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Egremont Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY00971046
Latitude 54.47991° Longitude -3.52966°

Egremont 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.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Despite its ruinous condition, substantial upstanding and buried remains of the medieval fabric of Egremont Castle still survive. Its proximity to the Scottish border meant that it functioned as part of the English line of defence against attacking Scottish armies, particularly during the 12th and 14th centuries when it was besieged. As such it provides an insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castle construction.
The monument includes the earthworks and the upstanding and buried remains of Egremont Castle, together with its associated castle garth which formed the outer defences of the monument. It began as a Norman motte and bailey castle but later developed into an enclosure castle. It is strategically located on an elevated knoll high above a crossing point of the River Ehen, and consists of an artificially raised earthen mound known as a motte together with an enclosed associated bailey. A broad ditch on the west side separates the motte and bailey from a lower castle garth which runs around the west, north and east sides of the motte and bailey.
Egremont Castle was constructed in about 1120 by William de Meschines and consisted of a motte topped by a timber tower or keep within which the occupants would have resided. An associated bailey, separated from the motte by a dry ditch, was constructed to the south of the motte. This was used for sheltering people and animals and would have contained numerous buildings such as storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and bakehouse. During the late 12th/early 13th centuries a stone curtain wall was built around the foot of the motte and crossed the intervening ditch between the motte and bailey to fully enclose the bailey. The castle's defences were further enhanced by the digging of a broad dry ditch on the west side. An outer gatehouse was added to the castle's west side and access was provided via a drawbridge across the ditch. A narrow postern gate was provided in the east curtain wall. At about the same time the timber keep on the motte was replaced by a circular stone structure known as the Juliet Tower. The ditch between the motte and bailey was infilled and stone buildings such as the great hall were constructed within the bailey to replace earlier timber structures. During the mid-14th century the stone curtain wall was considerably raised in height and its base strengthened. By the 1570s documentary sources indicate that the castle had been abandoned and lay in ruins apart from one chamber which remained in use as a courthouse. This courthouse continued in use until 1786.
The castle's west curtain wall and gatehouse displays the earliest surviving stonework and includes substantial amounts of herringbone masonry consisting of thin rubble, bedded diagonally and alternating with thin horizontal courses. This architectural style was introduced to Britain by the Romans and copied by the Normans. It was undertaken at Egremont not for ornamentation but for tie, the object being to secure the greatest amount of strength in the wall in the least possible time. The west gateway was originally of three storeys; a round-headed entrance arch survives as do columns in each corner which carry remains of a domed rib-vault. The postern gate partially survives in the east wall of the curtain wall. The curtain wall survives to varying heights around the bailey as do two short sections of the wall surrounding the motte. Within the bailey the south wall of the great hall survives almost to its original height and contains three windows with traces of two others together with partial remains of its doorway. Elsewhere within the bailey are the remains of the kitchen and the building which was used as a courthouse until the late 18th century. (Scheduling Report)

Surviving curtain walls were badly damaged when Robert the Bruce raided the Castle on at least two occasions shortly after Bannockburn. The castle finally met its end after the Rising of the North when it was slighted.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:53

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