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Kendal Castle and associated earthworks, and earlier ringwork

A Scheduled Monument in Kendal, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.3251 / 54°19'30"N

Longitude: -2.7364 / 2°44'10"W

OS Eastings: 352204.554893

OS Northings: 492418.559378

OS Grid: SD522924

Mapcode National: GBR 9LBF.CB

Mapcode Global: WH82W.YK45

Entry Name: Kendal Castle and associated earthworks, and earlier ringwork

Scheduled Date: 30 August 1922

Last Amended: 23 September 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008901

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23704

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Kendal

Built-Up Area: Kendal

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Kendal Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the 13th century Kendal Castle, together with the
late 12th century ringwork upon which it was constructed, and a group of
associated earthworks to the north. It is strategically situated on the summit
of a large glacial moraine in the Kent valley overlooking the town of Kendal.
The earliest features of the site are the impressive earthworks of the
ringwork. These include a virtually circular enclosure measuring approximately
76m in diameter which is surrounded by a ditch c.26m wide and c.3m deep.
Flanking the ditch is an outer bank 10m-19m wide and up to 3m high. This
ringwork would have had a timber palisade around the perimeter of the
enclosure and a timber bridge or drawbridge at the north of the perimeter,
giving access across the ditch into the enclosure. Within the enclosure there
would have been timber buildings. To the north of the enclosure and
surrounding ditch there is a rectangular enclosure measuring approximately 50m
by 30m that is flanked on its west and part of its north side by a ditch up to
15m wide and 1m deep. Adjacent to this ditch there is an outer bank 5m wide
and 0.5m high. This enclosured would have functioned as the outer court or
bailey of the ringwork and would have been occupied by further buildings,
perhaps including wattle and daub huts and pens for stock. The bailey would
have been defended by a wooden palisade and would also have contained the
barbican or outwork defending the entrance. To the north of the ditched bailey
are further earthworks including a rectangular platform and two rectangular
pits. The main access causeway to the ringwork runs through these earthworks
and across the bailey.
The ruins of the later castle include fragments of curtain wall, four towers,
and internal buildings constructed upon the site of the ringwork. The castle
was entered through a now demolished gatehouse on the north side which is
depicted as being flanked by two towers on an antiquarian sketch. The curtain
wall stands to a maximum height of c.2.4m and survives at its best along the
south side of the enclosure. It would originally have been topped with a
rampart walkway. To the east of the original entrance is the main living
accommodation, or hall, with a tower attached to its eastern corner. The hall
was of two storeys and the north and east walls still stand some 10m high.
Beneath the eastern part of the hall are two storage cellars roofed with
barrel vaults, and projecting from the south wall are fragments of a small
polygonal bay or room. The north wall of the hall has the remains of three
windows, a recess flanking what was a fourth window, and part of the segmental
arch of a large fireplace. The east wall has two window openings. Adjoining
the hall on the east was another room, of which part of the south wall can be
seen. At the north east angle of the hall the rhomboidal north tower,
originally with three floors, projects from the face of the curtain
wall to a height of 6m. Its main floor has small narrow windows in the north
west and south east walls. On the floor above is a fireplace and remains of a
window. A survey of the castle in 1572, by which time it was already in ruins,
describes the main buildings as containing a hall with an ascent of stairs, a
buttery, a pantry, one great chamber, two or three lesser chambers, and two or
three small rows of cellars. In a fragment of the curtain wall between the
north and south towers there is a recess indicating the site of an adjoining
building of which nothing now remains above ground. Nearby is a well 1m in
diameter and capped off at a depth of 0.5m. The south tower stands up to 3m
high but has been considerably repaired in the 20th century. It is thought to
have originally been a square structure. Adjoining it on the east are the
slight remains of a building of uncertain form. The west tower is a solid
semicircular projection on the outside face of the curtain wall. Between it
and the north west tower is a window embrasure or recess in the curtain wall.
The north west tower is cylindrical and originally of three storeys but the
uppermost has been destroyed. The lower storey has a rough stone vault and is
entered by a square headed doorway with a small narrow window adjacent. The
upper storey is entered by a doorway on the north from the rampart walk of the
curtain wall; it has a fireplace, window, and a spiral staircase which led to
the floor above. A garderobe is located off this staircase. North of this
tower is part of the end wall of a building formerly standing against the
curtain wall.
The ringwork was constructed c.1184, probably by Gilbert, the son of Roger
Fitz Reinfred, and succeeded Castle How motte and bailey on the opposite side
of the Kent valley. The earliest masonry of the stone castle is of 13th
century date. The monument's early occupants were the barons of Kendal but in
1215 the castle was forfeited to King John after the rebellion of the barons.
In 1241 it was owned by William de Lancaster III after which it was owned by
the de Brus family then the de Roos or Ross family and then the Parr family.
In 1509 Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII was born here. By 1566 the
castle had become property of the Crown on the attainder of the last of the
Parrs, William Marquis of Northampton, for treason in supporting Lady Jane
Grey. From this date on, it ceased to be occupied and was allowed to fall into
ruin. Limited excavation in the vicinity of the gateway during the 1950s and
1960s located evidence for the bank of the original ringwork, two phases of
curtain wall construction, a cobbled entrance through the gateway and traces
of a bridge abutment.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include the
floodlights surrounding the castle, a modern iron beacon and its concrete
setting to the north of the curtain wall, an information plaque and its stone
setting also to the north of the curtain wall, a flight of stone steps on the
monument's west side, and all wooden fences; the ground beneath all these
features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principal or sole defence comprises the walls and towers
bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but
this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide
accommodation. Larger sites might have more than one line of walling and there
are normally mural towers and gatehouses. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest. However, they
developed considerably in form during the 12th century when defensive
experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. The
majority of examples were constructed in the 13th century although a few were
built as late as the 14th century. Some represent reconstructions of earlier
medieval earthwork castles of the motte and bailey type, although others were
new creations. They provided strongly defended residences for the king or
leading families and occur in both urban and rural situations. Enclosure
castles are widely dispersed throughout England, with a slight concentration
in Kent and Sussex supporting a vulnerable coast, and a strong concentration
along the Welsh border where some of the best examples were built under Edward
I. They are rare nationally with only 126 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence and with respect to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples
retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late
Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprise a small defended
area containing buildings which was surrounded by a substantial ditch and a
bank surmounted by a timber palisade. Occasionally a more lightly defended
embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as
strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic
or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded
examples and less than 60 with baileys. As one of a limited number
and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks
are of particular significance to our understanding of the period.
Despite appearing somewhat ruinous, Kendal Castle still retains significant
remains of upstanding medieval fabric and is a rare example in Cumbria of an
enclosure castle which developed on the site of an earlier ringwork, the
earthworks of which survive well.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Machell, , Machell MSS137
Curwen, J E, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Series' in Castles And Towers of Cumberland And Westmorland, , Vol. 13, (1913), 145-9
Ferguson, R S , 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Old Series' in Kendal Castle, (1888), 178-85
Ferguson, R S , 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Old Series' in Kendal Castle, (1888), 178-85
Harbottle, B, 'Archaeological Bulletin' in Arch Bull for Westmorland, Northumberland, , Vol. 8, (), 13
Spence, J E, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Notes - Excavations at Kendal Castle, , Vol. LI, (1951), 185-7
FMW Report, Capstick, B, AM 107, (1991)
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Enclosure Castles, (1989)
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Ringworks, (1988)
RCHME, Westmorland, (1936)

Source: Historic England

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