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Wolstey Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Wolsty; Wulsty; Wristie; Woolstey; Wolmsty; Ulstey; Vlstey; Woulstrie

In the civil parish of Holme Low.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY10485059
Latitude 54.84225° Longitude -3.39538°

Wolstey Castle has been described as a certain Fortified Manor House.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Despite some stone robbing, the moated site of Wolsty Castle survives reasonably well and remains unencumbered by modern development. It is a rare example in Cumbria of a moated castle constructed for the purpose of protecting a nearby abbey, in this case Holme Cultram. The site will contain buried remains of the medieval castle which is known from documentary sources to have been occupied from the early 14th to the mid-17th centuries.
The monument includes the moated site of Wolsty Castle. It is located on flat land close to the present coastline and approximately 7km west of Holme Cultram Abbey, and includes an island or platform surrounded by a dry moat which in turn is flanked by traces of an outer bank. The island measures c.40m square and contains many earthworks and undulations which indicate a combination of structural foundations of the medieval castle and stone robbing trenches. There are two upstanding blocks of mortared masonry, one on the north and one on the south side of the island and each about 1.5m high, which show that the castle's curtain wall was over 2m thick. The surrounding moat measures 20m-30m wide by 1.5m deep and is flanked by an outer bank 5m-10m wide wide and up to 0.4m high. There are faint traces of an outlet channel at the moat's south east corner. Wolsty Castle was constructed during the first half of the 14th century as protection for Holme Cultram Abbey which had been pillaged by the Scots under Alexander II in 1216 and Robert Bruce in 1322. The castle received a licence to crenellate in 1348 and was occupied by the Chamber family, one of whom, Robert, was the Abbot of Holm Cultram. By 1572 the castle was in decay and documentary sources indicate that the hall, chamber, the evidence house, the kitchen, the peat house, byre and stable were ruinous. Repair work was undertaken during the 1630s but by the latter half of the 17th century the castle had been demolished and its stone taken for reuse in Carlisle. (Scheduling Report)

Documentary evidence records the castle as consisting of a tower, curtain walls, gatehouse, hall, courtyard ranges and a moat. (PastScape–ref. Perriam and Robinson)

The castle was constructed during the first half of the 14th century to defend Holme Cultrum Abbey and was ruinous by 1572. Repair work was carried out in the 1630s, but by the latter half of the 17th century the castle had been demolished. There are earthwork remains of a dry moat and traces on the island of building foundations and robber trenches. There are are two upstanding blocks of masonry showing that the castle's walls were over 2m thick. (PastScape)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1348 Oct 13 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


Quite how this castle was going to 'defend' Holme Cultrum Abbey, 5 miles away, is a worthwhile question to ask. More probably intended as a residence for the Abbot away from the Abbey. There is some suggestion this was a residence of the Abbot in the C13. Although the area is now well drained this was clearly marshland at one time and the castle may have been built for access to wildfowl - particularly important for a cleric since duck and geese were 'fish' and could be eaten on the numerous medieval fast days (Lent, Advent, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays all year). This is a place where Abbot could entertain secular guests and his senior tenants (of knightly status) and also keep his more expensive possessions, such as precious metal dinning plates etc., inappropriate within the Abbey itself. The strength of the castle may have had something to do with protecting these possessions but also with showing the Abbots secular responsibilities as a landowner.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:53

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