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Dalton Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Dalton Town with Newton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.1555 / 54°9'19"N

Longitude: -3.1864 / 3°11'11"W

OS Eastings: 322617.518304

OS Northings: 473944.221037

OS Grid: SD226739

Mapcode National: GBR 6N5D.Y4

Mapcode Global: WH72B.0TY7

Entry Name: Dalton Castle

Scheduled Date: 20 January 1964

Last Amended: 11 February 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020457

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34979

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Dalton Town with Newton

Built-Up Area: Dalton-in-Furness

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Dalton-in-Furness St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the upstanding and below ground remains of Dalton
Castle, a 14th century tower formerly used as the manorial courthouse of
Furness Abbey. It is located close to the south west corner of the Market
Place in Dalton-in-Furness and in its present form consists of a
rectangular two-storey freestanding tower constructed of limestone rubble
with red sandstone dressings and a slate roof. Although the precise date
of construction of Dalton Castle is unknown it is considered to have
replaced an earlier gaol or courthouse possibly destroyed by Scottish
raiders known to have been active in the Furness peninsula in 1316 and
again in 1322 under the leadership of Robert Bruce. Originally built to
resist further Scottish invasions, Dalton Castle would have contained a
courtroom, gaol, guardrooms, stores and a crenallated parapet. After the
dissolution of Furness Abbey in 1537 the castle passed initially to the
crown then into private hands, however, it continued as a courthouse for
over 300 years. Major internal alterations were undertaken in 1856 when
three upper floors, accessible from a stone spiral staircase, were
superseded by a single upper room and an additional stairway. The castle
is flanked by a cobble plinth, parts of which are also included within the
scheduling. In 1956 Dalton Castle was given to the National Trust. The
ground floor now houses a small museum while the upper room is
occasionally used for events organised for and by local people.
Externally the castle has a chamfered plinth on all sides except the east
and a string course on the north and west walls. The original doorway with
a double-chamfered arch and hoodmould is on the south face. Above is a
renewed four-light tracery window inserted in 1856. The west wall has a
small round-arched door accessed by a short flight of stone steps above
which are slit windows for illuminating the spiral staircase built into
the west wall adjacent to the doorway. Another slit window at ground floor
level lights a garderobe built into the west wall. There is a restored
two-light window with ogee-headed lights, pointed arch and hoodmould on
the ground floor to the south of the door, and a smaller window of the
same style on the upper floor. The east wall has no windows at ground
floor level. Above is a small square-headed single-light window and a
blocked small two-light mullioned window. Above these are two
pointed-arched windows with cusped ogee lights and hoodmoulds. The north
wall has a blocked single-light window with blind tracery on the ground
floor above which is a two-light window of similar design. The upper floor
is illuminated by a two-pointed arched window of the same design as those
found on the upper storey of the east and west walls. At roof level there
is a sandstone parapet which is corbelled-out from the walls below and
pierced on all sides by arrow-loops. It is surmounted at each corner by
four decayed carved sandstone figures of 14th century date. On the east
side there is a carved spout-head or gargoyle representing a figure
holding a shield with a central boss. Internally corbels indicate the
original floor levels and there are two original fireplaces in the east
wall, one on the ground floor and one on the upper floor. The south
entrance leads into a ground-floor corridor at the end of which is a
wooden staircase of the mid-19th century. Off the corridor is the main
lower room with a corner fireplace against the spiral stair. The west
entrance has the spiral staircase immediately to the right and a garderobe
to the left. The spiral staircase contains a blocked doorway. A short
passageway leads to the corridor with a kitchen and WC to the left.
Beneath this short passageway is a dungeon accessed by a trap door in the
floor of the passageway. The upper storey contains a single large upper
room. Access to the parapet is via the spiral staircase.

Dalton Castle is a Listed Building Grade I.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include the
surface of the cobble, concrete and flagged plinth surrounding the
building, all information plaques fixed to the outer walls of the
building, three metal poles carrying vehicle parking information plaques,
and the flagpole on the parapet. The ground beneath all these features
together with the wall behind all these features is included within the
scheduling. Additionally all internal signs, information boards, exhibits
and associated fixtures and fittings are also excluded from the
scheduling, although the walls these features are attached to are

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the
borderlands of England and Scotland. Virtually every parish had at least one
of these buildings. Solitary tower houses comprise a single square or
rectangular `keep' several storeys high, with strong barrel-vaults tying
together massive outer walls. Many towers had stone slab roofs, often with a
parapet walk. Access could be gained through a ground floor entrance or at
first floor level where a doorway would lead directly to a first floor hall.
Solitary towers were normally accompanied by a small outer enclosure defined
by a timber or stone wall and called a barmkin. Tower houses were being
constructed and used from at least the 13th century to the end of the 16th
century. They provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by
the wealthier and aristocratic members of society. As such, they were
important centres of medieval life. The need for such secure buildings
relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in
the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. Around 200 examples of
tower houses have been identified of which less than half are of the free-
standing or solitary tower type. All surviving solitary towers retaining
significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally

Despite much internal reconstruction Dalton Castle survives well and
contains substantial original medieval features and fabric. Its original
construction and ownership by the monks of Furness Abbey, together with
its original function as a courthouse, make Dalton Castle an unusual
example of a solitary tower house and it thus illustrates well the
diversity of this class of monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The National Trust, , Dalton Castle, (1996), 1-20
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,

Source: Historic England

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