Pendragon Castle

DSCN0936.jpgPendragon Castle sits on the east bank of the River Eden off the B6259 in the Mallerstang Valley on the way from Yorkshire into Kirkby Stephen.  It’s a square, squat ruin of a tower that was once three storeys tall in a beautiful landscape.  It stands on a platform of earth and its walls, what remain of them, are over four meters thick.

The chap best known for owning Pendragon Castle is Hugh de Morville and he probably occupied it after Henry II’s campaign in Scotland.  The name  de Morville might ring bells.  In addition to being Lord of Westmorland he’s also one of the four knights who helpfully murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 after listening to Henry II ranting about troublesome priests. Instead of the expected reward de Morville found himself kicked out of his properties with a flea in his ear.  Ultimately the castle passed through a couple of families beginning with the de Viponts who were de Morville relations before ending up in Clifford hands through the inheritance of Idonea de Vipont.


DSC_0006We know that Robert de Clifford was given permission to crenellate Pendragon Castle in 1309 but he didn’t have long to enjoy it because he got himself killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. The reign of Edward II was not a comfortable one for the English.  In addition to the Scots gaining the upper hand in the Scottish Wars of Independence there was also the small matter of several rebellions against Edward II in England.  Robert’s son Roger was executed after the Battle of Boroughbridge. (Click on the image in this paragraph to open a new window for my post on the Battle of Boroughbridge) Ultimately it came back into the Clifford possessions but turned to a pile of rubble after an unfortunate accident with a band of Scots  and a blazing torch in 1341.

It was 1660 when Lady Anne Clifford turned her attention to rebuilding Pendragon castle “at great cost and charges.” She noted in her diary that she stayed in Pendragon for three nights on 14 october 1661.  She went on to renovate Mallerstang Chapel as well as ensuring that Pendragon had all the amenities including a brewhouse and a wash house. Spence records that the hearth returns reveal that there were twelve fire places in Pendragon and that Lady Anne Clifford wrote her will whilst she stayed there.DSCN0941.jpg

After Lady Anne Clifford’s time it returned to ruin and even in the seventeenth century during her time it had acquired the tradition of belonging to Uther Pendragon – in one version he died there when the Saxons took the castle.  But just so we’re quite clear the ruins on display today were definitely built in the twelfth century as Mallerstang Castle although Westwood and Simpson observe that the de Cliffords might have renamed it during the reign of Edward I when there was a fashion of all things Arthurian.

Cope, Jean (1991) Castles in Cumbria. Milnthorpe: Cicerone Press

Salter, Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern: Folly Publications

Spence, Richard T, (1997) Lady Anne Clifford. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Westwood and Simpson. (2005) The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends. London: Penguin


6 thoughts on “Pendragon Castle

  1. Yes Pendragon is now a ruin once again.It belonged to my good friend Doctor Raven Frankland and many years since i assist somewhat on helping the good Doctor to excavate the foundations of the tower. In my friends opinion it was no more than a late Norman building that once stood there. No legend about the Utter Pendragon fighting the River Eden that washed his Camelot away is true. When Ivo De Tabaloies or tabalus owned a castle on the Beast banks at Kentdale now Kendal ,before my family built a castle on the east mound., Ivo had it that no other castle was on his borders now that ran close to were Pendragon stands so Ravon was correct and that edifice is new by history terms. Digging under what now are the north battlements we found items of folklore under steps that go back at least to the time of King Edward 1. Below that is but hard millstone type rock on which much of the original building was but Lady Anne cut away a great section to build a ;larger house. Now even that is long gone. The franklands own much of that land around the three borders . I too owned a hundred acre allotment for sheep on the gated system and was in winter used for my shoots. Raven Frankland is dead but his great family have been in Ravenstonedale since that time of King George 1 as i think they came over with him as Dukes. Worth researching and if his family would allow
    you to read his many books and illustrated drawings one may glean information for the taking. I know he did six years on the graveyard in Ravenstonedale Church and found a full monks cell abbey belonging to the only sect allowed by the pope to have monks and nuns living together as family. It was never thought to have existed in England so Raven had not just Border Tv and Eric Wallace but German Tv and Dutch NATIONAL TV and I think, radio too. The county Arcivist at that time was Tom Clair and he wrote a book about this Gilbertine order using Ravens site for all evidence and cells in photographs.May well be in Ravens library even now. I wish you luck as Raven was a rich man who was educated and had done coures of digs i fear he may have done also some damage in ignorance. He was a gifted lucky finder of proof though. Very much a man among men he took on Councils and Government officials for breakfast but he proved he was right and they so wrong we all laughed.Great days are youth not ill spent on drink or dancing all night I would not change a thing or let go of those I have met, worked with, and loved.

    • Cumbria likes its Arthurian connections – come to think of it so does Shropshire. I love those blurred boundaries between legend and history.

  2. Who is Sir Kevin Parr Bt ? Clearly he did not know Raven very well. Edward Raven Frankland was never a Doctor ( medical or PHD). Raven and his sister Dr Helga Frankland PHD, bought Pendragon from Lord Lonsdale in memory of their father Dr Edward Percy Frankland PHD. Edward Frankland was very interested in Uther Pendragon and wrote many novels based on early English history. Cllr Raven Frankland was married to Dr Juliet Frankland PHD.

  3. I only had the very great pleasure of meeting Raven Frankland once in about 1963 just after he bought Pendragon Castle. I was an 11 year old who desperately wanted to be an archaeologist and I wrote to him asking if I could come and look around his castle. He very kindly invited my parents and I to come and look. He took the time and the trouble to show us around and let me “discover” a room. His kindness to a small girl with stars in her eyes was remarkable and I only wish that circumstances had let me thank him as an adult.

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