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Sowerby Castle How

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY36053840
Latitude 54.73659° Longitude -2.99492°

Sowerby Castle How has been described as a probable Timber Castle.

There are earthwork remains.


Castle How is the probable site of Castle Sowerby which is mentioned in the pipe rolls of Henry II. It would have been dismantled before 1237 when the manor of Castle Sowerby was assigned to the King of Scotland. According to Cathcart King, the site is mentioned in 1186-7 and the castle may be an unfinished work. (PastScape)

Natural features interpreted as an unfinished castle site.
T.H.B. Graham considered this an extinct castle and gave a manorial history.
King considered the site and described it. He points out that although the 'castellum de Sourebi' is mentioned in 1186 'the rolls hereafter never concern the administration or expenses of a castle.' Jackson states that in a survey of Inglewood Forest in 1300 the boundary is said to run by 'Stainwath below the castle of Souerby'. He argues this may be further evidence for the existence of a castle.
SMR record; 'A name only by the time of Edward I's reign and unlikely to have been a medieval castle.' Jackson; Possible ringwork at NY 360 401. Not thought to be a castle site on the balance of evidence presented. (Perriam and Robinson 1998)

The remains traditionally associated with Sowerby Castle consist of the slope of a hill that retains some evidence of scarping. The castle at Sowerby is mentioned in the Pipe Rolls between 1185 and 1188 (PRs: 32 Henry II p. 99; 33 Henry II p. 95; 34 Henry II p. 191) and with three further references in 1190 (PR 2 Richard I p 50), 1193 (PR 5 Richard 1p 75) and 1195 (PR 7 Richard I p. 214). Each of these references mentions the castle at Sowerby; that dating to 1195 refers to spending of 3s on the plate of the church of the castle of Sowerby. The present location of this site consists only of a scarped hill overlooking a farm known as Castle Farm. Sowerby's existence, and identification, as a castle is dependent upon the documentary references from the Pipe Rolls, these have been linked with the scarped hill at this site to create a castle. Any interpretation of Sowerby is difficult due to the limited nature of the evidence at this site. Sowerby stands within an area of Cumberland known as Inglewood; an area of the county retained by the crown under Henry I (Perriam and Robinson 1998, 193). Within the wider landscape the castle site at Sowerby is located at the interface between the uplands ot the Inglewood forest and the lowland pastoral landscape of the Carlisle plane. It is most likely that this site was constructed to exploit these landscapes. It appears from the early Pipe Roll entries that the sheriff, Robert de Vallibus, was actually rendering payments from the castle indicating that it is providing a source of income for the crown. Most probably this income is from farming the lowlands or hunting the uplands, but probably a combination of both. Possibly the foundation of this site represents the establishment of a demesne estate in this area in the later twelfth century. (Constable 2003)

An example of the varied way the term 'castle' was used in the medieval period. Was it intended to make a hunting lodge here? Jackson's alternative/precursor site at has not generally been accepted as a medieval site.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:34

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