 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 312-4 online copy
  • Mannix and Whellan, 1847, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland (Beverley) p. 328-9 online copy
  • Jefferson, S., 1840, History and Antiquities of Leith Ward in the county of Cumberland p. 32
  • Lysons, Daniel and Samuel, 1816, 'Antiquities: Castles' Magna Britannia Vol. 4: Cumberland p. ccii-ccvi online transcription
  • Hutchinson, W., 1794, The History of the County of Cumberland (Carlisle) Vol. 2 p. 19- online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 40

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. 97
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 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
  • Turnbull, P. and Walsh, D., 1994, 'Recent work at Egremont Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 94 p. 77-89 online copy
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 312
  • 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)
  • 1957, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 57 p. 191 online copy
  • 5-3-1932, Cumberland News
  • Curwen. J.F., 1928, 'Herring-bone Work, as seen at Egremont Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 28 p. 142-8 online copy
  • Caine, C., 1923, 'Antiquities at Egremont' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 23 p. 133-7 online copy
  • Caine, Caesar, 1915, 'The Manor Court of Egremont' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 15 p. 76-89 online copy
  • Jackson , W., 1882, 'A Sketch of the History of Egremont Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 6 p. 150-162 online copy
  • Knowles, E.H. and Jackson, W., 1882, 'Egremont Castle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 6 p. 150- online copy

Primary Sources

  • Flower, C.T. (ed), 1925, Curia Regis Rolls of the Reigns of Richard I and John Vol. 2 3-5 John 1201-1203 (HMSO) p. 274
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 154

Other

  • 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