Liddel lordship in Cumberland was a separate entity to the Scottish barony of Liddel to the north which was centred around Hermitage castle.  The history of the English barony seems to have begun soon after the conquest of the district by King William Rufus in 1092.  In 1212 it was recorded that Ranulf le Meschin (d.1129), as lord of Carlisle, created 2 border sub-lordships or baronies before 1120.  One of these was at Burgh by Sands and the other was based on Liddel (Lydale).  These were to protect the land north of Carlisle which had only been added to the English realm in 1092.  Burgh by Sands was given to Ranulf's brother in law, Robert Trevers, while Liddel was given to Turgis Brundos.  Presumably Turgis founded Liddel castle, although no similar castle seems to have been built by Trevers in Burgh by Sands.

Turgis had been succeeded by his son, William Brundos, by September 1129.  He took the surname Rosedale and made a grant to St Peter's Hospital, York.  This consisted of his land of 
Kershopefoot (Cresope) which ran:

from the ditch of the Galwegians and the stream running from there into Liddel and on the other side of the ditch straight to the high moor and so by the watershed on the moor as far as the old route to Roxburgh and as that way falls into Kershopefoot from above the shealings which were Eadulf's.  If this pasture proved insufficient the churchmen were to take further land from his forest as well as wood for building...

This grant was confirmed by William's son, Turgis.

William was dead before 1164, by which time he had founded a priory at Rossendale in Yorkshire as was confirmed by his son, Turgis Rosedale.  Turgis seems to have died young by 1167.  Before his death he made a grant of ‘the religious house on the Lidal with all its adjacent lands' as well as the church of Kirkandrews (Kirchanders) to Jedburgh abbey.  Kirkandrews is currently on the north bank of the Esk, unlike the rest of Liddel barony.  Also around this time an unidentified Guy Rosedale with the consent of his son, Ralph, granted 42 acres of land between the rivers Esk and Liddel at the junction of these rivers with the right of fishing from Liddel ditch to the church.  As an acre is 208'9" square it seems likely that 42 acres covers the area cutting off the river at about the northern part of Canonbie.  It therefore appears that either in opposition to these grants, or to augment them, Ranulf Soulis (d.bef.1172), between 29 November 1160 and 20 September 1164, granted the Jedburgh monks the church of the Vale of Liddel.  This he augmented with Doddington church (near Barton, Northamptonshire) and half a ploughgate at Nesbit (Nesbith, Northumberland).  This suggests that Liddel church stood near the junction of the 2 rivers, possibly at Canonbie, although its site is often given as near the alleged Scottish Liddel castle at Castleton.  In 1275, when the diocese of Glasgow was taxed, a Castleton (Cassiltoun) vicarage was recorded in Tevidaill deanery and was assessed at £4.  Considering that St Martin's church in Liddesdale was not mentioned the implication is that Castleton and St Martins were one and the same place.  In 1220 the abbot of Jedburgh agreed with the bishop of Glasgow ‘that the vicarage of Liddel St Martin should remain as the charter of the bishop had fixed it' and that the chaplain and prior there should yield canonical obedience to the bishop.  Before 1165 when granted by Soulis the grant included:

the church of St Martin of the Valley of Liddel, with one carucate of land from above Fulwde, to the east head, then up to the western head as far as Nordereden, and afterwards across to Potterelampard, and likewise the wood of Potterelampard, and the plane around the Dividt and likewise Dena in the higher ground to the east, and with all his other appurtenances, as Chaplain Osbert held it the best...

The English Liddel, presumably with its castle, passed to Nicholas Stuteville (d.1218), presumably on the death of Turgis Rosedale in 1167.  Sometime before 1120 Robert Stuteville had married Erneburga Brundos, a daughter of the first Turgis Brundos of Liddel.  Consequently by 1173, Liddel had devolved upon Nicholas (d.1213+), the second son of Robert Stuteville of Cottingham (d.1186) and lord of Brinklow castle.  He therefore found himself in the front line of the war between kings Henry II (d.1189) and Henry III (d.1183), in which the king of Scots took the side of the Young King Henry (d.1183), while Nicholas supported his father, King Henry II (d.1189).  As a result:

whilst besieging Carlisle, William the Lion... went in person with the remaining part of his army through Northumbria, wasting the lands of the king and of his barons and took with his arms the castle of Liddel, which belonged to Nicholas Stuteville...

Presumably Nicholas soon regained the castle after his father helped captured King William I (d.1214) at the battle of Alnwick in July 1174.  Nicholas died soon after 1213 and was succeeded by his son Nicholas who died in 1220, holding Liddel.  He was succeeded by his second son, another Nicholas who died in 1233 as lord of Cottingham and Liddel.  Sometime before his death, he had leased Liddel to his nephew, Eustace Stuteville (d.1241).  This appears to have happened before William Valognes of Panmure died in 1219, as it was recorded that he had held Liddel for his nephew, Eustace Stuteville.  Since then Liddel had gone to Earl Sear Quincy (d.3 November 1219), and after his death to his son Earl Roger Quincy (d.1264).

Eustace achieved his majority in early 1223 and took full possession of Liddel.  However, he died heirless in the Holy Land the same year.  Before 29 May 1229, Joan Stuteville (d.1276), the daughter of Nicholas Stuteville (d.1233), had married Hugh Wake (d.1241) without the king's licence.  With this marriage the barony and castle eventually passed to the Wake family as per a fine of 10,000m (£6,666 13s 4d) on 2 February 1241.  Therefore on 2 January 1242, King Henry III granted custody of Eustace's lands, including Liddel castle, to Joan until their children were of lawful age.  Joan remarried before Michaelmas 1244 to Hugh Bigod (d.1266) and died before 6 April 1276, when she was recorded as lady of Liddel barony which in Cumberland consisted of such places as Easton, Arthuret, Stubhill, Brackenhill, 6 burgages in Carlisle and the forest of Liddel which included various assarts or closes, as well as a fulling and a water mill.  She also held other places in Yorkshire.

On Joan Stuteville's death in 1276 her barony of Liddel passed to her eldest son, Baldwin Wake (d.1282).  On his death 1282 a Cumberland jury found that the barony of Liddel was held in chief by cornage and that the lord should answer to the sheriff of Cumberland for the king's use, while the tenants should make suit at the lord's court of Stubhill every 3 weeks and suit to the mills.  The park was without deer, while Nichole forest was 7 leagues in length of which 4 leagues were 3 leagues wide and the other 3 only 1 league.  Thankfully a description of Liddel castle was also given.  This consisted of:

the site of a castle containing these houses, viz. a wooden hall with 2 solars and cellars, a chapel, a kitchen, a byre, a grange and a wooden granary which threatens [to collapse], but might be repaired for 5m (£3 6s 8d). 

Further the manor was not extended as more was needed to keep up the estate than it generated in revenue.  Also listed were the knights' fees and serjeanties owing to Liddel.  The whole manor was worth £295 16s 2d, while the goods and chattels found at Liddel were worth £46 13s 3d. 

Baldwin's son, John Wake, was prominent in the Scottish wars and was present at the battle of Berwick on 27 April 1296.  He died young before 10 April 1300 when he was just 31.  The inquisition post mortem carried out that June showed that Liddel barony was now in a poor way.  The castle, including its park, was now worth nothing ‘on account of the war' and much of the land was ‘wasted and burned by the Scots'.  At Stubhill it was recorded that the ‘tenants have been slain by the Scots and the town burnt'; Easton was worth nothing ‘because it is burned and no one inhabits it'; the value of Arthuret was reduced from £23 15s 4d to £13 13s 10d, while Kirklinton's value was reduced from £8 9d to £3 4½d.  Quite clearly the war had been devastating to Liddel barony.  Worse, the barony was now the inheritance of Thomas, the son of Baldwin Wake and he was only 2 years old.  Consequently, on 20 September 1300, Simon Lyndeseye was ordered to take custody of John's lands ‘of Lidel and le Ermitage... for the maintenance of himself and his men who are in the king's service in Scotland'; saving to Joan, John's widow, her reasonable dower.  This instruction in itself is interesting as it shows that the Wake's barony of Liddel now included Hermitage in Liddesdale.  Subsequently this was found on the Scottish side of the border.  Supposedly Hermitage replaced the other castle of Liddel.  On 10 November 1300, the original order was expanded, ordering Simon to keep:

Hermitage castle, the mote of Lydel and the lands in the valley of Liddel both in England and Scotland belonging to the late John Wake saving the dower of his widow, Joanna.

To aid him in this Simon was to spend £20 on the walls, houses and buildings in
castle.  There then followed a clause to the sentence that could not have applied to Hermitage castle, but could to English Liddel castle.  This ran:

also repairing the mote and the ditches around, strengthening and redressing the same and the peel and the palisades and making lodges within the mote if necessary for the safety of the men at arms of the garrison...

This strongly suggests that by this time Hermitage castle was the major fortress of the barony, while Liddel was merely a wooden peel or motte (mote).  The reasons why this was not Hermitage castle is simple.  It is always difficult to correctly translate the medieval word mote when dealing with castle sites - does it mean moat, fishpond or motte?  The mention of the mote and ditches in this case quite obviously means motte and ditches as it would be repetitious to say repair the moat and ditches.  Further, it would hardly be logical to make lodges within a moat or fishpond, but within or on a motte makes perfect sense.  It can therefore be seen that this second clause must refer to the English Liddel castle, which appears to have once had a motte.

On 12 September 1307, King Edward II (1307-27) wrote to his sheriff of Roxburgh informing him that both he and his deceased father, Edward I, had repeatedly asked for Johanna the widow of John Wake (d.1282) to be given her dower in the valley of Liddel and that the king now wished to do so.  He therefore asked for the £32 of the issues [of Liddel], which Edward I (1272-1307) had pardoned to William Soulis, to be sent to him so that this could be given to Johanna.  The sheriff replied that this could not be done as Soulis was overseas and had no goods to be seized in the district.  Further, the poor tenants of Liddel had fled into England with their goods for fear of the enemy.  Presumably Hermitage castle had been lost to the English Liddel barony about the same time.

On 10 April 1310, the king gave the ward of Liddel to John Segrave (d.1325) allowing him to keep the issues of £513 18s 3d due for his fees while Warden of Scotland and for the value of horses he had lost in fulfilling his duties.  He was also given the dower of Johanna Wake (d.1314) there.  By June 1311 the government seem to not have known who was in charge of Liddel and so sent a message to the warden of the ‘piel of Ledel'.  It was some time after 1307 and before 1315 that King Robert Bruce granted John Soulis (d.1318) the barony of Kirkandrews on Esk and the land of Brettalach with their purtenances just as they had been held by John Wake (d.1300).  This would appear to have been an attempt to reunite both English and Scottish parts of Liddesdale.

Liddel castle would seem to have been within the district, between Lochmaben and Carlisle, described in 1317 by William Dacre as so utterly wasted and burned that there was neither man nor beast left in it.  By October 1319 Thomas Wake (d.1349) was of age and sent 65 men, presumably from Liddel, to help the 8,080 strong army besiege Berwick.  About November 1319 it became obvious from a letter to the king that men loyal to Edward II held Liddel, but that his enemies lay ‘about Hermitage' which Edward II's men had intended to ravage, but for the enemy being forewarned of their coming.  Further, the treacherous actions of Constable John Harclay of Carlisle had led the best and richest men of Gilsland and Liddel to go over to the Scots enemy, with more than 97 defecting from the barony of Liddel alone.  Finally, John le Mareschal and John Prendregest had surrendered the peel of Liddel to the enemy and joined the Scots.  By 1323 Thomas Wake had himself described as Thome Wake Domini de Lidel on his seal.  Possibly Liddel was returned to Wake after 30 December 1330, when King Edward III (1327-77) wrote to the Scottish government asking that Thomas be reinstated in his lands as had been agreed with the late King Robert Bruce (d.1329).  On 24 February 1331, King David Bruce's government replied that they would look favourably upon this and on 16 May 1331 a perambulation of the Northumberland border was ordered as well as the redressing of offences in Cumberland.  Possibly this resulted in the splitting of Liddel lordship into an English south and a Scottish north, although Thomas Wake (d.1349) was still complaining on 22 April 1332 that his Scottish lands had not been returned to him.

On 8 May 1340 Thomas was amongst those ordered to:

put down the evildoers who infest the passes and woods in Cumberland, make prisoners of and rob and slay the king's lieges both Scots and English.

The castle or peel of Liddel was obviously back under English control and was serviceable in 1346 when John Burnard of Ardross was wounded attacking it.  The siege was described by the local Lanercost chronicler.  On 6 October 1346, King David II led:

strong and eager men, most ready for war... 2,000 men-at-arms and 20,000 commonalty of the villages, who are called Hobelers among them and of foot soldiers and archers it was calculated there were 10,000 and more.... these invaded England with a lionlike rush, marching straight upon the fortress of Liddel.  Sir William Douglas arrived with his army at the said fortress in the morning and David in the evening, laying siege thereto on the aforesaid day.  For 3 days running they lay there in a circle, nor did they during the said days allow any attacks to be made on the threatened fortress.  But on the fourth day, having armed themselves before sunrise with spears, stones, swords and clubs, they delivered assaults from all quarters upon the fortress and its defenders.  Thus both those within and without the fortress fought fiercely, many being wounded and some slain; until at length some of the Scottish party furnished with beams and housetimbers, earth stones and fascines, succeeded in filling up the ditches of the fortress.  Then some Scots, protected by the shields of the men-at-arms, broke through the bottom of the walls with iron tools and many of them entered the said fortress in this manner without opposition.  Knights and armed men entering the fortress killed all whom they found, with few exceptions and thus obtained full possession of the fortress.

King David then had the garrison commander, Walter Selby, executed after watching his sons strangled before his eyes, without even allowing him confession.  Again, this chronicle evidence is somewhat suspect, as one of Selby's sons was taken prisoner and held for 8 years, although there is no evidence that 2 other sons were not killed.  After the slaughter of many of the garrison the castle (municipium de Lidallis) was thrown to the ground.  Liddel, despite being destroyed, still remained in the hands of Thomas Wake (d.1349) as King David's army was shattered and he himself captured just a month later at the battle of Neville's Cross near Durham.

On Thomas Wake's death on 31 May 1349, an inquisition was ordered into his lands.  This found that the site of the destroyed castle and manor of Lydell was worth only 6d, while this and the fishery in the River Esk was all in Cumberland and this was held in chief by homage and fealty and the service of rendering 56s yearly at Carlisle for cornage.  He also had to do suit at the county court every month.  For this his sister, Countess Margaret of Kent (d.1349), was heiress.  She died that Michaelmas of the Black Death and Liddel passed to her daughter, Countess Joan of Kent (d.1388) and her descendants.  Before this happened ‘the castle, lands and lordship of Liddel both in England and Scotland' was given as dower to Blanche Plantagenet (d.1380), the widow of Thomas Wake (d.1349).  On 20 May 1357, this was granted to John of Gaunt (d.1399) with revision to the king after his and Blanche's death.  In 1380 it was recorded that the entire barony ‘with its members, vills, hamlets and parcels is worth nothing at present because it has been utterly ravaged by the Scots'.  Despite this, the government of King Richard II (1377-99) demanded back ‘the valley of Lydel entirely'.  Therefore they still seemed to think that all Liddesdale belonged to England.  The castle was never refortified.

The castle lies on the edge of a steep scarp dropping to the Liddel Water which marks the border between England and Scotland.  The river has eroded away the northern section of the site, leaving an odd looking site set on a 160' high bolder clay cliff.  In this respect it is somewhat similar to the Scottish Liddel castle, but not really Hermitage castle.

It is possible that the castle was begun as a motte and bailey, but that the bulk of the motte, to the north-west of the site, may have collapsed and been washed away by the river.  River erosion has probably accounted for the destruction of between a quarter and a half of the entire site.  Despite the heavy damage to the mound, it still stands some 20' above the inner ward bailey which protects the vulnerable south and east of this possible motte.  Against this being a motte is the fact that there is no surviving ditch between it and the inner ward.  What it might have been is therefore open to question.

The inner bailey has a fine rampart up to 12' high and a deep ditch, in places up to 14' deep externally.  The ward was some 200' in diameter.  The ditch surrounds the entire ‘motte' and inner bailey.  Beyond this to the south was an outer bailey which would have been kidney shaped if its northern part survived.  This was defended by a rampart some 5' high and protected by a ditch to the west only some 3' deep were there was a counterscarp.  The ground to the south seems to have a much denuded ditch which perhaps covered the powerful inner ward counterscarp.

Within the inner ward are the turf covered foundations of a building about 25' by 16', standing only some 3' high and orientated more north-west to south-east than east to west.  This may well have been the stone footings of the castle hall mentioned in 1282, rather than a chapel.  Its thin walls certainly seem to preclude it from being the towerhouse mentioned in the district.  Probably this was at Highmoat which lies less than half a mile to the south-west.


Copyright©2022 Paul Martin Remfry