Dalton Castle was built in the early fourteenth century to assert the authority of the Abbot of Furness Abbey, a magnate who had judicial powers over the vast estates owned by the church. A two storey rectangular tower , it incorporated a courtroom, gaol and administrative offices.
Furness Abbey was been established in 1127 as the first overseas foundation of the Savigniac Order, a religious community that had become established in Mortain in Normandy. Their patron was Stephen of Blois, Count of Boulonge (and from 1135 King of England) who encouraged Savignians to settle at Tulketh near Preston. However, this site proved to be unsuitable and accordingly they moved onto the Furness peninsula where they founded Furness Abbey. The community thrived and in 1150 was incorporated into the Cistercian Order. By the mid-twelfth century numerous 'daughter houses' had been established in north-west England, the Isle of Man and Ireland. Their power was enhanced by a large grant of land by King Stephen and, during the thirteenth century, acquisition of Borrowdale, Eskdale and huge swathes of the Pennines. The Abbey’s foundation charter authorised the Abbott to hold manorial courts and administer justice within his estates effectively giving him substantial judicial powers. Dalton Castle was built to provide a venue for the associated court.
Dalton Castle was constructed shortly after the Scottish raids on the Furness peninsula in 1316 and 1322. In the latter instance, the attack had been led by Robert the Bruce and the Abbot paid him 'ransom money' to avoid his valuable estates being laid waste. Dalton Castle, which was built on or near the site of an earlier courtroom, was constructed to optimise the management of the Abbey’s lands and thus recover from the losses associated with the payments to the Scots. It took the form of a rectangular tower standing in excess of thirteen metres high. Its original internal layout is unknown due to the extent of subsequent modifications but the facility would have hosted a courtroom, administrative offices, gaol facilities and a guardroom. A spiral staircase provided access to all levels.
In 1534 Henry VIII separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic church. He declared himself 'Supreme Head' of the church and took the opportunity to plunder the vast wealth accumulated by the church. As one of the richest Cistercian monasteries in the country, the King's commissioners specifically targeted Furness and it became the first of the large monasteries to be dissolved. All of its property and estates, including Dalton Castle, were forfeited to the Crown. Nevertheless Government officials continued to use the castle to administer the former estates although the fabric of the building was neglected – a report dated 1545 stated that the roof leaked which had resulted in the floors becoming rotten. This prompted action and the following year materials were plundered from the Abbey to repair Dalton Castle.
Dalton Castle remained in Crown ownership until 1662 when Charles II granted it to George Granville, Duke of Albermarle. Thereafter it passed into the hands of the Dukes of Montagu and then the Dukes of Buccleuch. The castle remained in use as a prison until the 1770s. Dalton Castle was gifted to the National Trust by Walter Scott, Eighth Duke of Buccleuch in 1965.
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Dalton Castle is a rectangular Tower built to serve as a courtroom, administrative centre and gaol. Ideally any visit should be paired with a visit to Furness Abbey, the institution that owned the castle. Nearby is Piel Castle, another fortification owned by Furness Abbey.
Dalton Castle. The castle was a two storey rectangular block.
Furness Abbey. The monastic community at Furness Abbey were originally a community of Savigniac monks established in 1127. The community thrived and in 1150 they accepted Cistercian rule. By the early sixteenth century they were one of the richest religious sites in the country and were specifically targeted by Henry VIII's commissioners. Furness became the first of the large monasteries to be dissolved as part of the King's break from Rome with the Deed of surrender being signed on 9 April 1537.
Dalton Castle is found on Market Street in Dalton-in-Furness. On-road car parking is possible in the immediate vicinity. Furness Abbey is found off Abbey Road on the main route into Barrow-in-Furness.
Market Place, LA15 8AX