History

 

Gleaston Castle was built by the Harrington family as a replacement for Aldingham Castle. The Harringtons had acquired the land through marriage with the le Fleming family but what prompted them to move their residence is unclear. Some authors suggest it was the destabilising security situation with Scotland whilst others moot that it could have been the coastal erosion from which the Aldingham site was clearly suffering. Given the strong winds associated with the area - some of the strongest and most persistent in the UK - it is equally possible the Harrington's simply sought a slightly more sheltered residence. Whatever the truth the new castle was built roughly a mile further inshore on the lower slopes of Beacon Hill overlooking the Gleaston Beck.

 

The precise date of construction of Gleaston Castle is unknown. The first written record of the site dates from 1389 but a licence to enclose a park there had been granted by Edward III in 1340 and John de Harrington is said to have died at Gleaston in 1369. Furthermore Gleaston Castle seems to have undergone a period of (rapid) rebuilding and strengthening soon after construction and this is attributed to Robert the Bruce's 1316 raid into the Furness peninsula. On the balance of available evidence, it seems likely Gleaston Castle had probably been built by the late thirteenth century.

 

The castle was an enclosure fortification with four square towers connected by a quadrangular curtain wall. Both were built in limestone with some features, notably the windows and doors, in dressed red sandstone. The north-west tower was the largest and, based on its size and the elaborate carvings, was clearly intended to serve as the Lord's residence. It had a hall on the ground floor and accommodation above. The courtyard, which was accessed by a gatehouse in the western wall adjacent to the north-west tower, would have hosted the ancillary buildings including kitchen, stables and brewhouse. It is likely the majority of these were lean-to structures built against the curtain wall.

 

With the death of William de Harrington in 1457, the male line of the family failed. Thereafter Gleaston Castle passed by marriage to Lord William Bonville of Shuton but his main residence was in Devon and he had little use for such a castle in the north. It had been abandoned as a manorial residence by 1458 and fell into ruin thereafter. A farm developed on the site which remains in operation today.

 

Bibliography

 

Clare, T (1981). Guide to Archaeological Sites of the Lake District. Moorland Publishing.

Cope, J (1991). Castles in Cumbria. Cicerone Press.

Douglas, D.C and Myers, A.R (ed) (1975). English Historical Documents Vol 5 (1327-1485). Routledge, London.

Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Historic England (2016). Enclosure Castle known as Gleaston Caste. Listing Number 1013966. Historic England, London.

Jackson, M (1990). Castles of Cumbria. Carel Press & Cumbria County Library, Carlisle.

King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands.  Kraus International Publications.

Knowles, M.A (1872). Millom Castle. Archaeology Data Service.

Salter, M (1998). The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Folly Publications.

What's There?

Gleaston Castle is a good example of a medieval enclosure castle. Three of the four corner towers survive along with significant portions of the curtain wall. Unfortunately the remains are unstable and are also part of a working farm and therefore there is no public access.

North West Tower. This was the largest of the four towers and would have served as the Lord's residence.

West Tower. The tower is located behind the modern house.

South Tower. This tower is directly adjacent to the road.

Red Sandstone. The windows and doors of the towers were made in red sandstone.

GLEASTON CASTLE

Gleaston Castle was built by the Harrington family to replace an earlier fortification at Aldingham. Perhaps built in response to Scottish raids into the area, the structure consisted of a rectangular enclosure castle with towers on each corner. It was occupied for around 150 years.

Getting There

Gleaston Castle is found to the north-east of Gleaston on the road to Scales. The castle is not sign-posted but the South tower is directly adjacent to the road and difficult to miss! On-road parking is possible and visitors can walk north along the road to view the ruins of the North-West tower.

Gleaston Castle

Mill Lane, LA12 0QH

54.132964N 3.131773W