Scaleby Castle moated site


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Scaleby Castle moated site
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 44907 62456

Reasons for Designation

A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the 14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be of national importance.

Around 6000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. The majority served as prestigious aristocratic or seigneurial residences with the provision of a moat intended as a status symbol rather than a practical military defence. The peak period during which moated sites were built lies between about 1250 and 1350. They exhibit a high level of diversity in their forms and sizes and form a significant class of medieval monument which are important for an understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains. Scaleby Castle is a rare example of a circular moated site while the castle itself is also a rare example of a quadrangular castle in north west England. The ruinous portions of Scaleby Castle still retain substantial amounts of upstanding medieval fabric. Its location close to the Scottish border meant that it functioned as the first line of defence against attacking Scottish armies and as a focal point for English military campaigns against the Scots in the late 13th/early 14th centuries. As such it provides an insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castles.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of the ruined portions of Scaleby Castle, a class of medieval castle known as quadrangular, together with the circular moat surrounding the castle and the island created by the moat. It is located a short distance to the south of Scaleby village and includes the upstanding remains of a medieval sandstone tower, an adjacent polygonal tower, the gatehouse with flanking guardchambers and curtain wall, an infilled inner moat which is considered to have surrounded or partially surrounded the slightly elevated mound upon which the castle was constructed, an extant circular outer moat and its outer bank, and the archaeologically sensitive ground between the inner and outer moats where buried remains associated with the medieval occupation of the castle are expected to survive. The date of the earliest building at Scaleby is unknown, however, documentary sources indicate that Robert de Tilliol was granted a licence to crenellate his dwelling here, thought to be a farmhouse or grange, in 1307. During the 14th and 15th centuries a tower house was constructed, together with a gatehouse and a polygonal tower which formed part of the curtain wall enclosing a courtyard. By the late 16th/early 17th centuries the castle had passed into the Musgrave family and a large portion was rebuilt by Sir Edward Musgrave. During the Civil War it was beseiged by Parliamentarian forces on two occassions and eventually in 1648 the victorious attackers set fire to the castle. It was then sold to Richard Gilpin whose son, William, rebuilt the western half of the south range in about 1685. By 1741 Scaleby Castle was deserted and remained thus until repairs were undertaken in about 1800 by Rowland Fawcett. The south range was rebuilt between 1835-40. The upstanding medieval fabric is of red sandstone and consists of the remains of a four-storey tower of which only two walls partially survive above ground floor level. The tower has a thick chamfered plinth, chamfered string courses to each floor and chamfered lancet windows. The interior has remains of a vaulted lower chamber with the remains of a newel staircase in the thickness of the wall. The adjacent two-storey polygonal tower has 15th century windows to the ground floor and chamfered lancet windows on the first floor. The two-storey gatehouse has a round-arched entrance with a recessed pointed arch and portcullis room above. Flanking the gateway are vaulted guardhouses. A crenellated angle turret stands at the castle's south west corner and beyond that a length of crenellated curtain wall runs south to join the castle's 19th century south wing. The site of the infilled inner moat is suggested by the presence of poorly-drained areas on the castle's north and west sides; the western arm of this moat was still functioning as a garden feature during the mid-20th century. The date of construction of the circular outer moat is unknown. It remains water-filled and is flanked by an outer bank. Scaleby Castle is a Listed Building Grade I. The stables east of the castle, the bridge over the outer moat north east of the castle, and the gate piers and wall north of the castle are all Listed Buildings Grade II. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These include the east and south wings which form the current residential parts of the castle, the stables, outbuildings, a greenhouse and an access bridge to the east of the castle, the stone bridge over the outer moat north east of the castle, a wooden footbridge over the moat, the gate piers and wall north of the castle, all modern walls, steps and railings, and the surfaces of all paths and access drives. The ground beneath all these features is included within the scheduling.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Curwen, J F, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Scaleby Castle, , Vol. XXVI, (1926), 398-411
Graham, T H B, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Scaleby, , Vol. XXI, (1921), 139-151
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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