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Burton in Lonsdale Castle Hill

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Black Bourton

In the civil parish of Burton in Lonsdale.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire West Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD65007213
Latitude 54.14371° Longitude -2.53757°

Burton in Lonsdale Castle Hill has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Castle Hill is a very fine example of a motte and bailey castle situated on the west side of the village of Burton in Lonsdale. The 9.6m high motte retains a breastwork wall 3.3m high around the upper part of the mound. In places the stonework is still visible through the grass on the inner face. A nearly square bailey, 57m by 51m, is situated on the west side of the motte and a semi-lunar bailey, 21m wide and some 2m-3m above the base of the ditch, is situated to the south. The ditch around the motte is best preserved on the west side; on the north side it merges with the steep natural slope down to the road. A counterscarp or outer bank runs from north to east where it disappears into a raised level platform which fills much of the area between the motte and farmyard. Excavations carried out in 1904 by H White and J C Walker found that the motte, baileys, ditches and banks had all been paved. From the evidence produced by the excavation it is now generally accepted that the site originated as a ringwork in the 12th or early 13th century and after a considerable lapse of time was raised with the addition of an inner revetment wall to form a motte. The site went out of use at some time during the period 1322-1369. (Scheduling Report)

The earliest documentary reference to Burton is in the Domesday book, which tells us that the township was in the holding of Tostig, Earl of Northumberland, and was a subsidiary vill of Whittington in the Lune valley. Under the Normans, a castle was built at Burton to support a newly established castle at Carlisle. Burton castle never appears to have been called upon to fulfil an important military role, the only surviving record of its manning being in 1130, when the garrison comprised a contract knight, 10 sergeants, a porter and a night watchman (S.G.Lawrence Archive at Lancaster University).
The powerful de Mowbray family held Burton in Lonsdale throughout most of the late medieval period and the Earls of Derby thereafter until the 18th century. The de Mowbrays were required to raise a fighting force of around 100 knights for the king. Settling this number of knights on their lands however left the de Mowbrays with relatively little land for themselves, and Burton in Lonsdale was one of only seven demesne estates they held from the 12th to 14th centuries (Greenwood 1972). As with other de Mowbray demesne estates with a castle (Thirsk and Kirkby Malzeard), Burton was chosen as the place from which the de Mowbray estates in the area were administered. It was from Burton that the 300 square kilometre estate known as the Burton chase was controlled, an estate which stretched from the Bowland Fells to the Wensleydale watershed. While Burton castle may never have been militarily significant, it seems to have had a lasting influence on the structure of the township’s landholdings through being the location from which the chase was administered. (Stephens and Gregory 2006)

For some idiosyncratic reason Clark (1886) calls this Black Bourton (A placename usually given to the village in Oxfordshire) and locates it in Lancashire (while close to the county boundary it does seem to have always been in Yorkshire).
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:49

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