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Pendragon Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Mallerstrang; Mallustang

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY78170264
Latitude 54.41868° Longitude -2.33771°

Pendragon Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle, and also as a probable Tower House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Late 12th c pele tower, burnt and restored on two occasions the last restoration being in 1660 by Lady Anne Clifford, who added an enclosing wall and other buildings. These have disappeared and the tower was dismantled c.1685. The earthworks consist of a deep ditch enclosing the site on the side away from the river and, with the steep scarp towards the river, forming a roughly circular enclosure.
Two causeways cross the ditch, that on the NW being probably the original entrance. Foundation mounds to the NW of the ditch. "The now hardly anywhere standing above the second storey and...fallen masonry...obscures many of the still existing features" (RCHME 1936).
The pele 20.0m square, is in poor condition, its 2.5m thick walls reaching a maximum height of approximately 8.0m. Earthworks are as described by the Commission with the well defined ditch averaging 3.0m in depth. There are no coherent remains of foundations to the north west of the ditch (BH Pritchard/11-MAR-74/OS Archaeology Division Field Investigator)
Pendragon Castle (NY 7817 0264) which is situated on a spur overlooking the River Eden, was surveyed by RCHME in 1993. The tower is north-facing and has a later garderobe tower projecting from its south-west angle. The interior of the tower is choked with debris and there are heaps of turf-covered rubble all around the exterior; despite this a number of the tower's intra-mural vaulted chambers are well preserved.
The ditch surrounding the tower encloses an area about 54m in diameter; the tower is situated slightly to west of centre within this. At its widest points the ditch is between 14.5m - 18m and its internal scarp has a maximum depth of 4.8m. The narrow north-west causeway leads to a range of 17th century buildings suggesting that this was a secondary entrance and not the original as RCHME prefers.
A painting by Buck (1736) shows that the foundation mounds to the north-west of the ditch are the remains of the ancillary buildings erected by Anne Clifford in 1660 as part of the restoration of the castle. The remains consist of a linear range of buildings on the river bank within which at least 5 separate rooms can be identified. The overall dimensions of the block are 57m by 8.5m; it is partly overlain by a post medieval field barn and the west wall has been re-used and subsequently rebuilt as a field wall.
To the north of the castle, built into the natural slope, is a possible corn-drying kiln. The circular hollow measures 5.3m internally and is a maximum of 1.3m deep. The top of the kiln is surrounded by a small bank of upcast up to 1.8m wide and there is an opening at the front 1.1m wide.
About 100m north-east of the tower is a low-lying patch of ground which may have been landscaped to form a pond. On the west side of the Eden is a possible prospect mound overlooking the tower (NMR No NY 70 SE 80). It seems likely that both these features are related to Anne Clifford's occupancy of the castle (Lax 1993). (PastScape)

Pendragon Castle (Plate 141), ruin and earthworks, on the right bank of the Eden m. N. of the chapel. The castle was built apparently as an isolated tower or keep at the end of the 12th century. It passed to the families of Vipont and Clifford and Robert de Clifford is said to have strengthened it c. 1300. It was burnt by the Scots in 1341 and restored by Roger de Clifford c. 1360–70. According to Leland it was standing in 1539 but was again burnt by the Scots in 1541. The castle was restored by Lady Anne Clifford in 1660, who also built an enclosing wall, two gates, stables and outbuildings, all of which have disappeared. The tower was dismantled about 1685 but was still standing to its full height when Buck's and Pennant's views were taken. Since then the decay of the structure has been continuous and it is now hardly anywhere standing above the second storey and the existing walls are heavily encumbered both inside and out by fallen masonry, which obscures many of the still existing features. The walls are of local rubble with dressings of the same material.
The castle is of much interest as an early example of the isolated type of building generally called a peletower.
The Castle (about 64 ft. square externally without the buttresses and about 42 ft. square internally at the second storey level) was formerly of three storeys and has shallow clasping buttresses at the angles. The entrance was formerly on the N. side but is now either destroyed or completely covered by fallen material. None of the features of the ground storey are now accessible except the barrel-vaulted chambers in the N.E. and S.W. angles; the former is now entered by an enlargement of an original window in the outer E. wall and there is an original doorway opening into the interior of the tower, but now blocked by debris. An original round-headed window, without dressings, remains in the S. face, and another, with dressings, in the W. face; both are blocked from within by fallen debris. The second storey had, in each angle, a barrel-vaulted chamber of which that in the S.W. angle retains part of its vault and an original round-headed doorway from the main apartment; this doorway has moulded splays and some masons' marks. The other angle chambers have been largely destroyed; the N.W. angle seems to have also contained a staircase. In the main E. wall, the tall central fragment retains the jambs of two original windows; they were probably of two lights with jambs and round arch of two orders, the outer chamfered and the inner moulded; above them is part of the oversailing course of the destroyed top storey. Only one splay remains of a similar window in the W. wall. The N. and S. walls each formerly contained a large window, probably inserted in the 17th century; both have now disappeared. Projecting from the S.W. angle of the building is an added garderobe tower set diagonally and probably of mediæval date and partly filled in with later blocking; it is lit by square-headed loops and has a discharge shute at the base. Remains of cusped window heads and other moulded stones are lying on the site.
The Earthworks consist of a deep ditch enclosing the site on the side away from the river; this ditch with the steep scarp towards the river forms a roughly circular enclosure. There are two causeways, crossing the ditch, that on the N.W. being probably the original entrance. There are foundation-mounds to the N.W. of the ditch.
Condition—Ruined and dangerous. (RCHME 1936)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1309 July 16 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


The PastScape description of the site seems to miss much of the earlier history. Clearly this started as a ringwork castle with timber buildings in a location which commanded a minor and secondary route through the Pennine Hills, a masonry tower was built in the castle in the late C12 but the curtain walls and other buildings seem to have remain as timber buildings. It, at some point, gained an Arthurian legendary association - possibly quite early in its history and seems then to have been reoccupied and modified by Robert Clifford about 1309. Quite how much this rebuilding was inspired by Arthurian associations is unknowable but comparison with Tintagel Castle may be informative. The isolated location and limited functional use (the small area for agriculture must mean this was not a particularly rich manor but the hunting may have been good) may be as much the reason for abandonment as any damage by the Scots in the mid C14. Lady Anne Clifford rebuilding was clearly the work of a very particular individual and the rapid abandonment of her new house merely emphasises the isolated location of Pendragon.
For some reason the C12 square tower is called a 'peletower' by the RCHME but this is a different date, function and status from gentry solar towers. It is a 'keep' or 'Great Tower'.
David King discusses the two dates of 'destruction by the Scots' 1341 and 1541, neither date is supported by much evidence and the later 1541 date may well be a based on a misreading of a lost plaque (from temp. Anne Clifford) on the castle which may well have mentioned the 1341 date.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:28

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