Workington Hall tower house and later medieval fortified house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020458

Date first listed: 04-Jun-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Mar-2002


Ordnance survey map of Workington Hall tower house and later medieval fortified house
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This copy shows the entry on 12-Dec-2018 at 13:52:42.


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

County: Cumbria

District: Allerdale (District Authority)

Parish: Workington

National Grid Reference: NY 00771 28794


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall. If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of the house in times of trouble. 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 or 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 over half were elements of larger houses. All surviving tower houses retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

Medieval fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. The nature of the fortifications vary but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their domestic buildings normally include a hall, kitchens, service and storage areas. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily in the 15th and 16th centuries but earlier examples are known. As a rare monument type with fewer than 200 identified examples, all fortified houses exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance. Despite being roofless, Workington Hall survives well and is a good example of a medieval tower house which later evolved into a larger fortified house. The present structure was occupied continuously by the same family for almost 700 years and as such it contains significant amounts of medieval and post-medieval fabric including one of the most complete medieval vaulted undercrofts in Cumbria. Its constantly evolving form during this period reflects the changing aspirations of the owners and the development of differing building techniques and fashions. Additionally the monument will contain the buried remains of the earliest habitation on this site which was constructed in the early 13th century and occupied until it was superseded by the tower house in the latter half of the 14th century.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Workington Hall tower house and later medieval fortified house. It was the ancestral home of the Curwen family for over 800 years and is located on the edge of a steep scarp overlooking the floodplain of the River Derwent. In its present form it consists of a roofless structure with buildings on four sides of a rectangular courtyard with the buried remains of a kitchen garden outside the north west corner. Documentary sources indicate that the first building here was erected early in the 13th century by Patric de Culwen, however, nothing of this structure survives above ground. Construction of a three-storey stone tower began in 1362 and a licence to crenallate was granted in 1380. By the late 14th/early 15th centuries the building had quickly developed from a tower house into a larger medieval fortified house; a vaulted hall with a turreted tower at the northern end had been built adjoining the north face of the existing tower and formed the east range of Workington Hall, whilst a gateway with flanking turreted guardrooms formed the west range. North and south curtain walls linked the east and west ranges and enclosed a rectangular courtyard. During the following centuries many additions and alterations ensued including construction of the present western gatehouse in the 16th century and the addition of northern and southern domestic wings. During the late 18th/early 19th centuries the upper part of the tower was rebuilt, a library was added to its east side, and the courtyard was reduced in width by the addition of passageways on the inner side of the north and south wings. Conservatories were added to the outside of the south wing, a kitchen garden to the western part of the north wing, and domestic buildings to the outside of the east wing. Most of these external later features have now been demolished. In 1946 the hall was presented to Workington Council and its roof was removed in the 1970s. Workington Hall is a Listed Building Grade I. The monument is constructed of red and calciferous sandstone. Its oldest upstanding structure is the three-storey tower close to the monument's south east corner. Although renovated in the late 18th/early 19th centuries the tower retains some original loops, internal spiral staircases and mural chambers together with late 18th century round and flat-headed windows. The medieval vaulted east range has a projecting three-storey garderobe turret and ground floor loops, large first-floor late 18th century round-headed windows and a bay window of the same date. At the northern end of the east range stands the medieval vaulted kitchen range with an angle turret at the north east corner. A similar turret at the north west corner has been removed. The south range contains numerous blocked windows and doors of various dates including two ground-floor early 16th century two-light windows. The three- storey gatehouse in the west range has flanking guardrooms with traces of medieval angle turrets latterly modified. A number of original narrow chamfered window surrounds survive whilst the round-headed archway and windows are 18th century alterations. At the north west corner there are the lower courses of a rectangular building which overlooked the kitchen garden. The north range contains numerous 18th century flat-headed windows. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include the surfaces of all paths, gravelled areas and recently flagged areas, the iron railings on the monument's east side, a timber hut in one of the guardchambers, all flowerbeds and low modern walls, all timber access ramps and the disused and broken floodlights. The ground beneath all these features is included. Also excluded from the scheduling are all signs affixed to the walls, together with all modern railings fitted in window apertures, doorways and gateways in order to prevent unwanted access into the monument. The walls to which these features are affixed, however, are included in the scheduling.

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: 34980

Legacy System: RSM


Clare,T., A Report of Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria, 1982, Unpublished report in Cumbria SMR
Clare,T., Report on Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria, 1982, Unpublished report in Cumbria SMR
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
English Heritage, National Parks and Gardens Register,

End of official listing