Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kendal Castle, Kendal

Kendal Castle
Castle Hill

One of my favourite castles, Kendal Castle is a shadow of its former self. Neglected by generations of Parrs and subsequent owners, we're really lucky to have any remains here at all. So much has vanished and been quarried away over the years, that its surprising just how much remains looking over the town. Kendal Castle is visible from all roads leading into the town, and I think this is what gives the castle its charm. The seasons also play their part, giving the castle many different looks throughout the year.

Above. The castle, probably from Castle Howe. 

Above. The castle from Low Fellside. 

Above. The castle from Scout Scar to the West of Kendal. 

Above. The castle from Castle Garths to the West, just below Castle Howe. 

Above. The castle from Sedbergh Road near the Castle Green Hotel. 

Above. The castle, looking East from the top of Captain French Lane. 

Above. The castle looking East.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Castle Howe, Kendal

Castle Howe,

Castle Howe, Kendal’s first castle, lies on the hill side over looking the West of the town. The earthwork remains are sandwiched between Gilling Gate and Beast Banks, and are easily accessible from both sides by footpaths.

Above. Castle Howe with the beacon on Castle Hill in the foreground.

The remains consist of an extremely well defined motte, rising to around 11 metres, and around 18 metres in diameter at the summit. The base of the motte measures around 160 metres, and is surrounded by ditches and embankments. The bailey lays to the East of the motte, and is roughly triangular in shape, and has been destroyed by the creation of a public park, once a bowling green.

Above. Castle Howe from Castle Hill to the East.

There have been numerous dates put forward for its creation. One suggested date is 1092, a date which ties in with the invasion of part of Westmorland by the Normans in their push North.

Above. Castle Howe from the East looking across Castle Hill.

The Barony of Kendal fell at the hands of Ivo de Taillebois at about this time. Ivo was brother to the Earl of Anjou, and an avid follower of Duke William of Normandy, supporting the Duke in his invasion of England in 1066. As a reward for his unfailing military support and success, Ivo was granted the Barony of Kentdale, a title that brought with it huge swathes of land in what is now Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Above. Castle Howe in Winter.

As well as Castle Howe in Kendal, Ivo also has connections with Kirkby Londale’s motte and bailey castle on Ruskins Brow, and towns right across the South Lakes area, including Beetham, Kirkby Stephen, Kirkby Lonsdale, Heversham and Burton in Kendal.

Above. The base of the motte on the North side.

Kendal Castle, to the East of the earthworks, may have been built whilst Castle Howe was still being used. There’s no evidence to suggest that Castle Howe was directly replaced by the new castle the other side of the river. If anything, there’s every possibility that Castle Howe was the baronial centre of Kirkland, and that Kendal castle was the baronial centre of Kentdale.

Above. The memorial to the Glorious Revolution.

Castle Howe eventually became redundant, as did the castle, and the administrative centre of Kendal moved to the Moot Hall in the centre of town (Now occupied by Thorntons).

Above. Castle Howe from the bailey area.

In 1788, to celebrate the centenary of the revolution of 1688, an obelisk was erected on the summit of Castle Howe. The monument was designed by Kendalian architect Francis Webster. The earthworks are now looked after by South Lakeland District Council, with information boards placed at the foot of the motte.

Above. The motte from the North East.

The Saturday Magazine, (published in 1833 by the committee of General literature and education), indicates that the site was once known in Kendal, as Castle-Law Hill....which it claims indicated that local justice was meted out from the flat summit. A map of Kendal, dated 1863, also shows the motte and bailey with this name. (The motte is also known as Castle Low the motte appears to have been known by a number of names in the past) Indeed, anciently, Moots, or Moot Hills were traditionally places where the law was upheld, a place where the judiciary would meet to decide on local cases brought before the elders or judges.

Above. The foot of the motte looking up the stairs on the South side.

Other traditional explanations accredited to Castle Howe, state that the mound is the remnant of a Roman watch station, or even a siege work, thrown up when Kendal Castle was being attacked (by whom I'm not sure, but there's no historical indication that the castle was subjected to any military action) Local tradition was that Kendal Castle was 'knocked about' by Oliver Cromwell, but it's now known that Cromwell paid little or no attention to Kendal, and the castle probably saw little or no military action against it.

Above. Looking across the bailey to the motte.

So Castle Howe has not always been recognised as a motte and bailey castle....indeed it is only in the past 80 years or so that its true nature has been identified, and the many uses and reasons for its existence are readily identifiable when inspecting old maps of the town.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

St James' church, Burton in Kendal

St James
Burton in Kendal

There has been some suggestion by a few authors that the tower of Grade I listed St James at Burton in Kendal "may have been a pele" (to quote the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiqarian and Archaeological Society 1901) I've included a few photos of the tower here for reference. Though the tower, dating from the 12th century boasts walls some four feet thick in places, and no windows at ground floor level, it's very unlikely that this would have formed part of a fortified church, as at Great Salkeld for example. 

The tower and Nave are separated by a tall 12th century arch which would have meant that the Nave and tower would have had to have been part of the same fortified 'enclosure'. As the Nave shows no indications of defence at all, the tower is most likely a simple tower designed to hold a heavy peal of bells.

Above. Plan showing the tower and Nave.

Perriam and Robinson (The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria) reject the suggestion that this was a defensive or fortified building in any way and I'm inclined to believe them.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Castle Dairy, Kendal

Castle Dairy
Wildman Street

A visit today to the Castle Dairy for a fantastic Father's day lunch, revealed a set of draw bar slots in the left hand (unused) entrance in the restaurant. I'd never seen these before, despite numerous visits, and I'd certainly never read about them. I therefore thought it would be apt to add this building to the list of potential secure buildings....along the lines of Helsfell Hall in Kendal, and Wharton Rectory in Wharton. 

Above. Floor plan of the ground floor, showing the location of the draw bar slots, and remains of a spiral staircase. 

The draw bar slots still contain a draw bar, though there was some furniture stored in front of the door making it difficult to get decent photos. I'll have to go back and negotiate a clean up to get some better pictures. The documentation I've been reading today, also states that there is evidence of a further set of draw bar slots in the wall between the bedroom (containing the 16th century bed and aumbry) and the room that is traditionally thought to be the chapel.

Above. The exterior of the door that has retained its draw bar slots and draw bar.

Above. The right jamb of the door.

Above. The left jamb of the door.

This was the original entrance into the central hall block. The other door, now used as the main entrance into the restaurant, was added much later. It leads down a corridor with three sandstone arches to the left leading into the South West wing, and a single doorway to the right that leads into the central hall and onto the North East wing. The South West wing we see today probably dates from Anthony Garnett's tenure of Castle Dairy. It's therefore likely that there was an additional building to the South West of the central hall, access to which would have been through these three doors....all built during the 14th century.

Above. South West facing window in the first floor bedroom.

The documentation I've been checking today also makes mention of the small windows that the Castle Dairy is famous for, and seems to intimate that they may have been gun loops, or at the very least, watch-outs for looking North East and South West along Wildman Street......the main road into Kendal from Scotland for a long time.

Above. First floor window overlooking the original entrance.

Above. The same window from inside the hall.

Above. Splayed window looking South West along Wildman Street.

Above. Possibly the smallest window in Kendal in the South West wing looking North East along Wildman Street.

So from a 'look out' point of view, these tiny windows would provide good views along Wildman Street, North East towards traffic coming into town from Scotland, and South West towards Stramongate Bridge. The building would originally have been in open land, with very few buildings around it, so would have had clear views all around....not hemmed in like it is today. 

The difficulty comes in deciding whether this building was built with security or defence in mind. In my humble opinion, the features shown here are purely security. There's no evidence of a tower here, as there is at Dockray just up the river, and the Castle Dairy never appears as a fortification in any of the antiquarian maps of Kendal. The secret here could lie in the fact that the Garnet family, who owned the building from the early 1560s, were recusants, people who remained loyal to the Catholic faith at a time when the Church of England was moving away from Rome and establishing its own doctrine and practices. As a result of this, the Garnet family may have instigated the inclusion of certain aspects of security into their home; draw bar slots at the main entrance, small windows to keep watch on the comings and goings around them, and draw bar slots blocking entrance to the room supposedly used as an illegal chapel. In this respect, the Castle Dairy could be the same as Helsfell Hall....a simple home with additional security. 

The spiral staircase to the rear of the building, if indeed it was a spiral staircase, could just have been an extravagant addition to a home. 

More research is obviously required, and I'm sure that this intriguing building will be further investigated in the future.

Check out these articles for further information:

Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian newsletter, Summer 2011.

The Castle Dairy Archaeological Building Record.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

New link added to the 'interesting sites to visit' list.

It's been a while since I last updated the list of web sites worth visiting.'s the latest and newest offering....Abarothsworld a superb collection of photo galleries of Castles and Towers, Abbeys and Priories, Churches and Cathedrals, Stately Homes, Pre-Roman sites and Roman Remains. It's good to find a web site where the author shares a passion for historical architecture and manages to take fantastic photos of these sites. Well worth a visit.....and don't forget to keep checking back as he's constantly updating the web site and adding new sites.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Long Marton, St Margaret and St James

St Margaret and St James
Long Marton

The Grade I listing text states that the nave's North and West walls, and possibly part of the South wall date from before 1066, but Mike Salter in his The Old Parish Churches of Cumbria, dates these portions of the church to the 12th century. The tower dates from the 12th century and contains a good set of draw bar slots on the doorway into the nave.

Above. View of the 12th century tower from the church yard.

Above. Carved tympana in the doorway of the tower\Nave.

The tympana shown above, are probably pre-conquest, and were discovered and set in their current position during the 19th century rebuild of the church. I originally missed this carving due to the darkness of the tower. Only afterwards did I realise that I'd managed to photograph it. See this link for more photos of these Norman carvings.

Above. Draw bar slot and rebates in the tower\Nave doorway.

There is also a set of heavy iron hinges on the wall within the tower indicating that there would have been a door separating the Nave from the tower at some point. For the draw bar slots to have been any use, there must have been a door within the thickness of the wall, but there are now no signs or remains of hinges.

Above. Draw bar slot and rebates in the tower\Nave doorway.

It's therefore obvious that the tower at Long Marton was designed to be a safe or secure location, but most likely, as Philip Davis has pointed out to me in the past, as security rather than defence. There are no signs of fireplaces on any of the floors of the tower, indicating that it was not designed as a place of refuge or as somewhere to live, though I was unable to gain access to the first floor of the tower. The staircase to this level is a later addition, as shown on Mike Salter's plans, and leads to the wooden gallery that looks out over the Nave towards the Chancel. Philp Davis interestingly points out that churches may have been permanently occupied, so there may have been instances where the church doors needed to be locked to prevent entry whilst business or services were conducted in private, or so that no one could 'sneak' in unnoticed to steal valuables. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Crosby Ravensworth Hall and moat

Crosby Ravensworth Hall and moat
Crosby Ravensworth

I very nearly didn't bother trying to find this site....all the indications were that the moat was ploughed out and not visible any longer, and that the hall is mostly a modern building. Luckily I checked it out, and was rewarded with a very well defined part of one of the wet moats that would have surrounded the hall, and a very pleasing building next to it, still showing the Pickering's family crest above the front door.

Above. The South Western part of the moat.

The moat, which now measures 75 meters North to South, and 31 meters West to East, is but a shadow of its former self, but what remains is quite well defined and still has water flowing through it fed by what looks like a spring at the head of the field. The moat flows out into Lyvennet Beck, which may have acted as a secondary we moat when the hall was fully occupied as the home of the Threlkeld family in the 1300s.

Above. The surviving portion of the wet moat as it vanishes into Lyvennet Beck (to the right)

The moat is only about a foot deep, and has probably silted up over the's a surprise therefore that it's survived at all. The moat is only half the story here though, as there was also a tower hall. In 1304, the hall and its estates were held by the Threlkeld family, specifically Henry de Threlkeld. There was a free standing solar tower, probably built in the 14th century, which was remodelled by the Pickering family sometime around 1550. Unfortunately for us though, the tower was demolished in 1750.

Above. The lower part of the moat as it enters Lyvennet Beck.

Above. Lyvennet Beck running in front of the hall and the church.

Above. The modern ford through the beck.

Above. Crosby Ravensworth Hall as it is today.

The hall is now Grade II listed, and most likely contains material from the tower demolished in 1750. The Pickering family arms are mounted over the front door, but whether this is the original mentioned in 1550 is impossible to say. 

Above. Another view of the hall from across Lyvennet Beck.

In 1286, the hall was the scene of a brutal murder, when John de Frauncey and Robert de Appleby murdered Nicholas de Hastings in the moat outside the gate. The original account of these events are as follows "On Whit Sunday of that year Richard le Fraunceys of Mauld's Meaburn sent William de Harcla, John le Fraunceys, Robert de Appleby and others to Crosby Ravensworth. There they found Nicholas de Hastings, leaning on his bow, outside the gate of his brother's house, and immediately they attacked him. John le Fraunceys struck him with a staff and pushed him in the breast and by pressing upon him with his horse thrust him into a ditch. Seeing this William de Harcla leapt at him with his sword drawn intending to run it into him but the sword fell from his hand and so he failed. Whereupon John le Fraunceys bade Robert de Appleby shoot him with an arrow and Robert did as he was asked and shot him in the breast and Nicholas very quickly died." After which the murderers returned in a body towards the manor house of Mauld's Meaburn. "At once the villagers of Crosby followed them with hue and cry and with intent to arrest and seize the felon, Robert, who shot the arrow. But John le Fraunceys and William de Harcla and the others drove them back and by use of weapons rescued Robert de Appleby and took him away into the manor house of Richard le Fraunceys, who sent them forth, at Mauld's Meaburn, shut the gates after them and allowed no one to go in. Thereon came Alice, wife of Nicholas de Hastings, the slain man, she climbed on to a wall and raised hue and cry and sought to obtain entrance for the people with her that they might arrest them, but those inside the manor house prevented anyone from gaining ingress." (Taken from the British History website.)

Above. Crosby Ravensworth Hall next to the church of St Lawrence.

William de Threlkeld received permission to empark around 700 acres of land in the vicinity in 1336, and in 1350 built his pele tower here. The Threlkeld family married into the Pickering family in about 1550, and it was about this time that a hall was built up against the pele tower.

The hall and its moat can be seen over the wall next to the road. There are stepping stones across Lyvennet beck and a narrow foot path running between beck and wall. Next door is the beautiful church of St Lawrence, no doubt well connected with the Threlked family and well worth a visit.