Lancaster Castle

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

There are major building remains

NameLancaster Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLancashire
Modern AuthorityLancashire
1974 AuthorityLancashire
Civil ParishLancaster

Castle, now prison and courthouses. Occupies part of the site of a Roman fort. Principal dates of construction of the surviving structure are c1150, when the keep was erected; c1200 (parts of Hadrian's Tower, fragments of curtain wall running north and east from the tower, some masonry in the Gatehouse passageway, and the lower part of the Well Tower); early C15 (the Gatehouse and Well Tower). The upper storey of the keep is probably C15 and was re-modelled in 1585. Extensive additions were made from 1788 onwards to the designs of Thomas Harrison. The Governor's house was the first of the new buildings. The former Crown Hall at the west was rebuilt and extended to the north to include a new Crown Court (1798) and circular Grand Jury Room. To the west a new Shire Hall was built on a 7-sided semicircular plan. The female felons' prison was completed in 1793, and the male felons' prison to the north was also built in the 1790s. Following a break, work continued under the supervision of JM Gandy in 1802: the interior of the Crown Court was completed, and the female penitentiary was added in 1818-21. The walls are of sandstone ashlar and rubble with roofs of slate and lead. All the buildings are linked to form an irregular polygon on plan with a central courtyard. The Gatehouse, of 3 storeys and with 2 towers which have projections of semi-octagonal plan, linked by a passageway arch which dies into the reveals, and have machicolations and embattled parapets. To each side square turrets, with taller stair turrets, rise above the parapets. Above the gateway a niche contains a statue of John O'Gaunt by Claud Nimmo, installed in 1822, flanked by shields of arms of Henry V when Prince of Wales (1407 - 1413). The former female penitentiary on the south side of the courtyard is linked to the gatehouse by the former female felons' prison. Of 5 storeys and semicircular plan with its curved wall facing a small yard formed by the curtain wall to the south

The interior contains cells, 9 to each floor, radiating from landings with cast-iron stairs. Within the yard the wall extending from the cell block towards the west contains rubble masonry from the curtain wall of c1200. This forms the south wall of the former debtors' rooms, added by Harrison, a range of buildings which is continued towards the north where it abuts the parallel Crown Court range, and returns towards the east against the south wall of the keep. The north-south range, which forms the west side of the courtyard, has cantilevered stone staircases at each end. The keep is of 4 storeys. The east wall contains the blocked round-arched first-floor entrance doorway and now has a 3-light mullioned and transomed window. On the ground floor are 2 doorways with pointed wave-moulded arches. Some round-headed window openings with angle shafts remain, including 2 at first-floor level in the north wall. On the north side the battlements have a plaque inscribed 'ER RA Ralph Assheton 1585'. Internally, the tower is divided into 2 compartments by a spine wall. At ground-floor level 2 of the massive timber posts which support the first floor are visible in the southern half. The former Male Felons' prison, to the north, built on a radial plan with 2 cell blocks of 5 storeys linked by a rebuilt curtain wall. The western block has been altered by the addition of a late C19 range of cells. Between this block and the Keep is the former Execution Yard, with a blocked 'Hanging Doorway' in the curtain wall. The eastern cell block is relatively unaltered and used for storage, with each floor having 2 groups of 4 cells, separated by a spine wall and served by 2 landings. The original cast-iron doors remain. The Well Tower on the west side of the courtyard is of rectangular plan with a long flight of stone steps leading down to a cellar. To the north of the steps a niche contains a well. The stonework of the pointed cellar vault has mortar which retains the impression of the wattle centering used in its construction. The former GOVERNOR'S HOUSE, to the south, has the centre of its facade canted forwards and has Gothick windows. At the west of the complex are the courtrooms and associated buildings. The Crown Court range was built partly on the site of the earlier Crown Hall and has semicircular north and south terminations: to the south is the re-cased Hadrian's Tower and to the north the new Grand Jury Room. Projecting on the west side is the Shire Hall, with a ground-floor arcade of Tudor arches, with a walkway above, and with pointed windows lighting the Hall itself. All the openings have Perpendicular tracery. INTERIORS. Gatehouse: the upper rooms of the towers contain cambered roof beams carried on corbelled wall posts. A corridor above the entrance passage contains the following graffito incised into the stone: 'John Bailey Committed April ye 15th, 1741 by Brindle, for kissing', together with a drawing of a fiddle. Inside the Shire Hall an elliptical arch spans the full width of the courtroom, its wide soffit decorated with blind tracery plasterwork. Below, the east wall contains 3 pointed windows above a continuous Gothick plasterwork canopy, added by Gandy. In front of the arch the ribs of the ceiling vault radiate from a central boss and spring from 7 clustered sandstone columns which form an ambulatory around the outside wall. To each side of the judge's seat are jury boxes, and benches are arranged in a segmental pattern: the woodwork is in a Gothic style and was supplied by Gillows. The Crown Court was decorated by Gandy and has Gothic woodwork which includes a canopy over the judge's chair. The Grand Jury Room is vaulted and has curved Gothic doors. Hadrian's Tower now has exposed stonework internally, squared below and of rubble above. The circular gallery was added in 1892 when the tower was excavated to its present level. At gallery level is a blocked round-arched opening of c1200. To the north of Hadrian's Tower there is a barrel-vaulted corridor under the site of the old hall. Opening off it are 5 barrel-vaulted cells with timber doors, possibly used originally as stables but in use as prison cells by the C18. (Listed Building Report)

Gatehouse Comments

It has been presumed the Masonry castle occupies the site of an earlier castle of motte and bailey form. It is also said the great tower is built on a mound (dated as Saxon by Cox (1896) although his plan suggest he thought the whole castle was built on a large mound overlying the corner of a Roman fort). The presumption their was an earlier timber castle here is probably correct. The evidence this was of a motte and bailey form is less good and seems mainly to be made by an assumption that all Norman castles were of this form. The layout of the castle suggests to Gatehouse that the original timber castle was initially a ringwork without a motte but if this was a motte it was a large and low mound. According to Goodall (2013) the timber castle was started in 1094 and the Lungess tower soon after 1102. Eight years is far too short a period of time for an artificial motte to stabilise so the great tower cannot be built on a motte on the tall conical form.

- 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 ReferenceSD473618
Latitude54.050048828125
Longitude-2.80560994148254
Eastings347347
Northings461855
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
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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
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. 103
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 113, 251, 293, 295, 342-3
  • Lancashire County Council, 2006, Lancashire Historic Town Survey Lancaster online copy
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Lancashire and Cheshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 28-33
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 135-6
  • White, A J., 1993, A History of Lancaster 1193-1993 (Keele, Ryburn Publishing)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 246
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 250-1
  • Gibson, Leslie Irving, 1977, Lancashire Castles and Towers (Dalesman Books)
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1975, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 3: 1485-1660 (part 1) (London) p. 178-181, 260-1
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 220
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1969, Buildings of England: Lancashire, The rural north (Harmondsworth) p. 156-7
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 692-3
  • Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), 1914, VCH Lancashire Vol. 8 p. 5-11 (plan) online copy
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • D'Auvergne, E.B., 1908 (revided 1226), The English Castles (London: T. Werner Laurie) p. 87-91
  • Gardner, W., 1908, 'Ancient Earthworks:- Lancashire South of the Sands' in Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), VCH Lancashire Vol. 2 p. 528-9 online copy
  • Fishwick, 1907, 'Castles and Fortified Houses' in Fishwick and P.H. Ditchfield (eds), Memorials of Old Lancashire (London: Bemrose and sons) Vol. 2 p. 3-7 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 194-6 online copy
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 123, 138, 401 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 115-6 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 214 online copy
  • Whitaker, T.D., 1823, A History of Richmondshire in the North Riding of the County of York (London) Vol. 2 p. 228-9 online copy
  • Clark, Christopher, 1807, An Account of Lancaster (Lancaster) p. 16-29 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 1 p. 153

Antiquarian

  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 267
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 11 online copy
  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy
  • Celia Fiennes, 1888, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press) Vision of Britain online transcription

Journals

  • < >Guy, Neil, 2014-15, 'Lancaster Castle Revealed - Part 1 - The Keep' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 140-189 < >
  • Richard Nevell, 2014-15, 'Castles as prisons' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 28 p. 203-224
  • Goodall, John, 2013 Feb 20, 'A prison unlocked Lancaster Castle, Duchy of Lancaster' Country Life Vol. 208.8 p. 60-3
  • Nevell, Richard, 2012-13, 'Castle gatehouses in North West England' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 258-81 online copy
  • Guy, Neil, 2012-13, 'Lancaster Castle's Great Tower - Interim Report' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 26 p. 207-15 (pictorial essay) online copy
  • 2010-11, 'Ministry of Justice to vacate Lancaster Castle prison' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 24 p. 193-4 (news report)
  • 2003-4, 'The Future of Lancaster Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 77-8 (news report)
  • Wood, Jason, 1992-93, 'Six Northern Castles - A review of recent work undertaken by the Lancaster University Archaeological Unit' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 6 p. 18-21 online scan
  • Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 309
  • 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)
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
  • Fishwick, H., 1901, 'The Old Castles of Lancashire.' Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society Vol. 19 p. 53-9 online copy
  • Cox, E.W., 1896, 'Lancaster castle' Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Vol. 48 p. 95-122 (plan) online copy
  • Higgin, E.,1849, 'Memoranda relating to Lancaster Castle' Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Vol. 1 p. 95-102 online copy
  • 1829, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 1 p. 492 online copy
  • 1818, The Gentleman's Magazine Part 2 p. 176 online copy

Guide Books

  • Champness, John, 1993, Lancaster Castle, a brief history (Preston: Lancashire County Books)
  • Meakin, J., 1988, Guide to Lancaster Castle (Westmoreland Gazette)
  • Grant, A., 1985, Lancaster Castle in the Middle Ages (Lancaster, Lancaster University)

Primary Sources

Other

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