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Enclosure castle known as Gleaston Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Aldingham, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.1336 / 54°8'1"N

Longitude: -3.1316 / 3°7'53"W

OS Eastings: 326159.528521

OS Northings: 471455.303199

OS Grid: SD261714

Mapcode National: GBR 6NKM.TZ

Mapcode Global: WH72J.VCYF

Entry Name: Enclosure castle known as Gleaston Castle

Scheduled Date: 4 December 1924

Last Amended: 21 May 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013966

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27693

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Aldingham

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Aldingham St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Gleaston medieval
enclosure castle. It is situated in a somewhat secluded location on the lower
slopes of Beacon Hill about 0.5km north east of Gleaston village and
immediately above the valley bottom through which Gleaston Beck flows. The
castle consists of a quadrilateral enclosure surrounded by a stone curtain
wall, and originally had strong square stone towers at each corner. These
towers provided residential accommodation for the owners while the enclosed
interior area would have been used for a range of purposes. Barracks, stables
and workshops would have lined the inner side of the curtain wall but the
absence of debris suggests that these buildings may have been of timber
construction. The castle was built of limestone with some of the architectural
features in red sandstone. The upstanding remains of the monument include the
ruins of three of the four corner towers and substantial lengths of all but
the northern curtain wall.
The north western tower stands at the highest point of the castle. It is the
largest of the four towers, and was built as a largely self-contained
residence. Although considerably ruined, it measures c.28m by 16m and still
stands up to 12m high. An entrance on the south side led into a spacious hall
which was lighted on the south and flanked on either side by dungeons. Stone
stairways led up to the living rooms on the first and second floors, with four
apartments on each floor. A long passage in the north wall of the first floor
communicates with a vertical shaft in the northern angle of the tower and
indicates that the latrines were located at this corner on all floors. The
surviving windows in this tower are narrow, but their sandstone quoins and
heads have been more elaborately carved than elsewhere in the castle. In the
west curtain wall immediately to the south of the north west tower there is a
gateway, now blocked, which provided access into the castle yard. The west
curtain runs south in a somewhat ruinous condition to connect with the south
western tower. About halfway along the wall's length there is a ruined portion
which projects westwards and which it is thought may mark the position of a
demolished tower. South of this point, and adjacent to the south western
tower, the curtain wall remains best preserved and measures up to 9m high by
2.7m thick. The now roofless south western tower is both the smallest in area
and, at the same time, the highest of the four angle towers. It measures c.10m
by 9.4m and stands c.19m high. A room on the ground floor is entered from the
castle yard by a door 1m wide. The first floor, reached by a stone staircase
in the east wall, has a fireplace and a couple of small narrow windows, and
may have accommodated constables or officers of the manor, the dungeon below
being a prison or store. The second floor is reached by exterior steps on the
north side with an entrance door having a pointed arch of red sandstone, and
is provided with a fireplace and two windows. The third floor is similar to
the room below. The battlements are reached by a winding staircase in the
north west angle, surmounted by a small watch turret. The three upper floors
each have a small latrine built into the thickness of the south wall.
Fragments survive of the south curtain wall which connects the south western
and south eastern towers. The south eastern tower, which is also roofless, is
a two storey building measuring c.13m by 9.5m and 12m high. Entrance is by a
door having a pointed arch in the west wall which leads into a basement. There
is a fireplace and two windows on the ground floor and a small latrine in the
thickness of the wall. There was probably a cellar which appears to have been
filled in with rubbish. Access was by a trap door in the floor. Access to the
upper room is by a staircase in the west wall. This room contains a fireplace,
four windows, and a latrine from which a doorway led out onto the south
curtain wall. There is a spiral stair surmounted by a watch turret which gave
access to the battlements. The east curtain wall connected the south eastern
and north eastern towers. This latter tower is now merely a mound of rubble.
The north curtain wall connected the north eastern and north western towers
but this too has been demolished. Within the castle parts of the enclosure
appear to have been artificially levelled and there are traces of earthworks
which probably indicate the site of buildings such as barracks, stables and
workshops. Construction of Gleaston Castle is thought to have commenced during
the latter half of the 13th century under the ownership of Sir John de
Harrington and at that time may have consisted of what is now the south west
tower and the southern part of the west curtain wall, together with a possible
tower at what is now the mid-point of the west curtain. This structure may
have been irreparably damaged by the Scottish raids of 1316 for it appears
that shortly after this time the curtain was repaired, extended and
strengthened with towers at each corner. The north western tower was probably
completed about 1340. In 1457 ownership of the castle fell by marriage to Lord
Bonville of Shuton and the following year the castle ceased to be a manorial
dwelling and thus quickly fell into disrepair. Gleaston castle is a Grade I
Listed Building.
All farm buildings, gateposts, modern walls, telegraph poles, and the road
surface on the eastern side of the monument are excluded from the scheduling
but the ground beneath 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

Despite a long period of neglect, Gleaston Castle survives reasonably well and
still retains significant remains of upstanding medieval fabric. It is a good
example both of this class of monument, and of the type of military
fortification which was constructed in northern England in response to a
specific threat; in this case the border wars and Scottish raids of the 13th
and 14th centuries.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Cowper, H S, 'Trans Cumb And West Antiq And Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Gleaston Castle, , Vol. XIII, (1913), 37-49
Kendall, W B, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Gleaston Castle, , Vol. VI, (1906), 184-90
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Enclosure Castles, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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