Pennington Castle was built by the illegitimate descendants of William de Percy in the late eleventh century. It was a ringwork fortification that occupied a strong defensive position overlooking an important trade route across the Furness peninsula. It served as the Pennington family’s main residence for around 50 years before it was replaced with Muncaster Castle.
Prior to the Norman invasion of 1066, Pennington was part of the manor of Millom which was owned by Tostig Godwinson. He was formerly the Earl of Northumbria but had been overthrown following which he rebelled against his brother, Harold II. Tostig was killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge (1066) and his lands had not been re-allocated before the Anglo-Saxon defeat at the Battle of Hastings (1066). Thereafter Pennington was taken into Crown ownership and was still held by the King at the time of the Domesday survey in 1086. However, shortly thereafter the manor was granted to Alan de Pennington. He was the illegitimate son of William de Percy, a Norman Knight who had supported William I in his invasion of England. He had stayed behind to secure Normandy but arrived in England in 1067 and was rewarded with substantial lands in Yorkshire. Alan de Pennington, who was born around 1069, grew up on the Percy estates including the village of Pennington from which Alan took as his name. Doubtless aided by his father, he acquired estates in Furness and constructed Pennington Castle to serve as his caput. The fortification took its name from its builder.
The castle was an earth and timber ringwork fortification and sited in a strong defensive position overlooking the Pennington Beck valley. The site was probably also chosen due to its proximity to an overland route across the Furness peninsula. The ring was a broadly rectangular earthwork rampart that would have been topped with a timber palisade. A dry ditch extended eastwards from the north through to south sides but wasn't required on the west where a deep ravine forged by the Pennington Beck made it superfluous. There was a single access into the castle from the south-east.
Around 1242 the Pennington family moved their family seat to Muncaster Castle, some fifteen miles to the north-west, presumably as it was better located for access to their Irish estates. Nevertheless, Pennington Castle continued to be maintained presumably as it had a role in the management of the surrounding estates. A record from 1318 refers to the castle but its condition is uncertain. It is possible it went out of use following the 1316 and 1322 raids on the Furness peninsula by Robert the Bruce.
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Pennington Castle consists of the earthwork remains of an eleventh century ringwork fortification.
Pennington Castle. The castle site viewed from higher ground to the north. Although this view overlooks the castle site, the distance to the fortification was in excess of 300 metres - well beyond the effective range of thirteenth century artillery.
Ringwork. The rampart of the ringwork survives to an impressive height. A public footpath runs straight through the site affording good access to the remains.
Western Scarp. The western side of the castle site was protected by a steep natural scarp that descended down to Pennington Beck.
Ringwork. The interior of the ringwork.
Pennington Castle is located two miles to the west of Ulverston and to the north-west of Pennington church on a single track, unnamed road. The site is not sign-posted. Due to the narrowness of the road, parking is difficult and care must be taken not to obstruct access. One option is shown below.
Car Parking Option