The early history of many northern castles has for a long time been mostly obscure, in part due to the ‘Cumbrian Chronicle' drawn up to fortify the heirs of Aveline Fortibus (d.1275) in their claims for the land, but mainly due to other early guesses as to the history of region.  The Cumbrian Chronicle wrongly claimed that King William I (1066-87) had conquered the district that became Cumberland and parcelled it out to the brothers Ranulf and William le Mechin.  In fact, the district was only brought under Norman control when William Rufus (1087-1100) took and fortified Carlisle in 1092, expelling a lord called Dolfin from the area.  Either William himself or Henry I (1100-35), subsequently gave the lordship of Carlisle to Ranulf le Meschin (d.1129), who in 1120 relinquished the district when he became earl of Chester.

The original grant of Carlisle lordship probably took place around 1098 when Ranulf married Lucy Bolingbroke (d.1138), the widow of Ivo Taillebois (d.1093).  This marriage also brought him Taillebois' land of Appleby and possibly also Kendal.  According to the Cumberland Chronicle, Ranulf soon enfeoffed Walthoef Fitz Gospatric (d.1138+), the brother of the dispossessed Dolfin who had held Carlisle before 1092, with all the barony of Allerdale.  It was as the caput of Allerdale that Cockermouth castle was built, though exactly when is open to question.

Ranulf le Mechin, as nephew to Earl Hugh Lupus of Chester (d.1101) and cousin to Earl Ranulf of Chester (d.1120), helped control the family north-western portion of the kingdom of England from the Shropshire border to the Solway Firth.  During his time as lord of Carlisle, which ended in 1120, he was claimed during a sheriff's survey in 1212 to have created 2 border sub-lordships or baronies at Burgh by Sands and Liddel (Lydale) which consisted of the lands north of Carlisle towards Scotland.  According to Camden writing some 5 centuries later, Ranulf also tried to give Gilsland, the area west of Carlisle along Hadrian's Wall, to his brother, William le Meschin (d.1130/5), but he failed to dislodge its ruler, Gille Fitz Boet, the son of the supposed founder of Bewcastle.  This is probably false as it is not mentioned in the 1212 survey and in 1158, King Henry II (1154-89) granted Gilesland to Hubert Vaux (d.1168+) as ‘all the land which Gille Fitz Boet held on the day in which he was living and dead of whomsoever he may have held it'.  The terminology of this suggests that Gille was very recently dead.  It also appears likely that Gilsland is named after this Gille, so the land unit does not appear older than the early twelfth century.  As Gille apparently left children it seems likely that either he supported King Stephen (1135-54) during the Anarchy, or that his children supported the Scottish claim to the region and were therefore disenherited by Henry.

Instead of ficticiously granting Gilsland, Ranulf le Meschin certainly gave his brother, William, the lordship of Allerdale, which then apparently included Copeland and soon the castle of Cockermouth.  This region stretched along the coast between the rivers Duddon and Esk (and therefore included Millom, Egremont, Cockermouth and Burgh by Sands).  Ranulf proved a prominent supporter of Henry I and led the first division of the royal army at the battle of Tinchebrai in 1106.

On the earl of Chester's death in 1120, it is thought that Henry I resumed the honour of Carlisle when he made Meschin earl of Chester in his cousin's place, although there is no direct evidence as to how or when this happened, although it had certainly taken place before 1122 when the king visited his castle of Carlisle.  It is also possible that Ranulf simply offered his northern lands to the king in part exchange for his baronial relief on the earldom.  This was obviously heavy for in September 1129 Ranulf still owed £1,000 of that debt. 

According to the sheriff's survey of 1212, after acquiring Carlisle lordship, King Henry II created 5 new baronies, Allerdale above the River Derwent (which was centred on Cockermouth castle), Wigton, Levington, Greystock and Copeland (previously Allerdale below the Derwent or Egremont), keeping the forest of Inglewood as well as Carlisle in his own hands.  The last part of the Meschin fief, Appleby, was later subsumed into the new county of Westmorland.

At some point Waltheof Fitz Gospatric (d.1138/9), the illegitimate son of Earl Gospatric of Dunbar (d.1074) received Allerdale.  This included the site that was to be Cockermouth castle, if the fortress had not already been founded.  This grant to Waltheof had probably occurred by 1106 when he witnessed Ranulf Meschin's grants to Wetheral priory.  The land grant to Waltheof of Allerdale was increased by William le Meschin making over to him the land between the Cocker and the Derwent including the 5 vills of Brigham, Eaglesfield, Dean, Greysouthen, both Cliftons and Stainburn (all lying south-west of Cockermouth).  This gave Waltheof the entire valley of the Derwent apart from its exit into the Irish Sea at Workington.  Presumably Cockermouth, rather than Papcastle, which was the site of a Roman fort a little over half a mile away, was its caput and became the chief fortress of the lordship.  Papcastle itself seems never to have been the centre of the lordship as is claimed by writers working centuries later.  It first seems to occur as a centre in Cumberland on 26 February 1286, when it was noted that Walter Wigton held his lands ‘for suit at the court of Papecastre' which belonged to the countess of Aumale (Albemarle).

Earl Gospatric of Dunbar (d.1074), the holder of Cumberland before 1070/72, had several legitmate daughters, a legitimate son and heir Gospatric (d.1138), as well as the illegitimate Waltheof who was to become lord of Allerdale.  One of these daughters, Ethelreda (d.1094+), married King Duncan of Scotland (d.1094) about 1090 and bore him a son, William Fitz Duncan (d.1152/4).  Another, Matilda, married Dolfin Fitz Aylward who may be the same as the Dolfin dispossessed of Carlisle in 1092 and son in law and not son of Earl Gospatric (d.1074).  The last known daughter, Gunnilda, married Orm Fitz Ketel (d.1094+), of whose descendants more will be said under Appleby.

Waltheof seems to have died around 1138 and his son Alan entered the care of King David (d.1153) during his minority.  It was probably at this time that William Fitz Duncan was given custody of Allerdale and Copeland and possibly their castles of Cockermouth and Egremont if they had been built.  Alan seems to have achieved his majority, but died around 1150, his lands passing again to his half cousin, William Fitz Duncan (d.1152/4), rather than the heirs of his 2 sisters.  During his lifetime William was earl of Murray as well as lord of Copeland, Cockermouth, Allerdale, Skipton and Rodystone.

On William Fitz Duncan's death, his lands were divided.  The Mac Williams kept up a dogged struggle for the throne of Scotland from Murray as heirs of King Duncan (d.1094), while his English lands eventually passed to his 3 daughters by Alice Romiley of Skipton (d.1187).  Amabil married Reginald Lucy (d.1200) and took him Egremont, Cecily took Skipton and the Cockermouth half of Allerdale to William Aumale (d.1179), while Alice (d.1215) took the Papcastle half of Allerdale and later became lady of the other half of Cockermouth on the death of Reginald Lucy in 1200.  Alice married twice, Gilbert Pipard (d.1192) and Robert Courtney (d.bef.1209), but died childless, Cockermouth reverting to Cecily's heir in 1215 when King John ordered the sheriff of Cumberland to deliver Cockermouth and its appurtenances to William Fortibus (d.1241), her grandnephew.  He was later to describe himself as Earl William Forz of Aumale (Albemarlie) who held the fees of Allerdale and Copeland.

In 1221 Earl William decided to oppose the government of the young Henry III (1216-72) by refusing them access to Rockingham castle and raising the standard of revolt.  Consequently the sheriff of Westmorland was ordered that he should ‘without any delay summon the earls, barons, knights and freeholders of his bailiwick, hasten to Cockermouth and besiege the castle there and that when they had taken it they should destroy it to its foundations.  Similar orders were given for Skipton castle.  This show of regal power and the siege of Bytham castle proved sufficient and the earl made his peace with the Crown without further fighting or the destruction of either of his northern castles.  William was so far back in favour that in 1227 the king granted him a Saturday market at Cockermouth.

In the meantime the government of Henry III (1216-72) began to set right what had gone amiss during the disturbances of the civil war.  One of the problems was the inheritance of the lands once belonging to William Fitz Duncan (d.1152/54), which had been further disrupted by the minority of the heirs of Richard Lucy (d.1209).  In November 1224 a partition of Allerdale was made in the king's court between the earl of Aumale (Earl William Fortibus of Aumale (d.1241), the great grandson of William Fitz Duncan) and Thomas Multon (d.1240), the guardian of the daughters and heiresses of Richard Lucy (who had died in 1209 and was the grandson of William Fitz Duncan).  Before this date Thomas, as guardian, had married the ladies to his sons, Lambert (d.1246) to Amabel (d.bef.1246) and Alan (d.1250+) to Alice (d.1288).  Lambert and Amabel, as the eldest children received the lion's share, namely Egremontand later the bulk of Copeland by partition with Earl William.  The younger pair received a moiety of Allerdale with Caldback and Aspatria.  It was further decided that Cockermouth with the castle and various dependancies were to remain to the earl, while the vill of Braithwaite with the island and other places were to remain to the ladies with the moiety of Aspatria with other conditions to ensure a fair partition.  Of the forests the earl could choose whichever he pleased, although if this was the part nearer Cockermouth, then the whole forest should remain in common and the other forest not yet partitioned should be divided if the earl wills, if not it shall remain in common.  The advowsons of churches and charities and the lakes were to remain in common with free ingress and egress and the earl and the ladies and their heirs should together aid in defending the lands so partitioned in common.  Despite this the partition did not prove successful.  The case went again to coram rege and the interested parties appeared at Cockermouth to see the lands in dispute extended in June 1225.  Things rapidly became heated and Thomas Multon withdrew 'as such a dispute arose between the earl and him'.  Consequently it was only on 29 October 1230 that a final agreement was made and the lands listed in detail.

On Earl William's death in May 1260 his second wife, Isabel Redvers (d.1293), retained Cockermouth with its castle in dower.  She was still holding it in 1268 when she made complaint against Roger Lancaster, Richard le Fleming and others that with force and arms they had come to Cockermouth castle and seized and carried away a goshawk, 3 doves and consumed her goods to the value of 40m (£26 13s 4d).

On 11 April 1269, Aveline Fortibus, the daughter and heiress of Earl William (d.1260), married Earl Edmund of Lancaster (d.1296).  On her death in November 1274 the Crown seized her lands, despite there being living heirs from Cecily Skipton's sister, Amabil (d.bef.1190) who had married Reginald Lucy (d.1200).  Subsequently Skipton was exchanged with the Cliffords for land in Gwent, but Cockermouth castle and barony were retained by Edward I (1272-1307), despite the 1276 claim of John Eston to be the heir of Aveline Fortibus.  He withdrew that claim on the king gifting him £100 in land.

On 14 October 1298, an inquisition found that the manor of Cockermouth (Cokermue) was in the king's hands as the eschat of Isabel Fortibus, the former countess of Aumale.  This was followed on 26 September 1300, by a valuation of Cockermouth castle and its members.  This found they were worth £110 pa when they were granted to John St John for life to aid him in the Scottish wars.  John was dead by 20 January 1303 when the constable was ordered to permit the executors of his will to have free administration of all his goods and chattels within the castle.  In short measure John was replaced at the castle by the king's clerk, John Kirkby, who complained that the place had been allowed to go to waste.  Consequently on 19 September 1303, John was ordered to cause the king's houses within the castle, the weirs and his fisheries, the paling around the park and the mills to be repaired out of the farm of the fortress.

On 19 December 1307, King Edward II ordered that the castle of Cockermouth should be safely and securely kept so that no damage or danger might occur as the king intended to go abroad.  Two years later in July 1309, Edward II granted the castle to Piers Gaveston and Margaret his wife, although the gift was soon surrendered back to the Crown.  With the Scottish threat to the borders increasing the king ordered Constable Roger Leybourne
, on 20 July 1311, to mend all defects in the castle and peel from year to year by the view and testimony of 2 good and lawful local men.  Leybourne later complained that the king had not satisfied him for the repairs and improvements he had carried out in Cockermouth castle.

After the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, Edward Bruce invaded England via Berwick and progressed far beyond Richmond.  Although he attacked no castles the towns of Brough, Appleby and Kirkoswald
were burned 'and the people of Copeland fearing their return and invasion sent envoys to appease them with much money'.  Presumably this preserved Cockermouth and Egremont from any attack.

In 1315 Cockermouth was granted to Thomas Richmond (d.1316) for life and he seems to have kept a force of 20 men-at-arms, 10 crossbowmen and 80 footmen within the castle.  On 3 August 1316, when Bruce threatened the district, Robert Cliderhou was ordered to
victual the castles of Brough under Stainmore and Cockermouth.  That winter on 16 November 1316, Robert Leybourne was ordered to repair defects in the castle by view of 2 men of his bailiwick.  These consisted of the little tower in the inner bailey at 40s; the little hall, the private kitchen, 2 bakehouses and 2 chambers in the same bailey for £4 13s 4d; the stone wall between the inner bailey and the outer bailey £20; the great hall and kitchen serving the outer ward £11 13s 4d; the chapel there 10s; the stone walls of the prison 66s 8d; the new peel 40s, the stable there 40s; and finally the enclousre of the park at 40s.  With the castle repaired it was also garrisoned and on 17 September 1317 the king allowed Alexander Bastenthwayt £99 18s 8d expended by him on the defence of the castle by victualling it and placing men within it to repel the Scotch rebels from 15 July to 5 August, viz, 37 men-at-arms, 51 hobelers (light horsemen), an engineer, a mason, a carpenter, 8 crossbowmen, 2 porters, a watchman and 60 foot.  Additionally he repaired the gate and the various castle engines for 20s.

The castle then passed to the unfortunate Andrew Harcla whose story is told under Carlisle castle.  He was ordered to repair both Cockermouth and Carlisle castles for 100m (£66 13s 4d) on 28 May 1321.  After Earl Harcla's perceived treason with King Robert Bruce, Edward II ordered Anthony Lucy (d.1343) to seize Carlisle castle and capture him.  As a reward for doing this Anthony was granted Cockermouth castle for 1 knight's fee.  Anthony was the great grandson of Richard Lucy (d.1209) of Egremont, who in turn was a grandson of William Fitz Duncan (d.1152/54) who had also been lord of Cockermouth.

The last of the Cockermouth Lucys was Matilda who died in 1398.  As the widow of Earl Gilbert Umfraville of Angus (d.1381) she married Earl Henry Percy of Northumberland (d.1408) in 1385, taking Cockermouth to him.  Two years later in 1387 the earls of Douglas and Fife surprised and captured the castle, though it was soon reoccupied.  The castle passed briefly out of the control of the Percy family after Earl Henry fell at the battle of Towton on 29 March 1461.  The fortress was then seized by the Yorkists with the earl of Wiltshire and Dr John Morton being taken prisoner there.  With the death of its new lord, Warwick the Kingmaker in 1471, it reverted to the Percy earls who
regularly spent money on the castle chapel and chantry.  In 1477, 900 shingles were purchased for 27s to repair the roof over the kitchen tower.

By the sixteenth century most English and Welsh castle were moving into a state of disrepair, their reason for existence fading in the settled life of the country.  On the Scottish border things were different and the castle's military uses continued for another century or more.  In 1538 when Furness abbey was suppressed, Southwell wrote from there to Cromwell stating that:

According to the king's commandment we intend to repair to Egremont castle and Cockermouth, intending no more to return to Furness.... leaving the king 3 goodly lordships well peopled, the one adjoining the other; the lordship of Furness, the barony of Kendal and the honour of Cockermouth.

Consequently Cockermouth was well enough maintained to receive Mary Queen of Scots
in 1568.  While there Queen Elizabeth's agents intercepted her at the castle and took her to Carlisle.  The castle owner, Earl Thomas Percy of Northumberland, on hearing that she had been taken in his castle demanded custody of her, but was refused.  The next year the earl rebelled and was subsequently executed.  On 26 February 1569, it was found that as Cockermouth castle did not have a current keeper it was to be committed to George Lamplugh who was ordered to garrison it.  The castle was subsequently returned to the earl's heir.

Surveys in 1577 and 1580 found the castle belonging to the earl of Northumberland and although partially decayed it was thought easily repairable for some £200.  The earlier survey found:

There is also a castle in Cockermouth situate between the waters of Derwent and Cocker with a trench or dry ditch about the same with 2 barns and other buildings and also a parcel of land called the Green without the castle gates containing by estimation 2 acres which is of small value for the castle and other buildings are situate upon the same.  The castle is now in great decay as well in the stonework as in the timberwork... The castle is covered in lead....

The castle appeared operational in 1591 when Wilfrid Lawson was made custodian of the castle by the earl with a yearly fee of £10.  When the earl of Northumberland was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 the Crown ordered the seizure of his castles of Tynemouth, Alnwick, Prudhoe and Cockermouth.  However, the castle constable wrote to Lord Salisbury on 14 November 1605, disclaiming any involvement in any plots and begging that Cockermouth should not be seized as the castle was for the mostly ruinous, although his wife's son dwelt in the castle gatehouse.  On the 24 November this plea was accepted and the castle was not seized.

Again the earls of Northumberland resumed their castle, but
, on 22 September 1645, wishing it to play no part in the Civil War, stated  that ‘the place is neither strong nor useful'.  Despite this, Parliament placed soldiers in the fortress with a consequence that in August 1648 the garrison was besieged by 500 Royalist troops before being relieved on 29 September.  The siege does not appear to have been pressed and in 1649 it was noticed that various roofs had been removed and the defences somewhat dismantled with the ditch outside the inner gatehouse filled up, although the outer gatehouse remained inhabited.  By 1676 there were only 4 bedrooms, a dining room and a kitchen in use, together with stables and cellars, a bakehouse and a courthouse.

In 1802-5 Lord Egremont decided to live at the castle every July and August, which resulted in the building of residential rooms along the north wall of the outer bailey and a stable block along the south wall.  Within 50 years further building work included the residential wing between the outer gatehouse and the kitchen tower and an office block along the east wall of the outer bailey.  In 1904 further offices were built along the east curtain between the outer gatehouse and the Flag Tower.

It tends to be assumed that there was a castle standing at Cockermouth late in the reign of King Stephen (1135-54), although, as is recorded above, there is no actual mention of a fortress here until 1221.  It is similarly claimed that the first castle of Cockermouth was on the rather pathetic mound called Tute Hill (NY124307), just west of the town.  These claims that little nearby mounds were precursors of the real castle viz. Brimpsfield, Hay on Wye, St Briavels etc, abound and have no historical validity.  Almost certainly Cockermouth castle was founded, probably in the twelfth century, at its current site.

The fortress is set on the western edge of a ridge nearly 40' above the confluence of the Rivers Derwent and Cocker.  The apex of this is makes an equilateral triangular about 150' each side.  Attached to this to the east is a rectangular outer ward approximately 200' by 180'.

Inner Ward
Although often described as a motte and bailey there is no evidence that Cockermouth castle was ever anything other than a ringwork or enclosure castle.  The triangular inner ward is of many phases.  Perhaps the oldest part is the south curtain which has 3 pilaster buttresses and seems to end at the 18' by 10' bell turret, a rectangular watchtower.  The lower 15' of this wall appears to be original, although the upper 10' is in the more modern, probably fourteenth century ashlar.  On the north side of this the interior wall of the eastern range breaks off just beyond the turret with the remnants of a doorway or gateway.  This is claimed to be the first entrance to the castle inner ward, before it was extended eastwards.  From the bell turret the wall continues some 50' east and then makes a right angled turn towards the north to form the current eastern curtain of the inner ward. 

The main feature of the east front is a projecting twin towered rectangular gatehouse, rather similar to those found at Carlingford and Dunamase in Ireland and Wigmore in Herefordshire.  It's high arch bears some comparison with Hermitage over the Scottish border and the gatehouse converted into a keep at Cahir in Ireland.  Surprisingly there is no trace of a portcullis, although there was apparently a drawbridge to the front and a single gate to the rear.  On either side of the gatepassageway were 2 rectangular chambers with loops to the east and garderobes in the external walls.  In the centre of each floor were trapdoors, apparently leading to prisons 18' below.  This bears some comparison to the layout at the outer gate at Carlisle.

Behind the gatehouse was a large wooden ceilinged chamber with doorways to vaulted rooms in the east range to north and south.  The northern chamber was residential with mural stairs, mural chambers, garderobes, fireplaces and windows on 2 upper floors.  Presumably the rooms to the south were similar, but they are now largely destroyed.  From the main gate chamber another off-centre gate through the 9' thick wall led westwards into the inner ward proper.  In the middle of the north wall of the vaulted gate passageway is a small, vaulted, guardchamber with a single loop to the west.  This was entered via a shoulder headed doorway which, with the others in the chamber to the north, may point to a late thirteenth century date.

At the northern end of the east curtain is an irregular shaped kitchen tower.  This has a rectangular vaulted basement entered via a flight of steps in the thickness of the south wall.  The chamber is about 30' square and has a central octagonal pillar without base or cap, supporting 8 ribs to make a vault some 20' high.  To the east are 2 lights, which, with the solitary drain to the exterior in the north-east corner, makes up the entirety of the room's furniture.  In some ways it is similar to the vaulted basement in Morlais keep.  Just possibly the tower was once such a feature, before the ground level was converted into a kitchen.  Certainly the tower has a pilaster buttress at the east end of the north wall and the south end of the east wall, while its ashlar walls may show evidence of reworking.  The 'keep' at Usk is also asymetrical.  The surviving first floor windows of the tower are shoulder headed while the ground floor kitchen fireplaces are 11' across. 
These 2 fireplaces in the south wall probably date from the turn of the fourteenth century as they are similar to those found in the kitchen tower at Denbigh castle.  Further the kitchen by the hall is mentioned in 1311, although this may have been another structure in the outer ward.  Set in the wall and accessed by the stair to the battlements is a small 9' by 5' mural chamber with a rose window and an aumbry.  This again would suggest a residentual phase for the tower before the conversion to a kitchen.

The hall, apparently entered by a great Early English arch which was only inserted after 1774, lay west of the kitchen and again shows much evidence of rebuildings.  It is about 50' long and 30' wide.  It stands upon a cellar and still retains a steep roof crease on the kitchen tower wall.  The probably fifteenth century hall buttress adjoining the kitchen shows an unusual and poorly thought out junction.  Settlement and slippages of the underlying soil have made all 3 buttresses come away from the wall they were once supposed to support.  The lower portion of this wall may be thirteenth century, but the upper courses and windows are more likely Tudor.  Next to these is a stair leading to a boldly projecting garderobe. 

At the western end of the site is the D shaped west tower.  The basement of this has 3 embrasures containing 3 early loops.  Above this are the remnants of a later superstructure with a hexagonal interior.  The base of the tower may resemble the D shaped tower in the inner bailey at Wigmore or even those in the outer wards at White Castle and Chepstow.  The upper storeys appear connected to the adjoining garderobe turret to the north.  Further buildings lay alongside the east curtain and there was a 60' deep well just south of the hall.

During the mid to late fourteenth century the castle, without any evidence, is said to have been strengthened by Thomas Lucy (d.1365).  This work is claimed to be the upper parts of the north and south curtain wall, the west tower, and the bell turret and internally the surviving low stone walls of the great hall and the so-called lord's and lady's chambers.

Rebuilding work was certainly undertaken by Matilda Lucy (d.1398) and her first husband Earl Gilbert of Angus (d.1381) and completed by her second husband, Earl Henry Percy (d.1408).  This work is claimed to include the kitchen tower and other rooms, collectively known as the 'Percy Wing'.  These were built above the alleged ditch of the earlier castle, with the ditch itself being used for cellars.  The heraldry over the outer gate shows that the bulk of this appears to be their work too.

Outer Ward
Protecting the inner ward east curtain was a great ditch that has now been filled in.  There are 2 later buttresses on the south curtain, an almost central 8' square one on the east curtain which may be a sixteenth century addition to carry a small cannon.  There is a final buttress astride the site of the great inner ward ditch to the north, although much of this northern wall is a post 1739 rebuild.  Another buttress is on the peculiar outer ward gatehouse.  This appears to have been another gatetower about 50' by 32' and 3 storeys high.  It has guard chambers to north and south of the round headed, but not Romanesque, passageway. 

Over the castle gate, between the second and third storeys, are 5 stone shields.  The central one is the Lucy escutcheon, gules, 3 lucies, hauriant argent, when facing the entrance, on the right is the blue lion of the Percys on a golden field and to the extreme right is the argent saltire on gules of the Nevilles, the coat of Margaret (d.1372), Earl Henry's first wife and mother of his children.  To the left of centre is Multon, argent 3 bars gules and on the extreme left, the golden pierced cinquefoil, surrounded by an orle of cross crosslets on gules, of Umfraville, the coat of Matilda's first husband (Earl Gilbert, d.1381).  This would indicate that the arms were placed here between Earl Gilbert's death in 1381 and Earl Henry's fall from grace in 1403.  Presumably the gatehouse was built in this time.

Within the gatehouse there was a portcullis, followed by 2 sets of great doors.  It appears likely that the upper parts of the tower were rebuilt in the fifteenth century, unless the whole structure is of that date.  There is also a stair turret with groined roof to the south-west and a solid turret to the north west.  A later barbican, 18' long, has been added to the east.  This was only some 15' high and had a parapet reached via stairs in the south wall.  The front of the barbican was protected by 2 rectangular turrets and a drawbridge which must have been about 1' thick judging by the remains of its recess.

In the south-east corner of the ward is the 31' square flag tower which was apparently built and used for the holding of manorial courts and audits in the fourteenth century.  It has no stairs within it, access to the upper 2 floors being reached by 2 separate exterior staircases.  The battlements were reached via stairs from the curtain.  The 2 garderobe exit to the west through the tower plinth indicate that the tower was originally planned as residential. 

A small excavation made during the building of the estate offices in 1904 found that the flag tower was built just east of the foundations of an earlier D shaped tower.  This early tower probably marked the flag tower's predecessor which may have originally been similar to the surviving west tower of the inner ward.  If this was true, it would indicate that the castle enceinte was originally built as one with the D shaped towers to the 3 angles and therefore that the original masonry castle covered the entire plateau.  However, the stonework facing of this tower was made of fine ashlar laid in a brown clay, rather than mortar, which suggests a different build altogether to the basement of the west tower, although either could have been remortared.  Regardless of this, the masonry style does compliment the outer gatehouse, suggesting that the 2 may have been contemporary, with the D tower quite rapidly being superceded by the new flag tower. 


Copyright©2021 Paul Martin Remfry