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Kendal Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Kirby Kendal; Kendall

In the civil parish of Kendal.
In the historic county of Westmorland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Westmorland.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD522924
Latitude 54.32490° Longitude -2.73641°

Kendal Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Kendal Castle (Plate 110), ruins and earthworks, on a hill E. of the town and 600 yards N.E. of the church. The castle occupies the crest of a ridge and is of roughly circular form, the ground forming a flat platform within the walls. The walls are of rubble with some ashlar dressings. It was constructed probably at the close of the 12th century, but none of the masonry appears to be of earlier date than the 13th century. The ruins of the hall-block with the adjoining square tower are probably of the 14th century. The castle fell into ruin in the 16th century, but considerable repairs have been made to the ruins in modern times and much of the curtain is modern work. The castle was entered by a gatehouse, on the N. side, which has now entirely disappeared. The curtain followed the line of the enclosure and has a hall-block and tower towards the N.E. and towers or remains of towers towards the S., W. and N.W. The Hall-block (Plate 111) was apparently of two storeys, and the N. and E. walls are still standing some 30 ft. high. Under the eastern part are two cellars with barrel-vaults of unequal height; projecting from the S. wall are fragments of a small bay perhaps of polygonal form externally. The upper storey has remains of three windows in the N. wall, one of which retains its segmental head; immediately below the westernmost window are remains of a recess perhaps flanking a lower window; still lower in the wall is part of the segmental arch of a large fireplace; the level of this fireplace is difficult to reconcile with the floor-level over the cellars unless the level of the E. part of the hall was much higher than the rest. The E. wall of the hall has two openings, but the walling has been much re-built and altered in modern times. Adjoining the hall on the E. was another room, of which the start of the S. wall can be seen. At the N.E. angle of the hall is a rhomboidal North Tower projecting from the face of the curtain; the tower has two external offsets and a plinth; the main floor has a loop-light in the N.W. and S.E. walls; on the floor above is a fireplace and remains of a window; the inner side of the tower has been much patched and the block of masonry on the S. is pierced by a drain-shaft. There are some remains of the rubble base of the curtain between this and the S. tower, and in one fragment is a recess probably indicating an adjoining building, now destroyed. The South Tower was probably a square structure, but modern repairs have altered the appearance of what little remains; adjoining it on the E. are the slight remains of a building of uncertain form. Fragments of the base of the curtain survive between this and the West Tower; this tower is a solid semi-circular projection on the outward face of the curtain. Between it and the N.W. tower are remains of a window embrasure in the curtain. The North-west Tower is cylindrical and formerly of three storeys; the lower has a rough stone vault and is entered by a square-headed doorway with a loop-light beside it. The upper storey is entered by a doorway on the N. from the rampart walk of the curtain; it has a fireplace, window, and, in the thickness of the S. curtain, a spiral staircase leading to the floor above; a garde-robe communicates with this staircase; the top floor has been destroyed. N. of this tower is part of the end wall of a building formerly standing against the curtain and of later date.
The Earthworks consist of the nearly circular ditch round the castle and remains of an outwork to the N. covering the gatehouse. The ditch is some 85 ft. wide and has an outer rampart rising at most some 19 ft. above the bottom of the ditch. The ditch is crossed by a fairly modern causeway opposite the side of the gatehouse. N. of the ditch is a small enclosure or barbican with remains of an outer ditch on the W. and part of the N. side.
Condition—Of earthworks, good; of ruins, structurally sound. (RCHME 1936)

Ringworks are medieval fortifications built and occupied from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the later 12th century. They comprise a small defended area containing buildings which was surrounded by a substantial ditch and a bank surmounted by a timber palisade. Occasionally a more lightly defended embanked enclosure, the bailey, adjoined the ringwork. Ringworks acted as strongholds for military operations and in some cases as defended aristocratic or manorial settlements. They are rare nationally with only 200 recorded examples and less than 60 with baileys. As one of a limited number and very restricted range of Anglo-Saxon and Norman fortifications, ringworks are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. Despite appearing somewhat ruinous, Kendal Castle still retains significant remains of upstanding medieval fabric and is a rare example in Cumbria of an enclosure castle which developed on the site of an earlier ringwork, the earthworks of which survive well.
The monument includes the 13th century Kendal Castle, together with the late 12th century ringwork upon which it was constructed, and a group of associated earthworks to the north. It is strategically situated on the summit of a large glacial moraine in the Kent valley overlooking the town of Kendal. The earliest features of the site are the impressive earthworks of the ringwork. These include a virtually circular enclosure measuring approximately 76m in diameter which is surrounded by a ditch c.26m wide and c.3m deep. Flanking the ditch is an outer bank 10m-19m wide and up to 3m high. This ringwork would have had a timber palisade around the perimeter of the enclosure and a timber bridge or drawbridge at the north of the perimeter, giving access across the ditch into the enclosure. Within the enclosure there would have been timber buildings. To the north of the enclosure and surrounding ditch there is a rectangular enclosure measuring approximately 50m by 30m that is flanked on its west and part of its north side by a ditch up to 15m wide and 1m deep. Adjacent to this ditch there is an outer bank 5m wide and 0.5m high. This enclosured would have functioned as the outer court or bailey of the ringwork and would have been occupied by further buildings, perhaps including wattle and daub huts and pens for stock. The bailey would have been defended by a wooden palisade and would also have contained the barbican or outwork defending the entrance. To the north of the ditched bailey are further earthworks including a rectangular platform and two rectangular pits. The main access causeway to the ringwork runs through these earthworks and across the bailey. The ruins of the later castle include fragments of curtain wall, four towers, and internal buildings constructed upon the site of the ringwork. The castle was entered through a now demolished gatehouse on the north side which is depicted as being flanked by two towers on an antiquarian sketch. The curtain wall stands to a maximum height of c.2.4m and survives at its best along the south side of the enclosure. It would originally have been topped with a rampart walkway. To the east of the original entrance is the main living accommodation, or hall, with a tower attached to its eastern corner. The hall was of two storeys and the north and east walls still stand some 10m high. Beneath the eastern part of the hall are two storage cellars roofed with barrel vaults, and projecting from the south wall are fragments of a small polygonal bay or room. The north wall of the hall has the remains of three windows, a recess flanking what was a fourth window, and part of the segmental arch of a large fireplace. The east wall has two window openings. Adjoining the hall on the east was another room, of which part of the south wall can be seen. At the north east angle of the hall the rhomboidal north tower, originally with three floors, projects from the face of the curtain wall to a height of 6m. Its main floor has small narrow windows in the north west and south east walls. On the floor above is a fireplace and remains of a window. A survey of the castle in 1572, by which time it was already in ruins, describes the main buildings as containing a hall with an ascent of stairs, a buttery, a pantry, one great chamber, two or three lesser chambers, and two or three small rows of cellars. In a fragment of the curtain wall between the north and south towers there is a recess indicating the site of an adjoining building of which nothing now remains above ground. Nearby is a well 1m in diameter and capped off at a depth of 0.5m. The south tower stands up to 3m high but has been considerably repaired in the 20th century. It is thought to have originally been a square structure. Adjoining it on the east are the slight remains of a building of uncertain form. The west tower is a solid semicircular projection on the outside face of the curtain wall. Between it and the north west tower is a window embrasure or recess in the curtain wall. The north west tower is cylindrical and originally of three storeys but the uppermost has been destroyed. The lower storey has a rough stone vault and is entered by a square headed doorway with a small narrow window adjacent. The upper storey is entered by a doorway on the north from the rampart walk of the curtain wall; it has a fireplace, window, and a spiral staircase which led to the floor above. A garderobe is located off this staircase. North of this tower is part of the end wall of a building formerly standing against the curtain wall. The ringwork was constructed c.1184, probably by Gilbert, the son of Roger Fitz Reinfred, and succeeded Castle How motte and bailey on the opposite side of the Kent valley. The earliest masonry of the stone castle is of 13th century date. The monument's early occupants were the barons of Kendal but in 1215 the castle was forfeited to King John after the rebellion of the barons. In 1241 it was owned by William de Lancaster III after which it was owned by the de Brus family then the de Roos or Ross family and then the Parr family. In 1509 Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII was born here. By 1566 the castle had become property of the Crown on the attainder of the last of the Parrs, William Marquis of Northampton, for treason in supporting Lady Jane Grey. From this date on, it ceased to be occupied and was allowed to fall into ruin. Limited excavation in the vicinity of the gateway during the 1950s and 1960s located evidence for the bank of the original ringwork, two phases of curtain wall construction, a cobbled entrance through the gateway and traces of a bridge abutment. (Scheduling Report)

Built on a ringwork and barbican of circa 1184, which is usually stated as a replacement of the Castle How Motte and bailey, although it is possible both castle were occupied at the same time during the C12. It stands on a bluff high above the medieval town. It was the centre of the Barony of Kendal, and was ultimately occupied by the Parr family (of Katherine Parr fame), but was deserted after the arrest of the Marquis of Northampton, who was involved with the attempt to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne in 1553. The castle was dismantled in 1566. It remained a ruin from then on, with a hall block and a round tower largely standing of C13, with other structures decayed or demolished, and the curtain walls largely rebuilt in the C19 to provide a stock enclosure.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:30

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