Holme Cultram Abbey

Has been described as a Rejected Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Rejected Fortified Manor House, and also as a Possible Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are earthwork remains

NameHolme Cultram Abbey
Alternative NamesHulm
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishHolme Abbey

Remains of a Cistercian monastery. The abbey was founded on the 30th December 1150 by Henry, son of David I, king of Scotland and then ruling Cumberland, and a colony of monks were sent from Melrose. When Henry II recovered the district for England he took the abbey under his protection. It suffered heavily from its location near the border. The abbey was surrendered on the 6th March 1538. The west end of the nave of the abbey church now forms part of the parish church of St. Mary. It has early C16 additions, and alterations dated 1730. The vestry dates to 1884-5 and the church was restored in 1913. (PastScape 9641)

To the north of the Abbey of Holme Cultram is a mound and broad ditch; this is all that remains of the moat and wall which surround the Monastery of Holme Cultram. (Curwen; Ferguson)

"Motte with ditch, but without bailey, N of the abbey". (Pevsner)

As described by Curwen and Fergusson. There is no trace of a motte. (F1 BHP 19-NOV-68)

The remains of a medieval moat and precinct wall are visible as earthworks on air photographs centred at NY 1773 5099. A broad ditch, 105m long, is flanked on the south side by a bank, representing the precinct wall. (PastScape 9648)

Gatehouse Comments

There is a mention of 'Castlehill at Holme Cultram' in 1552. The earthwork is rejected by King as moat only, some other authors give the possibility of it being a motte or precinct rampart. Pevsner, who was not an archaeologist or earthworks expert, may be the source for those who mention a motte. Jackson suggests could be the remains of Alan fitz Waldeve's capital messuage mention in C12. A motte can be rejected. A moated house is possible although there is nothing really to suggest this would have been fortified and the C12 date might argue against what seems to be a straight line of ditch. An abbey precinct wall and ditch seems by the far the most likely explanation of this feature; there is nothing to suggest this would have been of such a strength as to be called fortified. Although little remains of the medieval monastery the buildings were probably fortified. Said by Parker to been granted a licence to crenellate in 1327 but this was, in fact, for St Benet, Holm in Norfolk. In 1538, when the abbey was dissolved, the parishioners successfully petitioned for the preservation of the abbey church for 'defence for us agenst our neghbors the Scots' although how a church larger than Carlisle Cathedral was a defence is an open question.

- 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 ReferenceNY177509
Latitude54.8468399047852
Longitude-3.28273010253906
Eastings317730
Northings550980
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
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

  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 292-4
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29)
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 96 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1990, Castles of Cumbria (Carlisle: Carel Press) p. 62
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 97 (reject)
  • Wilkinson, Fredrick, 1973, Castles of England (London) p. 19 (list of minor sites)
  • Knowles, David and Hadcock, R. Neville, 1971, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (Longman)┬áp113, 120
  • Pevsner, N., 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland p. 58
  • Grainger, F. and Collingwood, W., 1929, The Register and Records of Holm Cultram (Kendal: CWAAS Record Series 8) 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. 40, 241
  • Collingwood, W.G., 1901, 'Remains of the pre-Norman Period' in H.Arthur Doubleday (ed), VCH Cumberland Vol. 1 p. 292 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 422 online copy

Journals

  • Martindale, J.H., 1913, 'The Abbey of St. Mary, Holme Cultram ; recent investigations and notes on the ancient roof' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 13 p. 248 online copy
  • Ferguson, C.J., 1866-73, 'St Mary's Abbey, Holme Cultram' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 1 p. 263-75 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1327-30) Vol. 1 p. 183 online copy