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Workington Hall tower house and later medieval fortified house

A Scheduled Monument in Workington, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.6446 / 54°38'40"N

Longitude: -3.5391 / 3°32'20"W

OS Eastings: 300773.57786

OS Northings: 528804.168589

OS Grid: NY007288

Mapcode National: GBR 3GQQ.LV

Mapcode Global: WH5YP.LJX8

Entry Name: Workington Hall tower house and later medieval fortified house

Scheduled Date: 4 June 1981

Last Amended: 7 March 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020458

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34980

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Workington

Built-Up Area: Workington

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Workington St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Workington Hall
tower house and later medieval fortified house. It was the ancestral home of
the Curwen family for over 800 years and is located on the edge of a steep
scarp overlooking the floodplain of the River Derwent. In its present form it
consists of a roofless structure with buildings on four sides of a rectangular
courtyard with the buried remains of a kitchen garden outside the north west
corner. Documentary sources indicate that the first building here was erected
early in the 13th century by Patric de Culwen, however, nothing of this
structure survives above ground. Construction of a three-storey stone tower
began in 1362 and a licence to crenallate was granted in 1380. By the late
14th/early 15th centuries the building had quickly developed from a tower
house into a larger medieval fortified house; a vaulted hall with a turreted
tower at the northern end had been built adjoining the north face of the
existing tower and formed the east range of Workington Hall, whilst a gateway
with flanking turreted guardrooms formed the west range. North and south
curtain walls linked the east and west ranges and enclosed a rectangular
courtyard. During the following centuries many additions and alterations
ensued including construction of the present western gatehouse in the 16th
century and the addition of northern and southern domestic wings. During the
late 18th/early 19th centuries the upper part of the tower was rebuilt, a
library was added to its east side, and the courtyard was reduced in width by
the addition of passageways on the inner side of the north and south wings.
Conservatories were added to the outside of the south wing, a kitchen garden
to the western part of the north wing, and domestic buildings to the outside
of the east wing. Most of these external later features have now been
demolished. In 1946 the hall was presented to Workington Council and its roof
was removed in the 1970s. Workington Hall is a Listed Building Grade I.
The monument is constructed of red and calciferous sandstone. Its oldest
upstanding structure is the three-storey tower close to the monument's south
east corner. Although renovated in the late 18th/early 19th centuries the
tower retains some original loops, internal spiral staircases and mural
chambers together with late 18th century round and flat-headed windows. The
medieval vaulted east range has a projecting three-storey garderobe turret and
ground floor loops, large first-floor late 18th century round-headed windows
and a bay window of the same date. At the northern end of the east range
stands the medieval vaulted kitchen range with an angle turret at the north
east corner. A similar turret at the north west corner has been removed.
The south range contains numerous blocked windows and doors of various dates
including two ground-floor early 16th century two-light windows. The three-
storey gatehouse in the west range has flanking guardrooms with traces of
medieval angle turrets latterly modified. A number of original narrow
chamfered window surrounds survive whilst the round-headed archway and windows
are 18th century alterations. At the north west corner there are the lower
courses of a rectangular building which overlooked the kitchen garden. The
north range contains numerous 18th century flat-headed windows.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include the
surfaces of all paths, gravelled areas and recently flagged areas, the iron
railings on the monument's east side, a timber hut in one of the
guardchambers, all flowerbeds and low modern walls, all timber access ramps
and the disused and broken floodlights. The ground beneath all these features
is included. Also excluded from the scheduling are all signs affixed to the
walls, together with all modern railings fitted in window apertures, doorways
and gateways in order to prevent unwanted access into the monument. The walls
to which these features are affixed, however, are included in the scheduling.

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. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a
larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings
provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall.
If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself
could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of
the house in times of trouble. 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 or
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 over half were elements of larger houses. All surviving
tower houses retaining significant medieval remains will normally be
identified as nationally important.

Medieval fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and
most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of
domestic and military elements. In some instances the fortifications may be
cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a
military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. The nature of the
fortifications vary but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and
other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their domestic buildings
normally include a hall, kitchens, service and storage areas. Fortified houses
were constructed in the medieval period, primarily in the 15th and 16th
centuries but earlier examples are known. As a rare monument type with fewer
than 200 identified examples, all fortified houses exhibiting significant
surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.
Despite being roofless, Workington Hall survives well and is a good example of
a medieval tower house which later evolved into a larger fortified house. The
present structure was occupied continuously by the same family for almost 700
years and as such it contains significant amounts of medieval and
post-medieval fabric including one of the most complete medieval vaulted
undercrofts in Cumbria. Its constantly evolving form during this period
reflects the changing aspirations of the owners and the development of
differing building techniques and fashions. Additionally the monument will
contain the buried remains of the earliest habitation on this site which was
constructed in the early 13th century and occupied until it was superseded by
the tower house in the latter half of the 14th century.

Source: Historic England


Clare,T., A Report of Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria, 1982, Unpublished report in Cumbria SMR
Clare,T., Report on Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria, 1982, Unpublished report in Cumbria SMR
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
English Heritage, National Parks and Gardens Register,

Source: Historic England

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