Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kendal Castle, Castle Hill, Kendal

Kendal Castle,
Castle Hill,

Kendal Castle, a history.

1066 was an precarious year for the English. The country went through three kings, and by the morning of October 15th 1066, found itself under Norman rule. Edward the Confessor (ruled since 1042), had previously stated that Harold, the Earl of Wessex, would be king when he died. The crown passed to Harold in January of 1066 when Edward finally died. Nine months later, Harold, after defeating his brother Tostig, and the Norwegian forces of King Harald Hardrada at the battle of Stamford Bridge, had to march his army south to meet the threat of an invasion from the Normans headed by William, Duke of Normandy. On the 14th of October, Harold marched his army onto the battle field at Hastings, to face the fresh Norman invasion force. In the ensuing battle, Harold and his brothers died, and the country fell under Norman rule. William was crowned King on Christmas day 1066 finishing off this turbulent year.

Tinted photo of Kendal Castle. (From personal collection)

As soon as William had the country at his feet, he set about consolidating his rule by rewarding his generals and those who had supported him with their military might. One of those who was richly rewarded in lands and titles was Ivo de Taillebois. Ivo was granted great swathes of land throughout the Northern reaches of England; in Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. It’s likely that Ivo was responsible for building Kendal’s first castle….the motte and bailey at the top of Beast Banks, in around 1092. This fortification is, according to Kendal's antiquarians, to have been built on the site of a Roman signal station, and overlooks the town from the West. With the lands, came the title of (First) Baron of Kentdale. Ivo also has connections with Kirkby Lonsdale’s motte and bailey castle on Ruskin’s Brow, and other towns right across the North of England.

Above. The motte and bailey castle at Kirkby Lonsdale

At some point between 1183 and 1241, building commenced on the site at the top of Castle Hill. Whatever the early fortification looked like, it eventually evolved into the castle, or the remains, that we see today. There may have been some overlap between the existence of the two castles. It’s unlikely that the motte and bailey of Castle Howe was directly replaced by Kendal Castle…..more likely that the two existed side by side for some period of time. Castle Howe was probably the baronial centre of Kirkland or Cherchebi as it was previously known, the earliest part of Kendal that had grown up around the parish church before the Norman invasion, with Kendal Castle as the baronial centre of the post-Norman part of the town referred to as Kirkby Kendale. At some point however, Castle Howe fell out of use, and the building, wooden or stone disappeared. Kendal Castle, in all its magnificent glory, stood over the town, a symbol of dynastic power and control. In around 1189, so local tradition has it, a Scottish army led by Duncan, Earl of Fife,  attacked and laid waste to much of the town, and, pursuing the population into the parish church in Kirkland, proceeded to massacre those seeking refuge there. There is very little, if any evidence of this attack on Kendal, and the story is mirrored by a similar tale of an attacking army led by Duncan on the Northumberland town of Warkworth.

Kendal Castle with grazing cattle. (From personal collection)

Kendal castle was probably built by Gilbert Fitz Reinfred, Baron of Kendal, more than likely as a symbolic and impressive administrative centre to his estates. Gilbert was imprisoned after rebelling against King John, and documents tell us that the castle in Kendal was surrendered to the king as part of the ransom demanded for this transgression. Some twenty five years later, in 1241, the castle was returned to Gilbert’s son, William de Lancaster. These documented events are usually taken to be the first reference to the new castle in Kendal. From here on in, the castle appears to have become the centre of the town’s fluctuating fortunes for the next few hundred years.

The owners of Kendal Castle:

Until 1272 Lancaster Barons of Kendal
1272 to 1390 de Roos\de Ros\de Ross (various spellings) Barons of Kendal
1390 to 1574 Parr family (Barons of Kendal) (forfeited to the crown 1571 to 1572)
1574 to 1667 Various Crown grantees
1667 to 1723 Anderton family (forfeited to the crown 1716 to 1723)
1723 to 1765 Huggins family
1765 to 1841 Dowker family
1841 to 1854 William Thompson MP
1854 to 1894 Thomas Earl of Bective
1894 to 1897 Lady Henry Cavendish-Bentinck
1897 to 1974 Kendal Corporation
1974 to now South Lakeland District Council.

The Barons of Kendal:

Gilbert Fitz Reinfred 1184 to 1220
Married to Helwise, daughter of William de Lancaster II.

William de Lancaster 1220 to 1246
Son of Gilbert Fitz Reinfred. Died without an heir, so the title of Baron passed to Peter de Brus the younger brother of Helwise.

Peter de Brus 1246 to 1272
Peter died without an heir, so the title of Baron passed to his sister Margaret de Brus.

Robert Ross Werke 1272 to 1274
Robert was married to Margaret de Brus.

Margaret de Brus 1274 to 1297
The title subsequently passed to her son William de Ross.

Williams de Ross 1297 to 1310

Elizabeth de Ross 1310 to 1328
Elizabeth held the Barony in Dower (the provision made by a husband for his widow)

Thomas de Ross 1328 to 1390
Thomas was the son of William de Ross. His granddaughter, Elizabeth, married William Parr.

William Parr 1390 to 1404
After William died, the title Baron passed to his son John.

John Parr 1404 to 1407

Agnes Parr 1407 to 1426
Agnes was John Parr’s wife. She held the Barony in Dower until her son succeeded.

Thomas Parr 1426 to 1461
Thomas was the son of John Parr. When he died, the title Baron passed to his son William.

Sir William Parr 1461 to 1484
When William died, the Barony passed to his wife Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Parr 1484 to 1500
When Elizabeth died, the title Baron passed to her son Thomas.

Sir Thomas Parr 1500 to 1519
Thomas was the son of Sir William Parr. When he died, the title Baron passed to his wife Maude.
Maude Parr 1519 to 1526

Sir William Parr 1526 to 1571
Sir William was also the Earl of Essex and the Marquis of Northampton. He was the last Baron of Kendal, and brother to Katherine Parr, the last wife of Henry VIII.

The last 181 years of the existence of the Barony of Kendal, are dominated by the famous name of the Parrs. The Parr family had graced themselves by supporting the Yorkist king Henry VI during the Wars of the Roses. William Parr was a noted peace negotiator, employed by Edward to secure peace between the English crown and King James II of Scotland, and John Parr was Sheriff of Westmorland. In 1471 the two brothers held the Barony of Kendal and the majority of the Barony of Westmorland between them. It is during this time, that the two brothers may have been responsible for many of the building projects and alterations that took place at the castle in Kendal. Indeed, it’s also possible, that by 1466 the castle had cost the family so much that William Parr was deeply in debt. He was forced to sell family possessions to raise funds to continue running the castle and his Westmorland estates.

In around 1468, as the Wars of the Roses raged, Edward IV’s fortunes were wavering, and William Parr placed the Barony of Kendal and its possessions including the castle into trust for his sons. The Parrs deserted the North and moved to Leicestershire.

John Parr died in 1475, and his brother William inherited his share of the Barony of Kendal. William now had the whole of the Barony under his control. William moved back to Kendal in 1476, and set about making yet more changes to the castle. At this time, William was becoming more involved in the King’s court, and it wasn’t long before his responsibilities in London caused him to move his household yet again back to the South. He left in 1483 and never returned. This was to be the last time that the head of the Parr family visited their holdings in the North West. The estates and the castle were, from this point on, managed by a steward. William Parr died in 1483, and is buried in Kendal Parish Church. His tomb is rather ingloriously tucked away in a corner and surrounded by chairs.

Above. William Parr's tomb in Kendal Parish Church.

William’s granddaughter, Katherine Parr is undoubtedly the most famous member of the Parr family, and her connection with Kendal is unquestionably strong. However, the local legends that she was born in the castle and lived here are most likely untrue. Katherine was born around 1512, and certainly not in Kendal or the castle. There’s not even any evidence that she even set foot in the castle, and possibly not even in the town itself. Katherine would most likely have been based nearer to London with her family…..and some reports of the time even state that the castle was already falling into a state of disrepair by this time.

Kendal’s connections with King and country extend beyond the ancient Ivo de Tailbois, and even beyond Katherine Parr’s marriage to Henry VIII. In 1553, Katherine’s brother, William, Marquess of Northampton, backed the succession of Lady Jane Grey over that of Mary I to the throne. Lady Jane was executed nine days after her claim, and William Parr was imprisoned until Elizabeth I ascended the throne in 1558.

In 1571, the castle and the Barony of Kendal were passed to the Crown, in return for lands further south. The castle at this point was in an even deeper state of ruin. A survey in 1572 stated that the castle is “all being in decay…..and in all other reparations needful.” A further report of 1575, states that some of the slates had been removed from ruined buildings within the castle walls for safety reasons, and in 1578, the Royal Receiver Edward Bradyll visited the castle. He came away with some bad news on the value of the buildings. In his opinion, the castle was in such a state of disrepair, that is was worth a mere £25 or thereabouts!! He observed that most of the buildings were utterly ruined, that most of the timbers were rotten and fallen and that most of the lead and slate had been stolen. In February 1579, he managed to sell what was left. For the castle buildings, he got the sad sum of £79. For the sale of the remaining timber, iron and glass, he managed to raise another £59, and for the remaining lead a paltry £20. The remains were described as “ready to drop down”. When the castle was next valued, in 1715, it was owned by Sir Lawrence Anderton Bart, and was worth a grand total of £230.

The Barony of Kendal was no more, William Parr being the last person ever to hold the title.

Little is known about the castle through the 17th century. It probably stood over the town, slowly decaying further. A map by John Speed, dated 1610\11 shows the castle, but with some archaeological inconsistencies. The map shows the castle orientated incorrectly, and with eight towers along its walls, whereas the current remains only indicate six. The map depicts the curtain wall as complete and intact, along with the standing towers. Whether this is accurate or not I’m not sure. Thomas Machel’s map, dated 1692, also shows the castle intact….a full curtain wall surrounding standing towers and buildings, including that of the gatehouse which is now all but forgotten.

Above. John Speeds 1610\1611 map showing Kendal.

An engraving of the castle dated 1739, appears to show various aspects of the castle as remarkably intact. The engraving, by the Buck Brothers, shows the hall with some intact windows, the North West round tower with battlements, a turret and windows, the curtain wall running eastwards from this tower is shown as remaining to a great height albeit with some damage at ground level and the South tower is also shown as being fairly intact up to the battlements although fallen masonry is depicted in the foreground. Some of the curtain wall is shown as fallen into the moat, as is a portion of the remains of the gatehouse.

During the 18th century, the castle was used to graze sheep, and at some point a certain amount of landscaping was done to enhance its use as a picnic site. What damage was undoubtedly done one can only imagine, but the castle was probably systematically robbed of stone during this period, for building etc. The castle was regularly used as an exercise ground for the local militia.

Above. Kendal militia in the courtyard of Kendal Castle (from a postcard in my personal collection)

In 1813, work was done to strengthen some of the structure of the castle, and it was at this point that some of the more damaging ‘repairs’ were made. Holes were filled, masonry removed, stones cemented in place, with the result that it has become extremely difficult, in some instances, to see what is ‘real’ archaeology. Trees were planted on the West side of the ditch, and the curtain wall was patched up. Unfortunately, the repairs to the outer face of the curtain wall were completed with stone from the inside. It’s likely that the thinner modern wall was erected on the footings of the original curtain wall at this time. The intentions were undoubtedly good and well meaning, but the castle has probably suffered.

In 1897, the castle was purchased from its last private owners, the Bentinck family by the Kendal Corporation. The grounds of the castle were opened as a public park to celebrate the Diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. Prior to this new lease of life, the castle’s antiquity seems to have been largely ignored. It was a ruin on the hill, and nothing more. In the late 1930’s, the castle was surveyed as part of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England….probably the first survey of the site since the late 1570’s!!!
On the 31st of January, 1824, a mass of the curtain wall near the site of the gatehouse fell into the moat.

It wasn’t until the early 1950’s that the castle underwent its first archaeological excavations. Some small scale digs were organised by JE Spence, a local school teacher from Heversham. However, the largest investigations to date were organised between 1967 and 1971, when the gatehouse, the hall block and the curtain wall and moat were excavated in small sections. In 1996 and 1997, portions of the hall block were investigated further, to mark the centenary of it’s acquisition by the council.

So there you have it. The castle has remained pretty much unchanged since the end of the 19th century. A few small repairs have been made here and there, pieces of fallen masonry have been removed over the years, the vegetation has been cut back from the ruins, and access has been improved with the addition of information boards by South Lakeland District Council. The castle has had a pretty unremarkable history, but remains to this day a town’s icon.


Anonymous said...

what did it look like in all its glory?

zoe carter said...

I think people should rebuild the castle yes its going to be expensive but in long run it will bring people. And money to the town

Unknown said...

Any relation to Thomas Wilkinson small land owner who attempted to Yanwith Hall in the late 1700.
Thomas Wilkinson had his home nearby
I am a grand daughter of Thomas Wilkinson 1905=1968 of Rotorua.
Thomas Wilkinson my grandfather was born in Cumberland Cumbria approx 1904=1905.
Come to NZ as a young lad.
Had two sisters.
Please let me know.