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Egremont Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Egremont, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4801 / 54°28'48"N

Longitude: -3.5298 / 3°31'47"W

OS Eastings: 300980.53036

OS Northings: 510487.905127

OS Grid: NY009104

Mapcode National: GBR 3JSM.MS

Mapcode Global: WH5ZG.RNCD

Entry Name: Egremont Castle

Scheduled Date: 13 January 1915

Last Amended: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020455

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34977

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Egremont

Built-Up Area: Egremont

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Egremont

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthworks and the upstanding and buried remains
of Egremont Castle, together with its associated castle garth which formed
the outer defences of the monument. It began as a Norman motte and bailey
castle but later developed into an enclosure castle. It is strategically
located on an elevated knoll high above a crossing point of the River
Ehen, and consists of an artificially raised earthen mound known as a
motte together with an enclosed associated bailey. A broad ditch on the
west side separates the motte and bailey from a lower castle garth which
runs around the west, north and east sides of the motte and bailey.

Egremont Castle was constructed in about 1120 by William de Meschines and
consisted of a motte topped by a timber tower or keep within which the
occupants would have resided. An associated bailey, separated from the
motte by a dry ditch, was constructed to the south of the motte. This was
used for sheltering people and animals and would have contained numerous
buildings such as storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and bakehouse. During
the late 12th/early 13th centuries a stone curtain wall was built around
the foot of the motte and crossed the intervening ditch between the motte
and bailey to fully enclose the bailey. The castle's defences were further
enhanced by the digging of a broad dry ditch on the west side. An outer
gatehouse was added to the castle's west side and access was provided via
a drawbridge across the ditch. A narrow postern gate was provided in the
east curtain wall. At about the same time the timber keep on the motte was
replaced by a circular stone structure known as the Juliet Tower. The
ditch between the motte and bailey was infilled and stone buildings such
as the great hall were constructed within the bailey to replace earlier
timber structures. During the mid-14th century the stone curtain wall was
considerably raised in height and its base strengthened. By the 1570s
documentary sources indicate that the castle had been abandoned and lay in
ruins apart from one chamber which remained in use as a courthouse. This
courthouse continued in use until 1786.

The castle's west curtain wall and gatehouse displays the earliest
surviving stonework and includes substantial amounts of herringbone
masonry consisting of thin rubble, bedded diagonally and alternating with
thin horizontal courses. This architectural style was introduced to
Britain by the Romans and copied by the Normans. It was undertaken at
Egremont not for ornamentation but for tie, the object being to secure the
greatest amount of strength in the wall in the least possible time. The
west gateway was originally of three storeys; a round-headed entrance arch
survives as do columns in each corner which carry remains of a domed
rib-vault. The postern gate partially survives in the east wall of the
curtain wall. The curtain wall survives to varying heights around the
bailey as do two short sections of the wall surrounding the motte. Within
the bailey the south wall of the great hall survives almost to its
original height and contains three windows with traces of two others
together with partial remains of its doorway. Elsewhere within the bailey
are the remains of the kitchen and the building which was used as a
courthouse until the late 18th century. Egremont Castle is a Listed
Building Grade I. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling,
these include: all modern walls, railings, gateposts and gates, all
information plinths, the surfaces of all paths and areas of hardstanding,
all steps and their adjacent handrails, all benches and stone litter bins
and the paving upon which these stand, a sundial, which is Listed Grade
II, and the plinth and paving upon which it stands, all flowerbeds and all
poles supporting litter bins. The ground beneath all these features,
however, is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain
by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the
motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of
examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey,
adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as
garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in
many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal
administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and
bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their
immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive
monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape.
Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally,
with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of
recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for
the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although
many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to
be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they
were superseded by other types of castle.

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of
stone, in which the principle or sole defence comprises the walls, towers
and gatehouses 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. Outside the walls a ditch, either
waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure
castles were built at the time of the Norman Conquest, however, they
developed considerably during the 12th century when defensive experience
gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. Some represent
reconstructions of earlier motte and bailey castles, although others were
new creations. Enclosure castles are a major medieval monument which,
belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major
administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement
patterns. They provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can
provide a valuable educational resource. All examples retaining
significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally

Despite its ruinous condition, substantial upstanding and buried remains
of the medieval fabric of Egremont Castle still survive. Its proximity to
the Scottish border meant that it functioned as part of the English line
of defence against attacking Scottish armies, particularly during the 12th
and 14th centuries when it was besieged. As such it provides an insight
into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in
medieval castle construction.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Curwen, J E, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Series' in Castles And Towers of Cumberland And Westmorland, (1913), 134-7
Curwen, J E, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Series' in Castles And Towers of Cumberland And Westmorland, (1913), 134-7
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Mon Class Description - Motte and Bailey castles, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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