Kirkby Lonsdale Cockpit Hill

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte)

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameKirkby Lonsdale Cockpit Hill
Alternative NamesThe Cockpit; Cockpit Hill; Kirby Lonsdale
Historic CountryWestmorland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishKirkby Lonsdale

Probable earthwork remains of a Medieval motte; reused as a post-Medieval cockpit. The mound is 130ft in diameter and in poor condition. (PastScape)

Cockpit Hill, 150 yards N. of the church, stands on a bluff on the W. bank of the Lune. It would appear to have been a small motte and now consists of a mound, about 130 ft. in diameter and rising at most some 19 ft. above the bottom of the slight ditch which surrounds it except on the E. The mound has been damaged by the formation of a path on the E. side and by some excavation on the top, perhaps to adapt it for use as a cock-pit.

Condition—Bad. (RCHME 1936)

Cockpit Hill Motte is a scheduled monument situated on a bluff above the steep bank of the River Lune, north of the church. There is no trace of a bailey associated with the motte. Curwen (1913) considered that the motte had been formed by cutting deep trenches across the high end of a ridge and the earth being piled into the centre to raise the level of the motte. The exact nature of the use of the Motte is uncertain. (Extensive Urban Survey)

Before the Conquest Thorfinnr held Kirkby Lonsdale as one of his twelve manors in Austwick. By 1100 Ivo Talebois held it as Baron of Kendal and gave the church with its land, amounting to perhaps three-quarters of the township, to the monks of St. Mary’s Abbey, York. (Garnett 2013)

Gatehouse Comments

Possibly a C11 motte built in an area that had been contested with the Kingdom of Strathclyde but by 1100 was securely within the realm of England. The early granting of the manor to St Mary's Abbey York suggests early abandonment. Had there been an earlier fortification here when the area was more actively contested? Was this a deliberate act of demilitarisation or merely an efficiency driven remodelling of estate holdings combined with (or dressed up as) an act of piety?

- 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 ReferenceSD610789
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved

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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. 109
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 336
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 98 (slight)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 274 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 66
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 492
  • RCHME, 1936, An inventory of the historical monuments in Westmorland (HMSO) p. 136 no. 2 online transcription
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 35
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Whellan, W., 1860, The History and Topography of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland (Pontefract) p. 887 online copy


  • Higham, Mary, 1991, 'The Mottes of North Lancashire, Lonsdale and South Cumbria' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 91 p. 79-90 (reprinted in Crosby, A.G. (ed), 2007, Of names and places: selected writings of Mary Higham (Nottingham: English Place-Name Society and the Society for Name Studies) p. 81-91) online copy
  • 1905, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 5 p. 278 (slight) online copy

Guide Books

  • White, A.J., 1998, Norman Castles of Lunedale A History Trail (Lancaster City Museums) (Leaflet)


  • Garnett, Emmeline, 2013, Victoria County History of Cumbria Project: Work in Progress Interim Draft Kirkby Lonsdale 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
  • Clare, T., 1982, A Report on Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria (Cumbria CC)