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Irthington; The Nook

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY49936151
Latitude 54.94574° Longitude -2.78302°

Irthington; The Nook has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


"The centre of the present farmyard (immediately west of motte-plan) occupies what was once the site of the ancient castle; its dimensions were about 96' by 75', with a tower at the south angle, and perhaps at the others also. The middle of the castle was about 50 yards from the mound, and about 10 yards clear of the ditch which surrounded it" (Maclauchlan). "It is generally believed that the residence of the lords of Gilsland stood upon the mote at Irthington Village. A generation ago certain foundations were discovered in the farm-yard of the "Nook" which immediately adjoins the Mote. They were popularly supposed to be those of the castle, but as no precise note of their character has been preserved, the antiquary must suspend his judgement ... (Graham) "The bailey was on the SE side (Collingwood). (PastScape)

The earliest documentary information we have of Irthington is contained in the Chronicle of Lanercost. In that record we are told, a Court Baron was held there in 1280, a circumstance which proves that at that time, the Caput Baroniæ or principal mansion of the barony was situated at Irthington. The castle was probably erected by Robert de Vallibus, a name renowned both in legend and song. Within its walls all business connected with the barony was transacted; and the lords of Gilsland made it their occasional, if not their permanent residence, until the erection of Naworth Castle, by Ranulph de Dacre, in 1335. There is no evidence to show at what time this Norman castle was destroyed. Not a vestige of it is now standing; but the late Mr. R. Bell, of the Nook, near which the fortress stood, traced the foundations. But the unwritten history of the parish may be read in its name at a period long anterior to the advent of the Norman. Here the Irthingas, a Saxon tribe, settled, and the small village of wooden huts which they erected was known as the "ton" or town of the Irthingas. From this race or family, the river has, likewise, taken its name. (Bulmer 1901)

Motte, visible on air photo, probably built in 1160's by Hubert de Vaux or his son Robert. A farm, called The Nook, of buildings around a courtyard, lies to the NE and probably represents the position of a bailey. A tower, of possible mid C13 date, reported lay in the southern corner of this courtyard and this probably formed part of a medieval manor or castle, possibly of the De Vallibus, and, if so, then later abandoned for Naworth. This was demolished prior to 1603. It is not clear if Collingwood was suggesting a further small bailey to the SE or if his article has been misread.
A motte and bailey castle in which the bailey buildings have been replace, on several occasions, to the point where the original bailey is now obscured. It is probably the current farm building incorporate medieval masonry, itself reused Roman masonry from nearby Hadrians Wall, and medieval foundation may lie buried under these buildings. How substantial a building the medieval castle was is open to question. The availability of cheap masonry would allow for a ambitious building project but the lack of remains, and particularly the failure to build anything on the motte, suggests a relatively modest building, despite being the caput of the Barony of Gilsland until the C14.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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