Tebay is an odd castle, much mutilated by the passing of time and the River Lune.  This river flows southwards from Tebay to Kirkby Lonsdale and then to the sea in Morecambe Bay.  The site of Tebay castle therefore blocks the main north to south route through the mountains between Kendal and Penrith and is at the focal point between these castles and Brough, Bowes and Barnard Castle to the east.  As such it may have been founded in the reign of King William Rufus (1087-1100) when this district was brought firmly under Norman control with the fortification of Carlisle in 1092.  That said, as a powerful motte and bailey castle it might just be a royal fortress from the time of William I (1066-87) marking the northernmost outpost of that monarch's Yorkshire lands, as the lands mentioned in Domesday lie only some 5 miles to the south of it.  Most likely though, it is the work of Rufus when his forces advanced over the mountains to the south and east of Tebay.

Despite this speculation, the first known holder of Tebay was probably a Ralph Tybai who witnessed a grant of Kirkby Thore to Holme Cultram abbey in the period soon after it's foundation around 1150.  Mention of Tebay can next be found in the Westmorland pipe roll of 1178.  Here it was recorded that £1 worth of land had been given to Herbert Tebay in Tebay by the king's writ.  Judging from his name, he or his family had previously held land here and that tenure may have been disrupted during the Young King's War of 1173-74.  Later evidence certainly points to political interference in this castlery.

It has been speculated for a long time that the land of Tebay belonged in the twelfth century to the Allerston family of Yorkshire who held it as a member of Pickering.  However, the surviving evidence does not support this.  Instead the early lord of the district appears to be the above mentioned Herbert Tebay who also oversaw the restocking of the royal Westmorland manors in 1178.  Herbert was to continue holding the 20s worth of land in Tebay until 1200, even if the accounts recording this in Westmorland did largely stop after 1179.

It has been claimed that in 1189 Tebay passed with the heiress Helen Allerston to Alan Valoignes (d.1195) and then to her next 2 husbands in succession, Hugh Hastings (d.1202) and Robert Vipont (d.1228).  A study of the evidence disproves this assertion.  In 1191 it was noted that the sheriff of Westmorland was allowed 1m (13s 4d) for the land given to Alan Valoignes for the past half year at the king's writ.  Presumably then, the king granted Alan his land at the same time as Gilbert Fitz Remfry was granted his lands in Kendal, although Alan's charter seems not to have survived.  The next year, 1192, the sheriff was allowed the full 2m (£1 6s 8d) for the land which had been given to Alan Valoignes (d.1195).  This allowance of 2m (£1 6s 8d) continued until 1195 by which time Alan was dead and the quittance was subsequently allowed to Hugh Hastings who had fined 220m (£146 13s 4d) for having Alan's widow to wife and all his hereditary lands.  The quittance of 2m (£1 6s 8d) for the land Hugh Hastings (d.1202) was recorded year on year until 1200.  However, this land does not appear to have been Tebay, but may possibly have been Crossby Ravensworth (Crosseby Ravenswart), the church of which was granted by Torphin Allerston to Whitby abbey before 1156 and confirmed by his son Alan in September 1174.  This vill lay only 6 miles north of Tebay and also remained to the Hastings family.

In 1200 Herbert Tebay fined for 10m (£6 13s 4d) for having his son Robert placed in charge of his hereditary lands of which he immediately paid 5m (£3 6s 8d).  The next entry states that Hugh Hastings (d.1202) fined for 100m (£66 13s 4d) for having the land of Tebay as a hereditary fee.  Of this sum he paid £20 that year, leaving a debt of £46 13s 4d.  The fine roll adds a little further detail to this with the statement that for having Tibbey in hereditary Hugh was to render to the king 5s yearly for all services owed.  The implication from this small amount could well be that Tebay was largely wasted at this time.  The case for the Allerstons holding Tebay is also demolished at Hilary 1200 when a jury found that:

Tebay (Tibeia) was in the hand of King Henry the king's father after Hugh Moreville took it away from Sheriff Peter in time of war, and likewise in the time of King Richard and in the time of the king's lordship, until he delivered it to the aforesaid Hugh [Hastings], who now holds it. 

Quite clearly from this, Tebay was in the hands of the sheriff of Westmorland until the war of 1173-74 when Hugh Morville (d.1202) seized it, probably for the king of Scots.  It was then retaken by royal forces and remained in the king's hands until 1200 when it was granted by King John to Hugh Hastings (d.1202).  Herbert Tebay can therefore been seen as nothing more than a tenant of the lordship which was probably originally based upon Tebay castle.  This again supports the notion that the fortress was founded by William Rufus (1087-1100), around 1092 when he annexed Carlisle.  Tebay castle then remained a royal fortress, probably until it was destroyed or abandoned when the North of England was annexed by King David of Scotland in 1138.  Thus, up to the war of 1173-74, the castle site remained under the nominal control of the sheriffs.  Certainly no mention of Tebay castle ever appears in the surviving historical record.

Although it can be seen that the overlordship of Tebay belonged to Hugh Hastings in place of the sheriff/king from 1200, it is also clear that the Tebays held Tebay from them.  Robert Tebay, who took over the land from his father in 1200, seems to have been alive up to around 1240 and had at least one house in Carlisle.  This small link of Tebay with Carlisle, may strengthen the impression that Tebay castle may have been the work of William Rufus (1087-1100) during the conquest of Carlisle in 1092, rather than an earlier work of his father, William I (1066-87).  Robert Tybai was still living in 1246 when he was provost of Carlisle.  It is presumed that he was succeeded by a son, Simon Tybai who is mentioned in the third quarter of the thirteenth century.  Thomas Tybay may have been his son who was witnessing charters in 1270 and still living in 1293 and later.  Presumably none of these men, or their overlords lived at Tebay castle, which was probably abandoned quite early in its career when its position by 2 flooding rivers made it untenable.

It can therefore be seen that the castle was probably abandoned before the site was seized by Hugh Morville (d.1202) in 1173/74.  If the castle was now worthless, the same was not true of the land.  In 1201, Herbert/Robert Tebay paid the last 5m (£3 6s 8d) of his fine, while, after the debt of Hugh Hastings for having Tebay is noted, came a new fine of 20m (£13 6s 8d) and a palfrey for Hugh having warren in Tebay (Tieby) and Crosby Ravensworth (Crossebi).  Of these 2 places, Hugh seems to have acquired Crossby Ravensworth from the Allerston family, but, as we have seen, Tebay he had bought from King John.  The 2m (£1 6s 8d) that the sheriff allocated to Alan Valoignes and then Hugh Hastings was therefore more likely for Crosby Ravensworth than Tebay.  In 1202 it was recorded that Hugh paid £6 of his debts, bringing the total down to £80 1m (£80 13s 4d) and a palfrey.  The same year it was also noted that the sheriff owed and paid 13s 9d from the farm of Tebay held by Hugh Hastings.  This is no doubt due to the sheriff taking control of Tebay after Hugh's death this year before 7 November 1202.  The custody of Tebay, with the widowed Helen Allerston, then passed to the bishop of Norwich on 14 July 1203 and in 1204 to Robert Vipont who took on the debt assigned to the bishop of 100m (£66 13s 4d) for custody.  The same year he married the lady, thus taking Tebay into the Vipont estates.  As Robert also obtained Appleby castle as well as all Westmorland that year, Tebay disappears from the historical record as do the pipe rolls for the county.  Indeed, when Robert does begin sending in some accounts for the county from 1207 until 1211, Tebay never appears.

Despite the general lack of evidence, the final descent of Tebay is clear.  Sometime after 1204, when Robert Vipont obtained Tebay by marrying the widow of Hugh Hastings (d.1202), his brother, Ivo Vipont (d.1239), made a grant to St Peter's Hospital, York.  In this the bounds of the grant were described as running along a brook to a pit (foveam) by the highway (publicam stratam) from Appleby to Tebay and then westwards to the bounds of Crosby Ravensworth....  One of the witnesses to this was Thomas Hastings (d.bef.1246), the lord of Tebay.  It would seem that he now held his land of the Viponts as during the reign of Edward IV (1461-83) a feudary of the Clifford lordship of Westmorland was made.  This recorded that Thomas Hastings (d.bef.1246) once held Tibbey directly as 2 carucates of land and paid 5s yearly to be quit of all services.  Currently it was held from an unnamed Hastings by Thomas Wharton and Richard Ristwald.  Quite clearly Tebay was still held under the same terms as Hugh Hastings had bought it in 1202.  The castle, of course, being derelict and probably half washed away, was never mentioned.

The denuded remains of Tebay castle, presently known as Castle Howe, stands some 300' east of the junction of the Birk Beck with the River Lune which skirts around the site from the east.  The castle is built of glacial debris and as such proved easy prey to the flooding of the river which had helped form its site.  The castle consisted of a large motte to the north.  This has been largely destroyed, with probably less than a quarter of it still remaining.  The northern portion has simply been eaten away by the floods of the River Lune.  What remains is wedge shaped, with the southern portion still having the remains of its circular ditch dividing it from the bailey to the south.

Judging from the remains of the motte it was probably about 180' basal diameter and may have stood some 20' or more above the flood plane.  It may have had a summit diameter of some 80', while the apparent rampart on the top would seem to be more a feature of the river erosion of the base of the motte leading to its partial collapse.  This in turn would suggest that the exterior of the motte was made of a more tamped clay than the interior.  The ditch to the south is about 20' wide and nearly 10' deep and has a slight counterscarp to the south.  There is no trace of the ditch continuing around the motte, but due to the destruction of this portion of the castle by erosion that is hardly surprising.

The castle bailey lay to the south of the motte and is currently at least 300' east to west by over 350' north to south and standing up to 8' above the flood plane.  The south side of the ward has apparently been damaged by the motorway slip road and probable dumping from its construction.  Traces of a ditch remains around the bailey and evidence of a rampart is visible here and there amongst the destruction.  An old report stated that ‘evidence of exposed stone structures [were] visible on the eastern side', but there is now no trace of this, though some large stones can be seen in the flood washed western scarp of the site.  If the site was a royal build, then certainly its motte dimensions, as far as can be judged, do not show it as a great motte.


Copyright©2023 Paul Martin Remfry