Kirkby Lonsdale’s Motte and Bailey

Cockpit Hill, Kirkby Lonsdale's castle.

Kirkby Lonsdale’s Motte and Bailey

Where is it – England, North West England

Who looks after it –  Unknown 

What is it –  Castle or Fort, Legend 

When is it from – Norman

The remains of Kirkby Lonsdale’s motte and bailey are in a very sorry state.  Some say the site is so damaged that it is hard to be sure it was once a castle.  The bailey cannot be identified, but the low hump of the motte can, over the wall from Ruskin’s View or from the adjacent churchyard to the north of St Mary’s Church.  It is known locally as Cockpit Hill, for the simple reason that cock fights were once staged on it.

Nevertheless, this has been identified as one of many motte and bailey castles built in the Lune Valley, probably constructed by the Normans post-Conquest.  Others include Halton, Melling, Arkholme, Castle Stede, Whittington and Burton in Lonsdale.  Some say the builder was Ivo De Taillebois, the first Baron of Kendal, in around 1092. Alternatively, it may have been built on the orders of Roger de Poitou, the possible builder of Lancaster Castle.

Kirkby Lonsdale was Cherchebi (place with a church) at the time of Domesday and in 1066 was owned by Thorfin of Ravensworth.  It is not known where the bailey of the castle was situated, but it could have extended to the east, where Church Brow and Ruskin’s View now is.  This area has also been known as Fisherty Brow, of which an old legend records “a curious kind of natural hollow scooped out, where, ages ago, a church, parson, and congregation were swallowed up by the earth. Ever since this terrible affair it is asserted that the church bells have been regularly heard to ring every Sunday morning.”



Off Market Street, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria LA6 2AX 

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