Antiquities: Castles

Magna Britannia: Volume 4, Cumberland. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1816.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. Public Domain.


Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons, 'Antiquities: Castles', in Magna Britannia: Volume 4, Cumberland, (London, 1816) pp. ccii-ccvi. British History Online [accessed 25 May 2024].

Daniel Lysons. Samuel Lysons. "Antiquities: Castles", in Magna Britannia: Volume 4, Cumberland, (London, 1816) ccii-ccvi. British History Online, accessed May 25, 2024,

Lysons, Daniel. Lysons, Samuel. "Antiquities: Castles", Magna Britannia: Volume 4, Cumberland, (London, 1816). ccii-ccvi. British History Online. Web. 25 May 2024,

Ancient Castles.

Ancient Castles.] —Of Egremont-Castle, which was built by Willam de Meschines, soon after the Conquest, little at present remains, except the gateway, with a plain semicircular arch, having a square tower over it: and a piece of wall, in which are two pointed windows of a later date. The herring-bone masonry in the lower part of the wall on the outside of the ruins, indicates its antiquity. A south-west view of these remains was published by Buck in 1739, the present state of them will be seen by the annexed view.

The castle of Carlisle, which stands at the North-west angle of the city, is of an irregular form; consisting of two wards; the outer one, two sides of which are formed by the city wall, in shape approaches to a square, and contains no building of any consequence: the inner ward is triangular, its principal building is the keep or dungeon tower, which is square and very ancient, being apparently part of the original edifice erected by King William Rufus. The lower part of the tower at the north-east angle of the castle, seems to be of the same age, having on the north-side, a semicircular arch. The other parts of the castle are of much more recent date, considerable additions and repairs having been made in the reigns of King Richard III, Henry VIII, and Queen Elizabeth. A north-west view of this castle was published by Buck in 1739; it is probable that the drawing in the British Museum, from which the annexed plan was engraved, might have been made in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Cockermouth-Castle was probably dismantled in the civil war or suffered to go to decay soon afterwards. The walls, which in form approach to a square, are flanked by one round tower and several square ones. The greater part of the building does not appear to be older than the fourteenth century, though it has been referred to a much earlier period. It consists of two courts, the first a very small one; on each side of the gateway between them is a deep vaulted dungeon: in the principal court is a building called the kitchen, under which is a vaulted chamber, with a roof supported by a single pillar, said to have been a chapel (fn. n1); but we did not perceive any thing to indicate that it had been so, except the name of the Murk-kirk, by which it is at present called. A north-west view of this castle was published by Buck (fn. n2) in 1739.

The castle which stands within the site of the Roman station at Bewcastle, is a plain square building or tower, without any turrets or projections, and apparently of great antiquity; but nothing certain is known as to the builder of it, or at what time it was erected.

Naworth-Castle, which is in a very perfect state, and occasionally inhabited by its owner, the Earl of Carlisle, appears to have been erected soon after the ninth year of King Edward III, when Ralph Lord Dacre obtained the King's licence to castellate his mansion of Naworth. Much of the building is in the style of the early part of the sixteenth century; and it underwent considerable repairs, when it was fitted up for the residence of Lord William Howard at the close of that century. It is built round a court of an irregular form, approaching to a square (fn. n3), adapted to the precipitous banks of the river Irthing, on which it stands: the apartments are not large, except the hall on the east side, which was originally 100 feet in length, and 24 in width; it is now only 70 feet long, a part having been taken off to make a dining-room. The ceiling of the hall is ornamented with heads of the Kings of England, from the Saxon times to the union of the houses of York and Lancaster, coarsely painted on pannels, which are said to have been brought from Kirk-Oswald Castle, at the time of its demolition (fn. n4). The chapel, which is on the south side of the court, is forty-four feet, three inches long, and twenty-four feet, nine inches wide, the ceiling and east end are ornamented with paintings in pannels, in the same style as those in the hall, and apparently by the same hand: on the ceiling is the root of Jesse, represented as we frequently see it in painted glass, by the recumbent figure of an old man, from whom proceeds a branch, bearing the heads of Kings and Patriarchs, his descendants: under the figure is the name of the painter, which we could not clearly distinguish, and the date of 1512.

Figure 28:

Plan of Naworth castle

At the south-east angle of the castle, is a tower, evidently part of the original edifice, the upper part of which contains the private apartment of Lord William Howard, who resided here in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and King James the First; consisting of a library, a chapel, and a bed-chamber, all of very small dimensions; the entrance to which is by a very strong door, well secured with iron grating and bolts; the approach to it is through a gallery at the top of the castle, on the south side, one hundred and six feet six inches in length, and nine feet two inches wide. The chapel or oratory was originally fitted up with plain wainscot, painted of a red colour and ornamented with the armorial devices of the Dacre family; besides which, a great abundance of fragments of ornaments sculptured in wood, painted and gilt; including the arms of Dacre and Greystock apparently the ruins of a rich screen, (probably that of the Roodloft from the adjacent priory church of Lanercost,) are fixed up round the room. At the altar is a picture on board, twelve feet by three feet eight inches and a half, representing the passion and ascension of our Saviour, with inscriptions on scrolls in text hand; and the arms of Dacre, quartering those of Vaux, Morvil, and Greystock. On the chimney-piece of the bed-chamber are three shields with the arms of Dacre quartering Vaux, Multon, and Morvil; Greystock (ancient) empaling Greystock (modern), and Howard empaling Warren. Under the tower at the south-west angle of the castle are the dungeons, consisting of four very small chambers, three below, and one above; a plan of the lower floor is shewn in the annexed plate.

Of Kirk-Oswald Castle, nothing now remains, except a ruined tower, and some fragments of walls, on a hill above the church; little more existed, except as a heap of ruins in 1739, when Buck's view was published (fn. n5). Great part of Millom castle, which was fortified and embattled by Sir John Hudleston, in the year 1335, in pursuance of the King's licence, still remains; and is converted into a farm house, but does not exhibit any thing worthy of particular notice: there is a view of this castle in Buck's Antiquities, Vol. I. pl. 46. which shews the state of it in 1739.

Of Rose-Castle, the residence of the bishops of Carlisle, which appears to have been first castellated in 1336, little of the ancient building now exists, except a gateway and a large square tower, called Strickland's Tower, from having been built by Bishop Strickland, who became Bishop of Carlisle in the year 1400. A good deal of the walls and turrets of the outer court remained when Buck's view was published. (fn. n6)

Scaleby-Castle appears to have been built about the year 1307, when Robert de Tilliol had the King's licence for castellating his mansion: there are considerable remains of the north side of this building, consisting of a gateway, with a pointed arch, and the lower part of an octangular tower, with several vaults now used as offices to the dwellings erected within the walls of the castle: and a small square chamber with walls eight feet thick. (fn. n7)

The ruins of Penrith-Castle do not present any thing very interesting in respect of their antiquity, or their present appearance. This building which is nearly square, is supposed to have been erected by the Nevill family in the reign of King Richard II.; and to have been repaired and enlarged by Richard III, when Duke of Gloucester. (fn. n8)

Of High-head Castle, which stands on the rocky precipitous bank of a small stream, called Ive-beck, little remains but the embattled gate-house, forming an entrance to the more modern mansion. This is probably part of the building erected by William L'Angleys, who in 1342, obtained the King's licence to fortify his mansion at Heghaved. (fn. n9)

Dacre-Castle is a plain square building with four square turrets at the corners, now occupied as a farm house (fn. n10). Askerton-Castle, a small building erected as a protection against the inroads of the borderers, contains nothing remarkable; it is now occupied as a farm house: the stables are vaulted. Greystoke-castle was probably built soon after the year 1353, when William de Greystoke had the King's licence for castellating his manorhouse. Only one large square tower of the ancient edifice now remains, which is connected with the modern mansion house, erected on its site. (fn. n11)


  • n1. Grose's Antiq. Vol. I. p. 50.
  • n2. Pl. 38.
  • n3. See the plan in the annexed plate.
  • n4. See the Parochial History, p. 128.
  • n5. Pl. 43.
  • n6. Pl. 49. A particular account of the ancient state of this castle, will be found in the parochial history, p. 91, 92.
  • n7. This castle appears to have been much in the same state as at present, when Buck's view (pl. 50.) was taken.
  • n8. Views of this Castle are inserted in Buck's Antiq. Vol. I. pl. 48. And in Grose's Antiq. Vol. I. pl. 30.
  • n9. See Parochial History, p. 93. There is a view of this castle in Buck's Antiq. Vol. I. pl. 41.
  • n10. Ibid. pl. 39.
  • n11. There is a view of Greystoke-castle in the first volume of Hearne and Byrne's Antiquities.