Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pendragon Castle, Spring 2009 visit

Pendragon Castle
Mallerstang nr Kirkby Stephen

My favourite site, probably in the whole of Cumbria...Pendragon is isolated on the best of days, but with a cold wind blowing, and squally showers and bleak grey skies, it's all the more spectacular and yet lonely. This visit yielded some glimpses into the defences employed by its builders that made this building a safe haven in such a bleak and lonely landscape.

First of all, the doorway in the castle's North facing wall. There are no less than three levels of security on this entrance. The first, seen on the left of the door jamb (above), and the right of the door jamb (below) The series of deep holes would originally have had metal hinges leaded into them securely, from which a heavy door would have hung.

The next two photos show the draw bar slots and the groove in which the portcullis would have run. The draw bar slots would have secured yet another door, and the portcullis would have been the external security for this entrance.

The photo above, shows the East door jamb. The draw bar tunnel in this jamb is fairly shallow, perhaps around 4 inches deep, and rectangular in shape...however this may be due to a missing stone from it's lower lip. The portcullis slot can also be clearly seen on this jamb, running from top to bottom of the outer lip of the door jamb...although the interior guiding lip has been chipped or eroded away.

The photo above, shows the West door jamb, again with the draw bar tunnel and the portcullis slot....this time much better preserved. The draw bar tunnel in this jamb is perhaps a foot deep. The portcullis slot runs from top to bottom and looks almost complete. There would most likely have been a room above part of the doorway from which the portcullis could be raised and lowered.

The photo above shows the remains of the gatehouse. Most likely the site of the Countess Gate, this would have been the only way over the deep moat that runs almost the full circuit of the castle's mound. These earthwork remains are situated on the East side of the site, next to the modern causeway that now provides easy access to the castle. The mound in the centre of the photo, probably marks the last remains of buried footings of the gatehouse, and the area to the left of this, in front of the modern wall, would most likely have been an outer courtyard area.

The photo above shows the deep depression in the moat where the gatehouse's deep cellar would have been (just to the right of the modern causeway) You can just make out the buried masonry marking the spot the gatehouse would have occupied.

It's now thought that Lady Ann Clifford had the castle rebuilt and refurbished as a Summer retreat, with her ancestors using it as a hunting lodge....the security built into its fabric to make sure that local families, such as the Warcops and the Whartons, did not enter un-invited. There seems to have been a long running feud between the Cliffords, the Whartons and the Warcops regarding park boundaries, with all three families laying claims to large areas in the region.


Pendragon said...

Matthew your Cumbrian Castle Blog is amazing! Thanks, you found my castle ;) I have blog about Ireland and you can look at some pictures of old irish castles, monuments, churches, use links on the left side, enjoy. Unfortunately all is written in Polish. Best of luck!

Graham said...

I stumbled upon this castle accidently (2 days before your visit) and totally agree that it's one of the most atmospheric castles in the North West. There was a bit of snow on the hills when I visited which added to the atmosphere. I was looking at the history and legend has it that King Arthur's father Uther Pendragon died here along with 100 men when the well was poisoned.