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Kirkoswald moated site

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY555409
Latitude 54.76052° Longitude -2.69316°

Kirkoswald moated site has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


NY 555409 A Medieval moated site, near St Oswalds Church, Kirkoswald, consists of a trapezoid-shaped enclosure, c.250x175m defined by two parallel ditches, circa 15m apart, c.4m wide, 75cm deep and flat bottomed in shape. At the centre of the enclosure is a rectangular area circa 20x50m surrounded by a ditch, 5-8m wide, similar in shape and size to the outer ditches. "The sites relationship to nearby Kirkoswald Castle is uncertain. It is possible that the 1201 licence to fortify his manor, granted to Sir Hugh de Morville, applies to this site and not the castle, as generally assumed (The castle, rebuilt, has only 14th century masonry) (G J Fairclough).
Visible on OS air photographs as a double ditched enclosure with low central mound. From its situation, being over looked by a high mound, surmounted by the bell tower, it is difficult to imagine this as a defensive site. (PastScape)

Site is south-west of St Oswald's Church. The proximity to the church suggests either an early castle site or a fortified vicarage. However, the large size probably excludes this as a vicarage but the regular square form would exclude it as the early castle known to exist at Kirkoswald. However, Hugh de Morville was granted a licence to crenellate his manor house here in 1201, and work associated with that licence may have resulted in an alteration of the form of the earthworks of the earlier castle. A licence to crenellate of 1201 does not mean a fortified masonry castle was intended or built or that significant amounts of masonry were used in the domestic house that such licences usually resulted in. Hugh de Morville's house may still have been mainly timber in construction. However the licenced house is usually considered to be a precursor structure on the site of Kirkoswald castle the the details of the licence are recorded in the castle record. A castle is recorded as burnt by the Scots in 1314 after which Kirkoswald castle was built. It should be noted that some motte like features are identified at Kirkoswald castle, although these may be doubtful. However, if so, the the early castle was there and that leave this as the site of a fortified vicarage, perhaps with an associated grange.
A C15 fortified vicarage tower remains at Kirkoswald college and it is likely the earlier vicarage was at that site but it is not impossible that it was here.

N.B. A C19 bell tower stands on a small, steep sided, natural hill of motte like form and size. If this did function as a motte for the early castle at Kirkoswald then the church and the moated site could be in a bailey to SW. In 1201 the bailey building could have then been replaced and the new manor house reformed to be more isolated from the church and discarding the motte for church use. After the Scot attack of 1314 the site may have been abandoned and a new grander and more castle like manor house built in a more spacious location.

See Kirkoswald castle bibliography for historic references that may apply to this site.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling        
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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