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Whelp Castle, Kirkby Thore

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castellum Welp; Wheallep; Wellop; Whellop

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY63732558
Latitude 54.62405° Longitude -2.56324°

Whelp Castle, Kirkby Thore has been described as a Masonry Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are no visible remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Castle, mentioned in a charter of between 1199 and 1225. 'Scarce remains' were seen in 1777. No recent physical evidence found. A square enclosure at High Burwens traditionally said to have been built in the early C12 from the ruins of a nearby Roman fort. The ruins were said to have been used to supply stone for the construction of Kirkby Thore Hall. (PastScape)

Whelp Castle. Whelp father of Gamel is said to have built this castle from the ruins of the Roman fort here in the first half of the 12th century. Nicolson and Burn say that the square inclosure, called the High Burwens on rising ground at the bank of the Troutbeck seems to have been the area of it, containing eight score yards in diameter. (Curwen 1932)

The hall or manor house, as also most part of the present town (Mr. Machel says), have been built out of the ruins of Whelp Castle; of which there are now scarce any remains. The main body of it hath stood (as may be conjectured, he says, from the ruins under ground) in a place called the Burwens, on a rising ground, at the bank of the rivulet called Troutbeck, and not far from the river Eden. The square inclosure, called the High Burwens, seems to have been the area of it, containing 8 score yards in diameter, now ploughed and cultivated; and the outer buildings, mantle, and gardens, to have run down along the said rivulet at least as far as the fulling-mill, and possibly further, beyond the high street or Roman way; thence up the west side of the said street about 8 score yards, and thence up again in a straight line to the west angle of the said area. For in all these places the vestigia of it may be discovered, by conduits underground; subterraneous vaults; fair pavements of floors made with flags; tiles, and slates, with iron nails in them, by which they have been fastened: but principally, by the foundations of walls, both of brick and stone; as also by coins, altars, and urns, with other fictilia, osten found thereabouts.
... All which do loudly proclaim the same to have been Roman. (Nicholson and Burn 1777)

Machell and Camden are certainly describing the Roman fort of Bravoniacvm. A question remains as to if there was a C12 occupation of part of the site by a manor house and what form that manor house took. A charter dated 1199-1225 has a reference to Whelp's Castle (Ragg 1916) but does this 'castle' refer to a medieval defended house or an undefended house in a Roman site or merely the Roman site itself? Given the ready made source of fine stone there is no reason that there could not have been a fortified C12 house here but the historical evidence is open to interpretation and there is no actual archaeological evidence to support this. Certainly the manor is not the centre of the sort of lordship that would have supported a significant castle although it must have had a manor house. The unfortified C14 Kirkby Thore Hall is certainly the later medieval manor house and may well be the site of the earlier medieval manor house.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:29

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