Thursday, January 26, 2017

Motte and bailey castles in the Northwest of England.

Motte and bailey castles of the Northwest of England

Mary Higham's short piece, "The Mottes of North Lancashire, Lonsdale and South Cumbria", from 1991, is an interesting read, and throws up a number of sites that have since been questioned.

The list of earthwork castles that Mary details (as shown in the map below) is as follows:

Bothelford (Bodelforde)
Old Tebay
Kirkby Lonsdale
Burton in Lonsdale

Above. Mary Higham's map of the North West showing mottes and castles.


Above. The church of Holy Trinity at Millom.

Both the church of Holy Trinity and the medieval castle at Millom are thought to sit on top of an original motte, thought to occupy the site before either church or castle were ever built. Whilst the view shown above clearly shows both church and castle within the confines of a shallow raised platform, it's not clear if there was a motte here before the building of either structures. Indeed many castles in the area are reputed to have started off as motte and bailey that in many cases are simply not substantiated with any historical evidence. In this instance, Mike Salter in his "The castles and tower houses of Cumbria" states that "the motte with a ditch to the East and South on which the castle stands, may go back to when Godard de Boyville was granted the manor in 1134".


Castle Hill at Pennington was probably never actually a motte and bailey style castle, but rather a ring work, some would say a more primitive medieval fortification utilising banks and ditches as opposed to a motte and banks and ditches. The fortified enclosure is ideally situated for defence, making good use of the lie of the land here. To the West and the South, the site sits high above the surrounding countryside, with Pennington Beck providing another obstacle for any would be interlopers.

 Above. A view of the interior of Pennington Castle

Above. Sketch plan of Pennington Castle.

Traditionally held by the Penningtons up until around 1318, the family may have already moved to nearby Muncaster by 1242, later establishing a fortified site that later developed into the sprawling castle we see today.  


Above. Aldingham castle from a distance. 

Above. Sketch plan of Aldingham castle.

Kendal Castle Howe:

Above. Kendal Castle Howe from Bowling Green Fell

Bothelford (Bodelforde):

Above. Bothelford motte, also known as Hawesbridge motte. 

Above. The alleged site of Bothelford DMV

Old Tebay:

Above. Panoramic view of Castle Howe at Tebay

Above. Sketch plan of Castle Howe at Tebay




Above. View of the motte at Sedbergh

Above. Sketch plan of Castlehaugh at Sedbergh

Kirkby Lonsdale:

Above. View of the damaged motte at Kirkby Lonsdale

Above. Kirkby Lonsdale motte, also known as the Cockpit

Above. Map of Kirkby Lonsdale


Above. The indistinct motte at Whittington


Above. Classic motte and bailey at Arkholme

Above. Sketch plan of Castle Hill at Arkholme


Above. The beautiful motte at Melling

Above. Sketch plan of Melling Motte

Burton in Lonsdale:

Above. View of the motte from Bentham Moor Road to the South

Above. View of the motte and the second bailey at Burton in Lonsdale
Above. Sketch plan of the motte with its two bailey areas


Above. The spectacular motte at Hornby

Above. Sketch plan of one of the most perfect mottes in the North West


Above. The motte at Halton
Above. Sketch plan of the motte at Halton



Above. Gisburn castle from the South
Above. Sketch plan of the castle on the banks of the River Ribble





Castle Howe, Kendal - old photos

Castle Howe

Castle Howe seems to be Kendal's sad and mostly forgotten castle. Probably built in the early 1090s, the remains of the motte still tower above Kendal sat below it in the river valley, though its bailey area has largely been destroyed and dug out. Some of the earthworks still remain at the North, South and West of the motte; ditches and banks can still be seen here. There are only a few old photos of Castle Howe in the public domain, a few of which I've managed to lay my hands on, and are shown here.

Above. Castle Howe as it appears today.

These days the castle is not really on the tourist trail. Any information boards that used to be here have long since been vandalised and removed or stolen. There are plans afoot though for this situation to be remedied. Kendal Civic Society and Kendal Town Council recently announced plans to clean the area up and to re-introduce information boards. Perhaps we'll see more visitors to Kendal's first castle once  again.

Above. Old photo of Castle Howe.

The photo shown above clearly shows that the tree cover has increased over the years. It's a shame that it's not this clear today. During the Spring and Summer months the tree cover is such that it's difficult to see the form and layout of the motte and its surrounding earthworks clearly.

Above. Another photo showing the motte with little tree cover.

Above. This must be a later photo - the tree cover has increased.

Castle Howe is well worth a visit. Don't just look at the front though, from the old bowling green....venture around the back of the motte and take in the ditches and banks....only here will you get a real idea of the immense size of this great Cumbrian motte and bailey castle. Ignore the litter and the mess that you'll find here...I know it may be difficult, but to fully take in the form of this 900 hundred year old castle, you just have to venture off the beaten track.

As I come across any more old photos of Castle Howe, I'll post the photos here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Masons Arms, Kendal

Masons Arms

All across Kendal, pubs that for years served the beer-faithful of Kendal, are slowly closing down and standing empty. Recently, a couple of these historical drinking holes have been taken in hand and renovated, breathing new life into buildings that would otherwise have stood empty and unused. One of the most recent additions to this club, is the Masons Arms, situated at the Western end of Stramongate.

 Above. The Masons Arms in 'days gone by' and as it appears today!!

The inn and most of Yard 26 next door, once formed Ralphord Hall. This spectacular three storey building was once a town house. It's marked on a map of 1777 as a residence, though there's not much information about who built it or who lived there before it became an inn.

In 1908, architect James Hutton was employed to make some cosmetic changes to the front of the building, resulting in the layout we see today. The rear of the inn was apparently not included in his commission, and apparently remains as it was when originally constructed. 

The sign that was originally hung at the front of the building, has almost the same coat of arms on it as the Freemasons of Gateshead and Tyne, used from somewhere around 1671. 

Above. The sign has been saved and is now on show down the yard.

The original sign, seen in some black and white photos, showed two freemasons working. This sign was replaced in the 1970s, and thankfully for us, has not been discarded, but instead can now be seen down the yard that runs alongside the inn.

Records dating from 1882, show that the yard once led directly into the grounds of the Unitarian Chapel at the top of Branthwaite Brow, possibly indicating the high status of the the occupants of Ralphord Hall direct access to their regular place of worship. This direct access to the chapel was eventually blocked in 1900. Thomas Gibson, once owner of Ralphord Hall, died in 1781, and gave the building over to the Ralphord Hall trustees, specifically for use by the Protestant Minister of the area. This was his to use in return for a small rent, payable annually to the Blue Coats Hospital in the town. 

The first licensee of the Masons Arms, is shown in records, to be Thomas Derome, in 1826. Records from 1892 tell us that the inn had stabling for ten horses, two drinking rooms, two bedrooms and one dining room that had seating for fifty people. 

In 1997, under the ownership of brewers Whitbread, the inn underwent major refurbishment. However, more recently, with changing habits in drinking habits, the Masons Arms succumbed and was closed down. The subsequent renovation and refurbishment has been spectacular, and it's great to welcome the inn back onto the drinking scene in Kendal again.

A recent visit, and an inevitable trip to the loos, revealed these small pieces of masonry, hidden down the yard next to the inn. 

The first finds could well be tethering blocks from the inns days as a coaching inn. One is set into the wall and the other is set into the floor, and both still have their iron rings still attached. If they're not tethering blocks for horses, they could have come from the nearby shambles, where animals were butchered.

The other pieces of masonry are both set into the walls, and have been used to protect the downspouts. 

I'm not sure what these two pieces of stone represent, what they were, or even if they're contemporary with the original building here....or possibly from elsewhere in Kendal....perhaps Kendal Castle? Who knows?