Dalton Castle


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


Ordnance survey map of Dalton Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Barrow-in-Furness (District Authority)
Dalton Town with Newton
National Grid Reference:
SD 22618 73945

Reasons for Designation

Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. Virtually every parish had at least one of these buildings. Solitary tower houses comprise a single square or rectangular `keep' several storeys high, with strong barrel-vaults tying together massive outer walls. Many towers had stone slab roofs, often with a parapet walk. Access could be gained through a ground floor entrance or at first floor level where a doorway would lead directly to a first floor hall. Solitary towers were normally accompanied by a small outer enclosure defined by a timber or stone wall and called a barmkin. Tower houses were being constructed and used from at least the 13th century to the end of the 16th century. They provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by the wealthier and aristocratic members of society. As such, they were important centres of medieval life. The need for such secure buildings relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. Around 200 examples of tower houses have been identified of which less than half are of the free- standing or solitary tower type. All surviving solitary towers retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

Despite much internal reconstruction Dalton Castle survives well and contains substantial original medieval features and fabric. Its original construction and ownership by the monks of Furness Abbey, together with its original function as a courthouse, make Dalton Castle an unusual example of a solitary tower house and it thus illustrates well the diversity of this class of monument.


The monument includes the upstanding and below ground remains of Dalton Castle, a 14th century tower formerly used as the manorial courthouse of Furness Abbey. It is located close to the south west corner of the Market Place in Dalton-in-Furness and in its present form consists of a rectangular two-storey freestanding tower constructed of limestone rubble with red sandstone dressings and a slate roof. Although the precise date of construction of Dalton Castle is unknown it is considered to have replaced an earlier gaol or courthouse possibly destroyed by Scottish raiders known to have been active in the Furness peninsula in 1316 and again in 1322 under the leadership of Robert Bruce. Originally built to resist further Scottish invasions, Dalton Castle would have contained a courtroom, gaol, guardrooms, stores and a crenallated parapet. After the dissolution of Furness Abbey in 1537 the castle passed initially to the crown then into private hands, however, it continued as a courthouse for over 300 years. Major internal alterations were undertaken in 1856 when three upper floors, accessible from a stone spiral staircase, were superseded by a single upper room and an additional stairway. The castle is flanked by a cobble plinth, parts of which are also included within the scheduling. In 1956 Dalton Castle was given to the National Trust. The ground floor now houses a small museum while the upper room is occasionally used for events organised for and by local people. Externally the castle has a chamfered plinth on all sides except the east and a string course on the north and west walls. The original doorway with a double-chamfered arch and hoodmould is on the south face. Above is a renewed four-light tracery window inserted in 1856. The west wall has a small round-arched door accessed by a short flight of stone steps above which are slit windows for illuminating the spiral staircase built into the west wall adjacent to the doorway. Another slit window at ground floor level lights a garderobe built into the west wall. There is a restored two-light window with ogee-headed lights, pointed arch and hoodmould on the ground floor to the south of the door, and a smaller window of the same style on the upper floor. The east wall has no windows at ground floor level. Above is a small square-headed single-light window and a blocked small two-light mullioned window. Above these are two pointed-arched windows with cusped ogee lights and hoodmoulds. The north wall has a blocked single-light window with blind tracery on the ground floor above which is a two-light window of similar design. The upper floor is illuminated by a two-pointed arched window of the same design as those found on the upper storey of the east and west walls. At roof level there is a sandstone parapet which is corbelled-out from the walls below and pierced on all sides by arrow-loops. It is surmounted at each corner by four decayed carved sandstone figures of 14th century date. On the east side there is a carved spout-head or gargoyle representing a figure holding a shield with a central boss. Internally corbels indicate the original floor levels and there are two original fireplaces in the east wall, one on the ground floor and one on the upper floor. The south entrance leads into a ground-floor corridor at the end of which is a wooden staircase of the mid-19th century. Off the corridor is the main lower room with a corner fireplace against the spiral stair. The west entrance has the spiral staircase immediately to the right and a garderobe to the left. The spiral staircase contains a blocked doorway. A short passageway leads to the corridor with a kitchen and WC to the left. Beneath this short passageway is a dungeon accessed by a trap door in the floor of the passageway. The upper storey contains a single large upper room. Access to the parapet is via the spiral staircase.

Dalton Castle is a Listed Building Grade I.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include the surface of the cobble, concrete and flagged plinth surrounding the building, all information plaques fixed to the outer walls of the building, three metal poles carrying vehicle parking information plaques, and the flagpole on the parapet. The ground beneath all these features together with the wall behind all these features is included within the scheduling. Additionally all internal signs, information boards, exhibits and associated fixtures and fittings are also excluded from the scheduling, although the walls these features are attached to are 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:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
The National Trust, , Dalton Castle, (1996), 1-20
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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