Ancient Monuments

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Moated site of Wolsty Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Holme Low, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.8422 / 54°50'32"N

Longitude: -3.3953 / 3°23'43"W

OS Eastings: 310489.66428

OS Northings: 550604.278333

OS Grid: NY104506

Mapcode National: GBR 4DQF.QZ

Mapcode Global: WH6YX.TKC7

Entry Name: Moated site of Wolsty Castle

Scheduled Date: 1 August 1961

Last Amended: 31 August 1995

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013508

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27666

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Holme Low

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Silloth Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the moated site of Wolsty Castle. It is located on flat
land close to the present coastline and approximately 7km west of Holme
Cultram Abbey, and includes an island or platform surrounded by a dry moat
which in turn is flanked by traces of an outer bank. The island measures c.40m
square and contains many earthworks and undulations which indicate a
combination of structural foundations of the medieval castle and stone robbing
trenches. There are two upstanding blocks of mortared masonry, one on the
north and one on the south side of the island and each about 1.5m high, which
show that the castle's curtain wall was over 2m thick. The surrounding moat
measures 20m-30m wide by 1.5m deep and is flanked by an outer bank 5m-10m wide
wide and up to 0.4m high. There are faint traces of an outlet channel at the
moat's south east corner.
Wolsty Castle was constructed during the first half of the 14th century as
protection for Holme Cultram Abbey which had been pillaged by the Scots
under Alexander II in 1216 and Robert Bruce in 1322. The castle received a
licence to crenellate in 1348 and was occupied by the Chamber family, one of
whom, Robert, was the Abbot of Holm Cultram. By 1572 the castle was in decay
and documentary sources indicate that the hall, chamber, the evidence house,
the kitchen, the peat house, byre and stable were ruinous. Repair work was
undertaken during the 1630s but by the latter half of the 17th century
the castle had been demolished and its stone taken for reuse in Carlisle.
A telegraph pole, and a modern field boundary on the monument's west side are
excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath these features is

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches,
often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more
islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some
cases the islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites
served as prestigious aristocratic and seigneurial residences with the
provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical
military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built was
between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in
central and eastern parts of England. However, moated sites were built
throughout the medieval period, are widely scattered throughout England and
exhibit a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes. They form a
significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding
of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples
provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains.

Despite some stone robbing, the moated site of Wolsty Castle survives
reasonably well and remains unencumbered by modern development. It is a rare
example in Cumbria of a moated castle constructed for the purpose of
protecting a nearby abbey, in this case Holme Cultram. The site will contain
buried remains of the medieval castle which is known from documentary sources
to have been occupied from the early 14th to the mid-17th centuries.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bewley, R H, 'Oxbow Monograph 36' in Prehistoric and Romano-British Settlement in the Solway Plain, (1994), 45, 90
Curwen, J F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Ser.' in Castles and Towers of Cumb, West and Lancs N of the Sands, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 241-3
Graham, T H B, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Extinct Cumberland Castles: Part III, , Vol. XI, (1911), 235-40
AP , Manchester University,
Darvill, T., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Moats, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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