Brougham castle lies next to the site of a Roman auxiliary fort which was called Brocavum in the Antonine Itinerary.  Otherwise it has little known early history.  It is possible that enough of the fort remained in 927 to be the site of Eamont (Ea motum) where King Aethelstan (d.939) met various kings, Hywel Dda (d.949) of West Wales, Owain ap Hywel (d.930) of South Wales [or just possibly Owain ap Donald of Clyde (d.937)], King Constantine of Scotland (d.952) and Ealdred Fitz Eadwulf of Bamburgh.  These men all agreed to recognise Aethelstan's overlordship and renounce all idolatry.  A later chronicle places the meeting point at Dacre, but this is some distance north of the river Eamont.  The current Eamont Bridge is only a mile west of Brougham castle, but the fort stands at the confluence of the rivers Eamont and Lowther and the name Eamont means River's Meeting.

Many fanciful ideas have been put forward as to an early history of Brougham and indeed Cumberland.  However, that Fantosme, the most detailed source for the Scottish campaigns of 1173 and 1174, does not mention any castle here, while mentioning plenty of others in the district, is pretty conclusive evidence that there was as yet, no 'castle' here.  The place of Brougham certainly existed at this time as Broham, for in 1176 Udard Brougham (Udardus de Broham) was charged with adhering to the king's Scottish enemies in 1174 when Appleby castle was surrendered to them.  By the reign of King John (1199-1216), Udard had been succeeded by Gilbert before 1202 who had dealings with Robert Vipoint (d.1228).  Could these men or their family possibly have built the rectangular tower keep beside the old Roman fort?

Despite these speculations, it would seem that Brocavum fort and the surrounding land remained in royal hands until after 21 February 1203.  On this date the king informed his lieges that he had given to Robert Vipont (d.1228) ‘our castles of Appleby and Brough with all purtenances...'
and a little later he added to this all the bail of Westmorland.  Before this time Robert had been one of King John's staunchest supporters in Normandy.  The grant to Vipoint undoubtedly included the site of the Roman fort at Brougham.  Consequently, within a few years, Gilbert Brougham (Burgham) granted a moiety of the town of Brougham, together with the advowson of the church, to his feudal lord, Robert Vipont (d.1228).  Such a transaction could have been the first stage made in preparing the site to receive a castle.  Certainly many years later the Brougham familly appeared settled at Brougham hall where the original settlement seems to have been.  This may explain why no church or vill ever grew up around Brougham castle.  Whatever the case, Robert Vipont died before 2 March 1228 and the castle was not mentioned by name when the king ordered the seizure of the castles of Appleby, Pendragon (Mallerstrang) ‘and other castles' during the minority of John Vipont (d.1241).  The debts of the father and no doubt also his lands and castles were returned to his son on 14 February 1233.  However, John died in 1241, aged just 29.

Once again Brougham was not mentioned in the writ concerning John's death of 4 August 1241, although Appleby and Brough castles were committed to royal constables.  By 15 October 1241, John's mother, Idonea Builli, was also dead.  The next year on 1 May 1242, all John's castles and lands were granted to Bishop Walter Malus of Carlisle (1223-46, d.1248) for 600m (£400) pa.  Further, the marriage and custody of John's heir was granted to John Fitz Geoffrey (d.1258) for 200m (£133 6s 8d).  Fitz Geoffrey then proceeded to marry his daughter, Isabel (d.1301), to the young heir, Robert Vipont (d.1264).  Towards the end of Robert's minority an inquisition was ordered into the waste committed to the lands formerly of John Vipoint by the prior of Carlisle, while he was guardian of the heir.  The first complaint on the list was that the walls and house (domus) of Brougham (Bruhame) had deteriorated due to defective guttering and leading.  There were also many cases of decay in the lordship due to lack of maintenance, but the important fact is that the tower was standing at Brougham and possibly the enceinte of a castle, or at least the hall block next to it.  There then followed complaints concerning alienations and lack of maintenance throughout the lordship before a more detailed list of the state of Appleby and Brough castles.  Although the depredations in the vale of Mallerstang were recorded, Pendragon castle was unmentioned.

Robert Vipont seems to have come of age by 15 June 1252 when he fined 1m (13s 4d) for having a plea removed from court.  He later fined so as not to be knighted and had 7 of his men made exempt too.  Despite this, Robert took the cause of the reformers and rebelled in 1263, as was noted in royal records on 17 October 1263.  Consequently, on 8 November and 16 December 1263, he was ordered to surrender the royal castles of Richmond and Bowes (Beghes).  By 7 June 1264, Robert was recently dead, possibly from wounds received at the battle of Lewes on 14 May, when he was certainly in opposition to the king.  At this point his unnamed castles and lands were granted to John Fitz John (d.1275, Robert's brother in law) for keeping.  Despite this, his testament was allowed to stand, even though Robert had died as a rebel.  Meanwhile his 2 heiress were granted to royal favourites.  Roger Clifford of Eardisley (d.1282) was granted the wardship of the lands falling to the elder daughter, Isabel Vipont (d.1292), together with her marriage, while Roger Leybourne (d.1284) received the marriage of Idonea (d.1333) with her lands.  The inquest post mortem of these 4 individuals suggest that the castles were divided amongst them with Clifford having Brougham with its tower as well as lands in Appleby and Brough, while Leybourne was recorded as having Brough and Pendragon castles, but not Appleby, which seems to have gone to Clifford with the sheriffdom.  This point is brought home with the inquest into the lands of Isabel on her death in 1292.

Roger Clifford died at the bridge of Boats in Gwynedd during the spring of 1282.  This resulted in an inquisition being made into his lands on 19 January 1283.  In Westmorland this found that he held the manor of Brougham (Bruham) which was worth £15 11s 7d pa.  Amongst his other lands were the moiety of Appleby worth £27 5s 3¼d; a moiety of Brough and a moiety of Mallerstang [Pendragon] at £22 3s 9d.  Further, Roger was hereditary sheriff of the county in the name of his wife, Isabel Vipont; an office worth £3 6s 8d a year.  The whole was held for the service of 2 knights' fees of the inheritance of his wife.  Interestingly the survey was completed with the statement that the jurors were ignorant of the knight fees, free tenants, or advowsons which were the inheritance of Isabel as they had yet to be divided between her and Idonea, the wife of Roger Leybourne, the other heir of Robert.

Clifford's widow, Isabel, only survived her husband 10 years, dying aged about 35 in 1292.  During her widowhood she ran her own court and acted as sheriff of Westmorland.  Idonea far outlived her sister, only dying in 1333 at the age of 74 after having one son, John Leybourne (1281-1355), by Roger and a second, Richard, by her second husband, John Cromwell.  Interestingly from the historians' point of view, Roger Leybourne died soon after his Clifford brother in law, a little before 21 February 1284.  In Westmorland it was found that he held Brough castle (Burg under Steynmor) with a moiety of the manor as well as other moieties which included, Appleby, Kirkby Stephen and all Malrestang castle
[Pendragon] with a moiety of the forest.  The services of his moiety of the knights and free tenants of Westmortland called cornage was worth £13 11s 4d yearly while the fee farms of free tenants was worth £2 15s 7¾d and his profits from the county court was £3 6s 8d.  All was held for 2 knight's fee of the Crown.

On 14 May 1292 a writ was issued ordering an inquest into the land holdings of Isabel Clifford, one of the daughters and heirs of Robert Vipont.  In Westmorland this found that she held Appleby castle with a moiety of the county profits which were insufficient to maintain the castle, sheriff, clerks, constables and other ministers.  She also held Brougham (Burgham alias Bruham), the manor with a park within Quennefel forest... Brough (Burgh under Staynmore) manor and many other lands.  The full extent of Brougham noted that the manor gardens were worth 10s pa, but could not sustain the manor.  What was not mentioned among the lands was any castle at Brougham.

On 14 July 1308, John Cromwell and his wife, Idonia Vipont, granted in fee to Robert Clifford [their nephew], Brough castle (Burgus subtus Staynmore) with the manors of Appleby, King's Meburne, Kirkby Stephen and Mallerstang with appurtenances in the county of Westmorland which included their rents in Brougham (Brouham).  By this act the old barony of Robert Vipont (d.1228) in Westmorland was virtually recreated in Clifford hands.  The next year Clifford apparently applied for a licence to crenellate his castles of Brougham (Brouham) and Pendragon, although no record was kept of such a licence being issued.  Possibly this marked the building of the current ward of the castle in masonry, although no contemporary work is noticeable at Pendragon, so, like so many other licences to crenellate, maybe this was just a sign of royal favour.  Her effigy now lies in Appleby St Michael church.

Soon after the death of Idonea Leybourne, which occurred a little before 18 November 1333, an inquest found that she held no land at all in Westmorland.  This is because the barony of her father had passed totally to Robert Clifford, the son of Isabel (d.1292).  After Robert's death at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, his inquest post mortem found that he held in Westmorland a barony by the service of 4 knights and this included the castles of Appleby with a park called Flakebrig, Brough (Burgh under Staynnesmor) with the castle..., Kirkby Stephen with a capital messuage etc, including a castle called Pendragon in the vale of Mallerstangg... and Brougham castle and manor amongst other places.  Quite clearly the whole Vipont inheritance had passed into Clifford hands where it remained until the death of Lady Anne Clifford in 1676, with a brief exception during the Wars of Roses.

Some slight further evidence comes to light in the inquistion concerning the manor of Brougham for the manor is recorded, not only as a demesne manor, but also as being partially held by John Godeberd, William Crakanthorp and Henry Riddings who rendered 13s 6d yearly to the lord of the manor.  These 3 are no doubt the heirs of the Gilbert Brougham who passed a moiety of the manor on to Robert Vipont before 1228.

The history outlined above suggests that the current keep was commenced at Brougham soon after the land was granted to Robert Vipont in 1203, if he were the builder.  The style of the tower keep may also suggest that this was already standing at this time and that its builders were the Brougham family.  Certainly there is some similatiry between their seat, at Brougham Hall a mile to the west, and the castle, especially in the gatehouses with their projecting buttresses.  Whatever the case, at some point, probably in the thirteenth century, this tower keep was eventually enclosed to make a castle.  The evidence suggests that the castle had generally late origins and that these were more manorial than military.  It is also possible that the late thirteenth century fortified domestic structure reused at least part of a much older structure as its keep. 

The castle seems to have survived the many Scottish depredations of the fourteenth century, only to be converted into a country house by Lady Anne Clifford (d.1676) after seeing no service during the Civil Wars (1642-49).  Her diary identifies various rooms in the castle, not least the facts that the great hall was on the first floor and gave access upstairs to the great chamber, then the painted chamber, the passage room and finally her own chamber which connected to the middle room of the keep (Pagan Tower).  For such a route to work the great chamber must have been in the destroyed block east of the keep, which in turn feeds to all the rooms on the second floor of the gatehouse, until returning to the great chamber via the keep.  Lady Anne's own chamber, where she died in 1676, was therefore the top storey of the inner gatehouse.  Within 20 years of Anne's death the castle was partially demolished and eventually was sold off as a quarry for building material in 1714.

Brougham castle is an odd site standing proud above the southern flood plain of the River Eamont, possibly on the spot where King Aethestan (d.945) met the men who swore allegiance to him in 927.  The Roman fort seems unlikely to have been used as an outer ward as there appears to be no original access to it from the castle.  However, masonry from the fort was definitely pillaged to help build the keep.  The castle also made use of the western end of the fort's north ditch for its own south ditch.  This means that the castle lies between the fort and the river on a spur jutting into the flood plain.  The Roman north ditch, now some 55' wide, has been extended to both east and west of the castle to make a moat covering half the castle's enceinte.  The moat appears never to have covered the entrance to the main gateway and has 2 late medieval causeways over it to the site of the Roman fort as well as the remnants of 2 walls crossing it at the south end of the west wall on either side of the south-west tower.  To the west of the castle the river once ran much closer to the defences, but a new channel has formed a loop, leaving the old course, that would have protected the west side of the castle, dry.

The castle defences form a near right angled triangle with the east end chamfered off.  The keep would have stood roughly centrally against the north wall, if a gatehouse had not been attached to its north face.  The rest of the enceinte consists of a bare curtain with the only flanking provided by the rectangular south-west tower which has been added to the corner.  The whole is certainly indefensible and gives more the impression of a castle than a reality.  In effect Brougham castle is little more than a stately manor house with a peculiar tower keep.

The rectangular keep, in modern times known as the Pagan Tower, is the oldest part of the castle.  It stands 4 storeys high and is approximately 47' east to west by 44' north to south, discounting the pilaster buttresses.  It is built of coursed red sandstone rubble, although towards the top more and more grey sandstone creeps into the build.  The top storey is an obvious addition.  Unusually the tower has pilaster buttresses to all sides apart from the east which is totally flat.  Possibly this was to do with the associated forebuilding.  The tower was originally entered by this forebuilding to the east, although this has been largely destroyed.  It once consisted of a rectangular structure with steps running up the face of the keep to give access to the main tower entrance.  The original forebuilding was only 2 storeys high as can be seen by the fact that it's surviving south wall is integral with the keep masonry up to this level.  Above this the quoins of the keep appear, showing that the upper 2 floors are later additions.  The uppermost chamber still has an overhanging gardrobe, emptying right above the 2 lower windows!  Good examples of similar, but more powerful forebuildings, survive at some 40 British sites.

The ground floor of the keep has walls 10' thick and central loops to north, south and west.  The east face would have been obscured by the forebuilding and so apparently had no loop, although this side of the building is much damaged. 

On the first floor the main entrance was placed centrally to the east.  This was a high quality doorway with an arch of 2 moulded orders.  It looks early thirteenth century pointed, rather than the late twelfth century Romanesque as is often stated.  Beside it internally are the remnants of a late thirteenth century wall arcade.  The main chamber of the keep had a small light to the south, offset to allow for a fireplace.  There was also a larger Romanesque window to the west.  A window embrasure to the north led to mural chambers to east and west; the latter being a garderobe set in the pilaster buttress.  The passage to the garderobe was later cut through to allow access to the mural passageway in the late thirteenth century inner gatehouse.  A garderobe has been similarly mutalated at Carlisle keep.  At Brougham, the 2 surviving Romanesque window splays have moulded angles, similar to those found in the rectangular upper bailey tower at Chepstow.  Externally both Brougham windows have half pillars supporting the arch in a style somewhat similar to the keep at Goodrich.  The Brougham keep first floor lay on an offset, while the north-east corner of the tower was chamfered off to house a spiral stair which gave access to the basement and the upper floors.

The second floor was similar to the first apart from the lack of a southern loop and no eastern chamber in the north wall.  The entrance to the stairway was also offset into the east wall and a new passageway had been cut from the stair to the new building built on the site of the forebuilding.  This has a shoulder headed doorway and therefore should date to the century after 1250.  In the slab roof of this passage, similar to those found in Goodrich castle gatehouse, is a reused Roman tombstone.  The aperture centrally in the east wall of the keep is Romanesque, but very poorly built with the top of the arch much compressed to the south.  Although this appears part of the original build it is likely to be an insertion as the arch appears lopsided to cater for the joists on either side of it.  These joist holes must surely be later as they relate to the building that replaced the forebuilding.  Presumably this aperture was originally a window and is certainly a few feet higher than the floor of the destroyed eastern building it once may have led to.  In the corner, the spiral stairway continued upwards to the later upper floor, although this level would probably originally have been battlements. 

Internally the third floor was made octagonal by chamfering the corners off, the north-west corner taking a fireplace and the south-east pilaster turret being chamfered out to take a small chapel or oratory.  Two of the external corbels under this are grotesque.  This level was also nearly circumnavigated by slab headed mural passageways joining at the embrasures to all the compass points.  This was lit by rectangular loops and windows while the corner fireplace to the north-west is reminiscent of those of Edwardian work during the late 1280s in Harlech castle

The upper levels of the pilaster buttresses at the corners of Brougham keep were equipped with impressively large cruciform crossbow loops.  Judging by the remains of loops in upper levels and the one standing fragment above the tower summit of the north-west buttress, the corner turrets originally rose a further storey.  In the north-east corner the stair continued to the destroyed battlements as well as to the top of this turret.  To east and west are remnants of a projecting wallwalk or machicolations.  It seems likely that the internal vault was added to the basement of the keep when the upper storey of the tower was added in the late thirteenth century.  This vault with central pillar collapsed around 1800.

A large rectangular building was built extending from the east face of the keep for some 65'.  This has now mostly collapsed, but as it was 4 storeys high and entered from the keep through high quality doorways on the keep's first and second floors it could well have been an additional hall and solar.  It consisted of a basement, the first floor and second floors entered from the keep and a final, low floor which ended at the top of the original keep and was later overlooked by the thirteenth century top floor added to the keep.  Quite obviously the building was flat roofed as the floor and roof joist holes are still readily apparent in the keep wall.  It would seem that the outer gatehouse and curtain were only built after this structure was completed.

The bailey
It is thought that a curtain wall was added to make the main ward to the south of the keep around the late thirteenth century.  This is the main curtain and survives to the west, south and the southern part of the east front, although the kitchen in the south-east corner, on a slightly different alignment, seems to be of a separate, probably later build.  The north wall of the east curtain butts onto the south-east corner of the hall which in turn was attached to the east face of the keep, the hall then being used as the main front of the castle.  This design was very weak militarily and strengthens the impression that this was never a true castle, but more of a fortified manorial centre.  Possibly the original entrance lay next to the kitchen where the later postern now stands.  It would then appear that in quick succession the inner gatehouse and south-west tower, later called the Tower of the League, were built.  Soon afterwards the outer gatehouse was added and then, possibly as late as the mid fourteenth century, a top storey was added to this structure and the narrow building erected in the gap between the 2 gatehouses, presumably replacing an earlier curtain wall.

Inner Gatehouse
The main rectangular gatetower is of 3 storeys and is built on uneven ground, the heavily buttressed north side proceeding down the bank to the river flood plain, with the main ground floor being at the main castle ground level.  The whole is built with a rough ashlar in the ubiquitous red sandstone.  The outer archway reached from the outer gatehouse has an internal pointed arch of two chamfered orders separated from its outer arch by a portcullis groove.  The inner archway has chamfered jambs, a segmental-pointed inner order to the arch and a segmental outer order; the rear-arch is shouldered segmental and poin
ted.  The gatehouse superficially bears some resemblance to Goodrich castle inner gatehouse, both having passageways that run the length of the structure on the river side and covering the approach to the main gate.  At Brougham the passageway also has 2 loops covering the postern in the inner face of the western buttress.

The gatehouse first floor is accessed from the keep and was lit by a window to the north and a loop to the east, which was later blocked by the narrow building.  The portcullis was also operated from here.  The north embrasure fed passageways to east and west.  That to the west terminated in a spiral stair down to the postern, while the other ended in a garderobe, a second one being housed in the other projecting buttress.  The top floor of the gatehouse was also entered from the keep, there being no vertical communication between the floors other than via the keep.  The passageway from the keep was lit by a loop and another covered the rear gate.  A mural passageway ran the length of the west wall and terminated in a garderobe.  The northern window embrasure had a passage leading off it that probably once ran to a garderobe in the north-east buttress.  A skewed doorway was later inserted to access the narrow chamber between the 2 gatehouses.  Fireplaces were in the north-west angles of both upper floors, while the windows also bear comparison with those of the upper floor of the keep.

Outer Gatehouse
At some point, relatively soon after the building of the inner gatehouse, an outer one was built, differing from the first by being slightly more self contained, but also relying upon the building to the south of it for access to the upper floors.  Also its 2 northern buttresses were set at 45 degrees to the north wall, rather than being at right angles - the gatehouse at Brougham Hall also has similar, powerful buttresses.  Other than this the outher gate's external design was quite similar to the inner, although the gate passageway was a passage, rather than a vaulted chamber.  The outer gate also differed from its inner compatriot by having a guard chamber to the north with all amenities.  These included a dungeon below.  Set in both eastern buttresses were garderobes.

Externally a flight of steps gave access from the outer gate to the river.  Set above the outer gate arch is a plaque with the inscription ‘thys made Roger'.  This would appear to be a later insertion to replace the original plaque that stated that the castle had lain a ruin since about August 1617 when James I (d.1636) had stayed here.  It had then been repaired by Lady Anne Clifford between 1651 and 1652.

At first floor level within the outer gate was a single constable's chamber with 2 lights to the east and a fireplace in the west wall, as well as a doorway leading to the later narrow building.  The east wall has largely gone.  The second floor was also a single room, called the painted chamber in the seventeenth century, and similar to the one below, but with mural passageways leading from a central northern embrasure to the 2 buttresses and the long chamber.  In the north-west buttress there was also a spiral stair leading to the roof.  This floor, set on an external chamfered offset, was a later addition to the 2 storeys below.  The great trefoil windows in both storeys over the gate are hardly defensive and may be later insertions, while a possible central, constable's window, seems to have been blocked in, leaving just the embrasure within giving access to the portcullis.  On the summit, above the gate, are 3 machicolations, looking similar to those found atop the keep.

Between the 2 gatehouses is a square courtyard, bounded to the north by the narrow 4 storey building.  This may be contemporary with the upper storey of the outer gatehouse. The ground floor shoulder headed doorway certainly points to a date between 1250 and 1350.

Beyond the outer gatehouse are foundations of an apparent enclosure.  This runs east from the great chamber block for some 40' and is matched by a similar foundation projecting some 50' from the outer gatehouse along the scarp of the flood plain bank.

South-West Tower
This was called the Tower of League in Lady Anne's time.  It is thought to have been built late in the thirteenth century and certainly bears comparison with the 2 gatehouses, having internal passageways, and, like the outer gatehouse, a projecting garderobe chamber.  It also has corner fireplaces on the ground and first floor, but a more normal fireplace in the south wall on the second floor.  The spiral stair from the first floor upwards projects from the tower in a Scottish fashion over a chamfered out junction on the first floor.


Copyright©2021 Paul Martin Remfry