Egremont Castle


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Copeland (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 00974 10489

Reasons for Designation

Motte and bailey castles are medieval fortifications introduced into Britain by the Normans. They comprised a large conical mound of earth or rubble, the motte, surmounted by a palisade and a stone or timber tower. In a majority of examples an embanked enclosure containing additional buildings, the bailey, adjoined the motte. Motte castles and motte-and-bailey castles acted as garrison forts during offensive military operations, as strongholds, and, in many cases, as aristocratic residences and as centres of local or royal administration. Built in towns, villages and open countryside, motte and bailey castles generally occupied strategic positions dominating their immediate locality and, as a result, are the most visually impressive monuments of the early post-Conquest period surviving in the modern landscape. Over 600 motte castles or motte-and-bailey castles are recorded nationally, with examples known from most regions. As one of a restricted range of recognised early post-Conquest monuments, they are particularly important for the study of Norman Britain and the development of the feudal system. Although many were occupied for only a short period of time, motte castles continued to be built and occupied from the 11th to the 13th centuries, after which they were superseded by other types of castle.

An enclosure castle is a defended residence or stronghold, built mainly of stone, in which the principle or sole defence comprises the walls, towers and gatehouses bounding the site. Some form of keep may have stood within the enclosure but this was not significant in defensive terms and served mainly to provide accommodation. Outside the walls a ditch, either waterfilled or dry, crossed by bridges may be found. The first enclosure castles were built at the time of the Norman Conquest, however, they developed considerably during the 12th century when defensive experience gained during the Crusades was applied to their design. Some represent reconstructions of earlier motte and bailey castles, although others were new creations. Enclosure castles are a major medieval monument which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. They provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Despite its ruinous condition, substantial upstanding and buried remains of the medieval fabric of Egremont Castle still survive. Its proximity to the Scottish border meant that it functioned as part of the English line of defence against attacking Scottish armies, particularly during the 12th and 14th centuries when it was besieged. As such it provides an insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castle construction.


The monument includes the earthworks and the upstanding and buried remains of Egremont Castle, together with its associated castle garth which formed the outer defences of the monument. It began as a Norman motte and bailey castle but later developed into an enclosure castle. It is strategically located on an elevated knoll high above a crossing point of the River Ehen, and consists of an artificially raised earthen mound known as a motte together with an enclosed associated bailey. A broad ditch on the west side separates the motte and bailey from a lower castle garth which runs around the west, north and east sides of the motte and bailey.

Egremont Castle was constructed in about 1120 by William de Meschines and consisted of a motte topped by a timber tower or keep within which the occupants would have resided. An associated bailey, separated from the motte by a dry ditch, was constructed to the south of the motte. This was used for sheltering people and animals and would have contained numerous buildings such as storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and bakehouse. During the late 12th/early 13th centuries a stone curtain wall was built around the foot of the motte and crossed the intervening ditch between the motte and bailey to fully enclose the bailey. The castle's defences were further enhanced by the digging of a broad dry ditch on the west side. An outer gatehouse was added to the castle's west side and access was provided via a drawbridge across the ditch. A narrow postern gate was provided in the east curtain wall. At about the same time the timber keep on the motte was replaced by a circular stone structure known as the Juliet Tower. The ditch between the motte and bailey was infilled and stone buildings such as the great hall were constructed within the bailey to replace earlier timber structures. During the mid-14th century the stone curtain wall was considerably raised in height and its base strengthened. By the 1570s documentary sources indicate that the castle had been abandoned and lay in ruins apart from one chamber which remained in use as a courthouse. This courthouse continued in use until 1786.

The castle's west curtain wall and gatehouse displays the earliest surviving stonework and includes substantial amounts of herringbone masonry consisting of thin rubble, bedded diagonally and alternating with thin horizontal courses. This architectural style was introduced to Britain by the Romans and copied by the Normans. It was undertaken at Egremont not for ornamentation but for tie, the object being to secure the greatest amount of strength in the wall in the least possible time. The west gateway was originally of three storeys; a round-headed entrance arch survives as do columns in each corner which carry remains of a domed rib-vault. The postern gate partially survives in the east wall of the curtain wall. The curtain wall survives to varying heights around the bailey as do two short sections of the wall surrounding the motte. Within the bailey the south wall of the great hall survives almost to its original height and contains three windows with traces of two others together with partial remains of its doorway. Elsewhere within the bailey are the remains of the kitchen and the building which was used as a courthouse until the late 18th century. Egremont Castle is a Listed Building Grade I. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling, these include: all modern walls, railings, gateposts and gates, all information plinths, the surfaces of all paths and areas of hardstanding, all steps and their adjacent handrails, all benches and stone litter bins and the paving upon which these stand, a sundial, which is Listed Grade II, and the plinth and paving upon which it stands, all flowerbeds and all poles supporting litter bins. The ground beneath all these features, however, is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Curwen, J E, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Series' in Castles And Towers of Cumberland And Westmorland, (1913), 134-7
Curwen, J E, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. Extra Series' in Castles And Towers of Cumberland And Westmorland, (1913), 134-7
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Leach,P.E., MPP Single Mon Class Description - Motte and Bailey castles, (1988)


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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