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Caernarvon Castle, Beckermet

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Coneygarth Cop; Ivy Hill

In the civil parish of St John Beckermet.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY021073
Latitude 54.45182° Longitude -3.51035°

Caernarvon Castle, Beckermet has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a Masonry Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are earthwork remains.


In 1671 "Caernarvon Castle" was a rectangular ruin 100 yards long by about 85 yards broad, with a ditch 12 yards wide and 4 yards deep. It stood upon a plateau approached from east and west. Opposite the latter was an artificial hill called Coneygarth cop, about 12 yards high and 6 yards across the top. Caernarvon Castle was the seat of Sir Michael Flemming, its first owner, who died in 1153. The castle was abandoned about 1250 and pulled down. (Ferguson, Collingwood)
Sir Daniel Fleming's description of Coneygarth Cop is interpreted by Collingwood as a Norman moated mound with base court. (This has resulted in publication on OS 1:25 000 1952 of Coneygarth Cop as a Motte & Bailey, and the equation of the Cop and Caernarvon Castle on OS 1:10 560 1956)
Short trenches cut across the apparently filled-in ditch at the Caernarvon Castle site in 1957 revealed traces of rubble walls with stones about 2ft by 1-1/2ft. A cobbled area was found just north of Coneygarth Cop at a depth of 3 feet. Excavations unpublished. (PastScape)

Beckermet (Caernarvon Castle) NY022073. Considered a motte and bailey (Curwen; Parker). A low shapeless mound; no reason to suppose that there ever any artificial earthwork here. (King 1983 {King's description does not seem to concur with this site and it may be he has confabulated his records for Caernarvon and Wodowbank, a supposed motte a few hundred meters to the west. Unfortunately this lead to confusion in early (before August 2012) version of the Gatehouse record.}

Jackson says site is ploughed down and that excavation in 1962 revealed evidence of a form of palisading.
The site appears to be a natural ridge end with the suggestion of a bank and ditch on the north side forming a ovoid enclosure, with the scarp slopes. Coneygarth Cop lies on the south west side with no evidence of being enditched. A square banked and ditched enclosure lies in the North East. The Caernarvon name may suggest a fortified site was here before Saxon occupation. The site does resemble a small well eroded Iron Age promontory fort. Coneygarth Cop may be any of several types of artificial mounds of which a large pillow mound (rabbit warren), as suggested by the name, is one (Parker suggests the Coney name comes from a corrupted form of the Anglo-Saxon Cyning - King). Other possibilities include a windmill stead (The site has been called Mill Hill but Parker writes this was because it was held by the nearby water mill) or natural. However, the dimensions of the hill given in C17, as 12 yards high, would suggest a motte although it may be that 12 yards is a misreading/mistranscription of 12 feet - which would be more in line with a pillow mound.
The manor was held by the Fleming family. The family moved to Coniston in 1250, but a secondary residence may have been retained here or, alternatively, this may have become the site of a warrener's lodge. The historical evidence certainly suggests a castle, of the Flemings, near Beckermet from the late C11. It would not be unreasonable to suggest a prehistoric site was occupied and slightly modified post-Conquest into a small castle and later modified, with the construction of a square moat, into a manor house or some form of lodge.
Gatehouse suspects this site is confused in the minds of some authors and has been confabulated with Wodowbank, a supposed motte 1.5km to the north-west. As it is also often called Coneygarth Cop it may also have been confabulated with Coneyside Cop another supposed motte only 4.5km to the north-west.
Ivy Hill near Coneygarth is an 'artifical hill' mentioned by Collingwood in the VCH (1901) - referencing Jefferson (1849). No such place-name is now marked in the area and Gatehouse suspects this is a reference to Coneygarth Cop.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:53

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