Hornby Castle, Lancashire

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameHornby Castle, Lancashire
Alternative NamesOrneby
Historic CountryLancashire
Modern AuthorityLancashire
1974 AuthorityLancashire
Civil ParishHornby With Farleton

Large house, with early C16th keep on earlier foundations, early C18th south-west front completely re-modelled in a domestic Gothic style in 1849-52 by Sharpe and Paley, with further additions and alterations in 1881 and 1889-91 by Paley and Austin. Sandstone rubble with slate roofs. On an irregular plan, with a broad entrance front behind which lies the hall, and a tapered courtyard behind containing the keep and closed by a further tower. South-west facade is a balanced composition with central 3-storey porch and with wings projecting at each side,all with embattled parapets. The windows are mullioned or mullioned and transomed, with round heads to the lights. The projecting wings have 2-storey bay windows, canted on the 1st floor only. The left hand one has 2 2nd-floor windows above the bay, each with cusped Y-tracery and pointed head. To each side of the porch are 2 bays with windows of varied type. The porch has a diagonal buttress to the right and an octagonal turret to the left. On the 1st floor is an oriel window of semi circular plan. At the rear of the front block the lower part of the tower has been revealed by C20 - demolitions and has a mutilated 1st-floor oriel window. The upper storey was re-modelled in the mid C19, but below it are 2 blocked 2-light mullioned windows with hoods. The north-east wall of the tower has an early C17 Venetian window, partly blocked, and a stone with motto: 'Glav et gant'. There is also a stone carved with an eagle's claw: the keep was rebuilt by the 1st Lord Monteagle. The north-west facade dates from the later C19 rebuilding, On the north-east side the rear courtyard is entered through a gateway with moulded pointed arch. Interior. The porch contains a vestibule with a plaster vault with foliated bosses. It is divided from the hall by a Tudor arch containing a glazed timber screen in a Gothic style. The hall fireplace is of sandstone, with a Tudor arch and spandrel decoration

The left-hand room is a library, with woodwork said to be by Gillows, including a fireplace surround and overmantel, and fitted bookcases, with elaborate carving in a late C16 style.The main staircase was removed in the C20. The present stair is of dog-leg type with turned balusters. On the 1st floor is a billiard room decorated in a Gothic style. (Listed Building Report)

HORNBY CASTLE is finely situated on the top of a lofty and precipitous cliff on the right bank of the River Wenning, a mile above its confluence with the Lune. The site is a naturally defensive one, overlooking the village and commanding extensive and beautiful views along the valleys of both rivers. Of the original castle of the Nevills nothing remains, the only ancient part of the present building being the central tower, or keep, which was erected by Sir Edward Stanley first Lord Mounteagle, probably on an older foundation, at the beginning of the 16th century. In a survey taken in 1584 (Whitaker p. 257) the castle is described as being 'verie faire built, standing statelie upon the topp of a great hill,' with several gates and wards outside its walls, the first gate being at the 'lowest foot of the hill,' adjoining the town.

Whitaker, writing about 1819, (Whitaker p. 252) states that the foundations of two round towers, probably of early 14th-century date, had been removed in some 'late alterations,' and that in front of the present tower there appeared to have been, from the evidence of the foundations, a quadrangle 'of which one side coincided with the present house and the opposite one to the brow of the hill,' and that a base-court with other outbuildings formerly extended to the edge of the town. After the Civil War the castle was abandoned and allowed to fall to ruin, but was partly rebuilt in the first half of the 18 th century by Colonel Charteris, who erected a long plain two-story building in front of the keep on the south side, with square sash windows and slightly projecting end, the roofs of which were hipped back. In Buck's view of 1727, which is taken from the north-east, and in which, therefore, the new front is not seen, some of the ruins of an old west wing are shown still standing, but the 'Eagle turret,' or watch-tower, at the northwest corner of the keep, described by the poet Gray, when he visited the castle in 1765 and found the tower 'only a shell,' does not, if the drawing be correct, appear to have been then erected. (Gray wrote: 'It is now only a shell, the rafters are laid within it as for flooring. I went up a winding stone staircase in one corner to the leads, and at the angle is a stone single hexagon watch-tower, rising seven feet higher, fitted up in the taste of a modern summerhouse, with sash windows in gilt frames, a stucco cupola, and on the top a rich gilt eagle; built by Mr. Charteris, the present proprietor.' Whitaker says the Eagle Tower was the work of Lord Wemyss about 1743 (Richmondshire, ii, 252). Buck's view shows a cupola but no windows, the turret being too low to allow of them. This may be due, however, to bad drawing or to the necessity of getting the top of the cupola within the picture. The border is actually broken for the finial, but no eagle is shown.) The 18th-century front stood till 1847, when it was superseded by the present Gothic building, the south or principal front of which was erected in front of it. It is a very good example of the domestic Gothic work of the period, with central entrance tower and flanking embattled wings. The keep was shortly afterwards restored and the 18th-century watchtower rebuilt in harmony with the rest of the building with machicolations and an embattled parapet. There were further additions on the north side in 1881 and 1891. (VCH)

Hornby Castle is located on rising ground overlooking the village and the crossing of the river Wenning. The first mention of a castle is in the 14th century although Whittaker (1823) suggests that the site is much older, even perhaps Roman although the much-quoted 'Roman Pavements' found on the castle site are most likely the remains of a medieval tiled floor. White's researches (1996) suggest that the borough was a new settlement planted by the Neville family, perhaps having moved a pre-existing settlement from the vicinity of Castle Stede. If this is the case it is possible but unlikely that the existing stone castle stood on the site of an earlier defensive earthwork although Platt (1976) suggests that by the mid to late 12th century most new towns were established away from the protection of a castle and in this Hornby is unusual having not one, but two castle sites. The base of the great octagonal tower at Hornby is thought to date from the 13th century but the first documentary reference is in 1362-3 when it was in the possession of Henry, first Duke of Lancaster. The majority of the present central tower was erected at the beginning of the 16th century but extensive additions and remodellings in the 18th and 19th centuries have given the castle its current Gothic appearance. (Lancashire County Council)

Gatehouse Comments

The relationship with the fine motte and bailey at Castlestede is noteworthy. This castle is usually said to be the successor but the location is much nearer the church and village. Was Castlestede a new Norman castle on a virgin site controlling the River Lune crossing? Was the Saxon hall of Ulf on the Hornby Castle site reoccupied somewhat later or, indeed, maintained as a house site until the Castlestede site became obsolete. However White (1985-6) argues the earlier village was near Castlestede (although there is not physical evidence for this) and that Castle Hornby and a borough were a new establishment of the C13. Fragments of an C8/C9 Anglo-Saxon cross were found in a rockery at Hornby castle (see PastScape 42915 but were not in situ and may have been transported some distance. The actual construction date of fortifications at Castle Hornby is not known.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceSD587685
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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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  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
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  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 313
  • White, A J, 1985-6, 'Some Notes on Medieval Hornby' Contrebis Vol. 12 p. 1-7 online copy
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Primary Sources

  • Hardy, D.H (ed), 1835, Rotuli de oblatis et finibus in Turri Londinensi asservati tempore Regis Johannis (London: PRO) p. 275 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. 281-2


  • Lancashire County Council and Egerton Lea Consultancy, 2006, Lancashire Historic Town Survey Programme: Hornby; Historic Town Assessment Report (Lancashire County Council) online copy