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Bewcastle Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bueth; Belcastell; Beucastle; Boa; Bothe; Bowe; Bowcastle; Booth Caster; Bothecastre; Bothecastell; Beaucastle

In the civil parish of Bewcastle.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY56567468
Latitude 55.06469° Longitude -2.68168°

Bewcastle Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Castle original built after 1092 annexation of Cumberland from Scotland within old Roman Fort, Destroyed 1173. Rebuilt 1361-1371 as small courtyard castle.

A moated shell-keep 91' square, with rampart and battlements, best preserved on the south. There are remains of a gate-house against the west wall. Much Roman material used. No documentary references occur before 1401. Hall thinks it was built in the 12th c, and Curwen points out that it was evidently considerably remodelled in the 16thc. Scheduled. (Curwen; Hall; Scheduling Report)
The moat, now dry, averages 16.0m in width and has a maximum depth of 2.5m. (F1 BHP 13-JUL-72)
NY 5656 7468. Ruins of Bew Castle and remains of small square moat. From the SE corner run several earthwork banks, probably agricultural. (Cumbria and Lancashire Archaeol Unit NY 57 SE plan (G E Lee))
The remains of Bew Castle, centred at NY 5656 7468, were surveyed by RCHME in 1984-5 at 1:1000. The remains, consisting of a square shell keep in ruins within a dry moat, up to 2.2m deep, are situated in the N angle of the Roman fort. It is first mentioned in 1378 and was garrisoned until the early 17th century (DJC King). Full survey information including a report is included in the NMR archive. (Iain Sainsbury and Humphrey Welfare/NOV-1984/RCHME: Bewcastle Survey)
Bew Castle is traditionally thought to have been constructed between 1296-1307. It was strategically situated within the north-east corner of the Roman fort (NY 57 SE 15); lengths of the fort's north and east ditches were widened and deepened and cross ditches cut so as to form a moat. A shell keep was built, inside it other buildings were constructed around a courtyard; a gatehouse was added in the 15th century. It decayed and was rebuilt during the 15th and 16th century and was taken down in 1641. Only the south and east walls now survive. (Scheduled Monument Notification 24-OCT-1997)
The ruinous castle came into royal hands from Richard III, who had acquired the castle in 1478. it was brought up to defensive readiness and garrisoned. By 1527 it was again ruinous, and although repaired to some degree in 1533, only ditching work and the construction of a barbican were attempted. By 1565 the barmkin wall was entirely ruinous, and no further expenditure was authorised. (HKW). (PastScape)

Despite a combination of collapse and stone robbing, Bew Castle still retains substantial amounts of upstanding medieval fabric. Its location close to the Scottish border meant that it functioned as the first line of defence against attacking Scottish armies and as a focal point for English military campaigns against the Scots in the late 13th/early 14th centuries. As such it provides an insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castles.
The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Bewcastle Roman fort, together with an early eighth century AD high cross shaft, situated in the churchyard to the south of St Cuthbert's Church which itself is located within the Roman fort, and the upstanding and buried remains of Bew Castle, a medieval shell keep castle situated at the north east corner of the Roman fort. Bewcastle Roman fort is located on a natural hexagonal plateau which is protected on all sides by its own natural steep scarp; on the south by Kirk Beck, on the west by Hall Sike, and on the east by Bride Gill. Unlike the majority of Roman forts which were rectangular in plan, Bewcastle was originally built to fit the shape of the plateau on which it was located. Construction began in c.AD 122 and, apart from a short period of abandonment during the mid-second century, it remained in use until the first quarter of the fourth century. The fort is situated 9.6km north of Hadrian's Wall and it functioned as an outpost fort of the Wall, to which it was linked with the wall fort at Birdoswald by a road known as the Maiden Way. Earthworks representing the remains of the fort's wall and rampart survive well on the east and west sides and additional defence was provided on the west by an outer ditch. ... Bewcastle high cross is located to the south of the church in St Cuthbert's churchyard. It consists of a richly carved sandstone cross shaft standing 4.4m high and set in a sandstone socle or base. The cross dates to the early eighth century AD. ... The existence of the high cross may hint at the former existence of an early ecclesiastical establishment (a single church, or possibly a small monastic community) within the former Roman fort. Such a situation could be paralleled at other northern Roman forts including Old Brampton, Kirkbride and Nether Denton. Bew Castle is traditionally thought to have been constructed between 1296-1307 at a time when Edward I was involved in military campaigns against the Scots. It was strategically situated within the north east corner of the Roman fort; lengths of the fort's north and east fort ditches were widened and deepened and cross ditches cut so as to form a moat and isolate the castle site. An outlet channel issues from the moat's south east corner. Earth from the ditches was thrown onto the newly formed platform and the castle erected in the form of a shell keep. Its chief defences consisted of an outer shell wall c.2m thick and 28m square with a rampart and battlements running around the top. Within, a range of buildings lay up against the wall, surrounding a small courtyard open to the sky. A gatehouse was added towards the end of the 15th century and access to the castle was by a drawbridge. Documentary sources state that the castle underwent periods of both decay and rebuilding during the 15th and 16th centuries. It was garrisoned for the last time in 1639 in response to 'commotions in Scotland' and dismantled two years later by Parliamentary forces when the garrison removed to Carlisle. Today only the castle's south and east walls survive to anything like their original height. The south wall stands up to 9m high and retains most of its external facing stone. There are two windows and two fireplaces on the second storey, suggesting that the internal lean-to buildings consisted of a low verandah- like basement with a frontage open to the courtyard. Above this may have been the accommodation for the garrison, underneath the owner's domestic quarters. The main feature of the west wall is the gatehouse which is placed up against it. The east and north walls have largely fallen and/or been robbed of their stonework. St Cuthbert's Church is Listed Grade II-star, Demense Farmhouse and the former rectory, now known as Banna, are Listed Grade II. (Scheduling Report)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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