Burton in Lonsdale Castle

Burton in Lonsdale, Castle Hill

Burton in Lonsdale Castle

Where is it – England, Yorkshire and the Humber

Who looks after it –  Private - not open to the public 

What is it –  Castle or Fort 

When is it from – Norman

Burton in Lonsdale is a small village at the western edge of North Yorkshire, close to the borders with Lancashire and Cumbria.  At the time of the Norman Conquest, Burton (Borctune) was part of the manor of Whittington and owned by Tostig – who was slain at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.  Its castle, locally known simply as Castle Hill, is a classic motte and bailey affair and it is often associated with the Norman motte and bailey castles built in the Lune Valley – at Halton, Melling, Arkholme, Castle Stede, Whittington and Kirkby Lonsdale.  It is a large and imposing site, sitting on the outskirts of the village next to the Victorian church and would have dominated the route alongside the river Greta from Hornby (Lancaster) to Ingleton. The motte is some 9.6m higher than the surrounding fields and retains a breastwork wall around the upper part of the mound. A nearly square bailey lies on the west side of the motte and a second semi-lunar bailey is to the south. There are remains of both the outer defensive ditch and a counterscarp bank outside this.

Excavations carried out in 1904 suggested that the castle site began as a ringwork in the 12th century and was converted into a motte some time later. Possibly, the castle was built to help secure the supply route to the recently established Norman castle at Carlisle. The castle appears to have been ‘paved’ – ie covered in stones, which would have made it look really impressive.  However, based on the finds uncovered in 1904, it has also been suggested that the site might have been originally prehistoric. So it’s all very uncertain. We don’t know who built the castle – was possibly Nigel d’Aubigny, who was granted the land by Henry I, or perhaps Nigel’s son, Roger, who founded the de Mowbray family.  The village itself looks like a planned medieval settlement.  Burton Castle was used as a centre of administration for their surrounding lands, which included large swathes of North West Yorkshire and Lancashire, but the site went out of use in the mid-14th century after it had been confiscated from the Mowbrays for their opposition to King Edward II.  Accounts of 1130 refer to expenses at ‘de castro de Burtona de Lanesdala’ for payment of a ‘militis’ (knight), 10 ‘servientes’ (sergeants), a ‘janitoris’ (gatekeeper) and a ‘vigil’ (watchman).  This is the earliest mention of a castle in the village.

The site can be viewed from the road but is on private land and not generally accessible.  In fact, the current landowner has even refused permission for churchgoers to erect a cross on the motte at Easter, as they have been accustomed to doing for many years.



High Street, Burton in Lonsdale, North Yorkshire LA6 3JX 

Scroll to Top