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Burgh by Sands Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Burgh Castle; Speergarth Holes

In the civil parish of Burgh By Sands.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY33095909
Latitude 54.92200° Longitude -3.04546°

Burgh by Sands Castle has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House, and also as a probable Pele Tower.

There are no visible remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Excavations between 1948 and 1950 uncovered the site of a mid 13th century moated manor house consisting of a hall and a possible pele tower, on the site of a probable Norman motte and bailey castle. Traces of a possible late 12th century curtain wall were also uncovered. The manor house was destroyed circa 1339. No visible remains survive above ground but evidence of buildings are seen as cropmarks on aerial photographs. (PastScape)

The manor house at Burgh-by-Sands, consisting of a hall with a defensive circular tower attached, was constructed in the mid 13th century and destroyed c 1339. Hogg, who excavated the site in 1948 and 1950, found traces of three earlier phases of occupation: firstly a ditch, almost certainly of a Norman motte; secondly a later ditch, with no associated buildings, which may have been the moat of a (wooden) grange; thirdly, the probably late 12th century curtain wall and outer ditch serving a building presumably pulled down when the 13th century hall was built. The barony of Burgh-by-Sands, founded by Ranulph Meschin c1100, reached a peak of prosperity in 1314, but suffered greatly from the 14th century Scottish raids. An inquisition of 1362 showed the manor house to be in ruins and of no value. The site of the manor is known as Speergarth Holes where there were ancient fishponds and where some oak frames were found. (Hogg 1954; OS record cards)
There are now no visible remains of house or fishponds. (F1 BHP 20-NOV-69)
No trace of the medieval building or other structure is visible. The evidence for a motte and moat underlying the manor house, given by Hogg, is very weak. (Mark Bowden/04-JUL-1990/RCHME: Hadrian's Wall Project)
Geophysical survey to the south located Hadrian's Wall, demonstrating that the earlier wall found by Hogg underlying the medieval structures was not Hadrian's Wall.
Previously unrecorded from the air, the foundations of the rectangular building and possible pele tower visible as cropmarks on 2006 photography. Centred at NY 3310 5910 the building is approximately 15m wide, 32m long and has an internal division at 10m. Centred at NY 3309 5912 the curvilinear tower on the north west corner of the building is approximately 7m in diameter. The south side of the feature is not visible but is adjacent to the cropmarks of a road associated with a vicus (see NY 35 NW 29). The relationship between the two features is uncertain. (PastScape)

The site of Burgh medieval castle has been confirmed by excavation and the site has been shown to have had an interesting history in its own right involving a sequence of buildings.
The site of the medieval Burgh Castle was investigated in 1950 and was shown to retain evidence of four phases of activity during the medieval period. A first earthwork motte and bailey was built during the Norman period. Later this evolved into a medieval grange site which in turn was replaced in the late 12th century by a stone-built castle. In the 13th century a hall-building was constructed. This was destroyed c.1339. (Scheduling Report)

Curwen identified this as a C12 motte and bailey castle on the bases of past descriptions. Is it possibly that antiquarian (and more modern) authors overstated the grandeur and importance of this fairly modest, although baronial, manor house because it was the site of the death of Edward I?
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:52

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