Category Archives: Pele Towers

Rose Castle

rose castle 2.JPGHervey Fitzmaurice once owned the Manor of Dalston just south of Carlisle and with it, Rose Castle at Raughton Head, these days the location of several pleasant walks.

In 1186 Fitzmaurice managed to irritate Henry II who removed both items and kept them for himself. Eventually the Crown granted the property to the Bishop of Carlisle, Walter Mauclerk who also happened to be the Lord Treasurer, in 1230. He possible wanted to move from the previous official residence of the bishops at Linstock Castle on account of it being a bit too close for comfort to the action of the Scottish Wars of Independence. Of course it wasn’t long for Rose Castle also become a target – its history and its medieval architecture reflect the uncertain nature of border dwelling. Sixty-three bishops of Carlisle have used Rose Castle as their residence until the decision to relocate in 2009.

 

During the early stages of the castle’s development there was a motte and bailey but over time its appearance changed though it was probably still wooden when Edward I and his lady wife (Margaret of France) stayed there in 1300. Edward Bruce stayed there as well for three days – though not necessarily at the invitation of either the monarch or the bishop. Things must have been quite lively in 1314, the year of Bannockburn, because the Scots burned the place to the ground.  They returned the following year to lay siege to Carlisle but were repulsed by Sir Andrew de Harcla.

 

In 1336 Bishop Kirkby received his licence to crenellate- ie to fortify the building. Bishop Welton received a similar licence in 1335. It is thought that he built Pottinger’s Tower in the southwest corner of the range. It’s known as Pottinger’s Tower on account of the fact that someone called Pottinger hanged themselves in it rather than on account of the builder. It contained three rooms as well as the vaulted chamber at the bottom of the tower. Ultimately it would also house a wash house and a diary according to the nineteenth century history of Cumberland by William Hutchinson.

 

Another tower was built, or rebuilt, between 1400 and 1419 by Bishop Strickland – which is the building to the right of the picture. Strickland also got to grips with Penrith Castle Not to be outdone Bishop Bell built a further tower in 1488 and a fifth tower was built on the site by Bishop Kite in Tudor times (1522) and it also bore the name of its builder- it was next door to Pottinger’s tower and added an additional two living rooms to the complex. Evidently the bishops of Carlisle were keen on towers! By this time readers are probably thinking that either the bishops were a particularly warlike bunch or scaredy-cats cowering behind a variety of red stone towers whilst the parishioners of their diocese got on with the business of reiving and being reived. In actual fact it is thought that the bishops wanted to improve the amenities of their des res and have a little bit of privacy.

 

As is the way of these things events took a turn for the worse with the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians occupied it twice and did rather a lot of damage. The medieval castle which by then was an irregular quadrangle bounded by a ditch needed a face lift. The parliamentarians ordered a survey which was carried out by 1650 at the latest.  It was noted that the castle was in “great decay.” During this time the bishop wasn’t in residence it was only upon the Restoration that Bishop Rainbow set about this by knocking down the south and east ranges of the tower and by renovating the west and north aspects of the castle – he had a bit of a job on his hands as records state the La Rose as the castle is sometimes known was uninhabitable..

 

And that was pretty much it until the Victorians got hold of it.

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Highead Castle and Thistlewood Tower

high head castlePele or peel towers are a peculiarity of the Anglo-Scottish borders. They came into existence in a medieval environment, largely during the Scottish Wars of Independence, when the population lived in fear of constant attack. Really and truly none should still be standing as when James VI of Scotland became James I of England he decreed that the borders should henceforth be known as the “Middle Shires” and that pele towers should be torn down. He also executed or deported men with the most notorious border surnames, both English and Scots, to drive his message home.

 

In essence a pele tower is a mini castle that is easily defendable. The large ones have a barmkin or yard enclosed by a wall or palisade of some description. In wealthier towers this would be stone in other locations it would be more of a thorny hedge like structure. The idea was that cattle could shelter in the barmkin whilst people sheltered in the tower that was usually several stories high and many feet thick. The basement room of a tower would be vaulted and used for storage. Often the original access to the living quarters of the tower would be through a hole in the vaulted ceiling via a ladder which could then be drawn up after the defenders.

 

I’ve long been familiar with the pele tower at Hutton-in-the Forest which is the home of Lord and Lady Inglewood. The original tower is now the joint of the two arms of the substantial manor house that grew in later centuries. However, it was during a walk near Ivegill that I encountered the remnants of two more pele towers.

 

Highead Castle can’t be seen from the road and I only glimpsed it through trees – a sort of red sandstone Cumbrian Sleeping Beauty affair. It began life as a pele tower and grew into something rather grander in 1550 when it was purchased by the Richmond family. This in its turn was remodeled during the Eighteenth Century to become a rather lovely Palladian house featuring eleven bays and a pediment not to mention rather a lot of carved ornamentation and Italianate balustrading. As is the way of these things the builders fell upon hard times and by the end of the nineteenth century the castle had changed hands yet again.

 

Unfortunately the castle caught fire in 1956 and was left a wreck. There was a plan to pull it down during the 1980s that came to nothing on account of local protest and since then renovation work has commenced. I hope that it will be a bit like a phoenix and eventually turn into a dwelling again as the ruins that I saw through the trees were rather beautiful.

 

The next pele tower on my walk rejoices in the rather lovely name of Thistlewood Tower. DSCF2764.jpgIt’s a two-storey tower with a vaulted undercroft and like some of the rather grander pele towers it was extended once England and Scotland ceased raiding one another and windows inserted – so technically it ceased being a fortification and turned into a rather grand farm house. In this instance the extension is a seventeenth century one.

 

 

The land around Thistlewood is first mention as being owned by John de Harcla, the brother of Sir Andrew de Harcla, who was executed for treason in Carlisle by Edward II. John suffered the same fate meaning that the land became Crown property by reason of the attainder against John.

 

In 1326 Ralph Dacre received tenure of the land and tower that stood on the site for a period of ten years but the following year it was granted to William L’Engles (there is a little bit of surname difficulty at this point as I think the name should be de Beaulieu) for life.   There then followed a legal wrangle between the new owner and the old tenant. In 1330 Dacre petitioned Parliament that he should be allowed to complete his tenure but clearly by 1358 Thomas de Beaulieu was extending the property to include a chapel and it is Thomas who is most often referenced in the Victorian secondary sources. The tower remained in de Beaulieu hands until the death of William de Beaulieu in 1434.

 

The tower passed once more into the hands of the Dacres where it remained until they finally blotted their copybooks once too often during the reign of Elizabeth I.

 

In 1568 Richard Dacre of Aikton and his family were accused of plotting at Thistlewood and Carlisle to aid Mary Queen of Scots. Richard was up to his neck in the middle of the Rising of the North along with his relation, a cousin of some kind, Leonard Dacre.

 

Leonard Dacre’s, the second son of the Fifth Lord Dacre, wrote a number of letters to Mary Queen of Scots who called him “Dacres with the croked back”. The Rising of the North is often seen as a catholic conspiracy but Leonard’s concerns were rather more prosaic. His nephew, the sixth lord though still a minor, had been killed in an accident in May 1569 with a vaulting horse in Norfolk where he was a ward of the Duke of Norfolk along with his three sisters. Unsurprisingly Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, ensured that three of his sons married the three sisters and that the estates became part of the Howard empire. On 19th June that same year a court in Greenwich concluded that the title of the Baron Dacre of the North had ceased to exist and that, furthermore, the lands should be divided between the boy’s three sisters. Leonard believed that he should be the seventh Lord Dacre – and that meant getting the family loot as well as the title. Leonard was not amused. It should also be said that many of the border families allied themselves with Dacre because of the power of their name in a quasi-medieval society despite the fact that times were beginning to change – for a start many of them wrote to Cecil complaining about Thomas Howard’s management.

Essentially Leonard tried to play both sides of the game. He protested his loyalty to Elizabeth and in so doing settled old scores, was even commended in December 1569 for his actions against the rebels but he continued to play both sides of the field until he saw which way the wind was blowing. At the point where it became clear that Elizabeth’s forces would prevail he secured Naworth Castle as part of his estate, along with other Dacre strong holdings, and refused admittance to his fellow rebels who sought him out to provide a safe haven.

 

By this point everyone was suspicious of him including Lord Scrope who was the Warden of the West Marches based in Carlisle. On the 19th February 1570 Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon received a note from his cousin Queen Elizabeth I, who was nobody’s fool, ordering him to capture Dacre. On the following morning Hundson and Sir John Forster, the Warden of the Middle March rolled up with a large force of riders outside Naworth. Hunsdon realizing that he wasn’t prepared for a siege decided to press on to Carlisle to meet up with Lord Scope’s forces.

For reasons best known to himself Dacre followed along behind until the royal forces reached the banks of the River Gelt at which point he ordered his men to charge – the affair became known as the Battle of Gelt Bridge. According to sources Dacre had an army of 3000 borderers. He was defeated Hunsdon’s force which was approximately half the size of Dacre’s army.

 

Dacre fled into Scotland and from there to the Low Countries where he received a pension from Philip II of Spain and agitated for an invasion until he died in 1573.

Unsurprisingly the Dacre estates fell to the Crown by attainder, Thistlewood Tower tenanted by Richard Dacre of Aikton among them – meaning that it was once again Crown land.

These days it has been restored and is for sale once again.

DSCF2765.JPG

In an aside it would appear that Richard’s son William who was married to the niece of the Bishop Edmund Grindal was also implicated in the rebellion. William was pardoned and settled in St Bees.

Rose Castle next I think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Cumbria, Pele Towers, The Tudors