Penwortham Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification built in the late eleventh century to secure an important crossing over the River Ribble. The castle remained in use until the thirteenth century and was substantially upgraded on at least two occasions.
Penwortham Castle was built shortly before 1086 by Roger the Poitevin. He was the third son of Roger of Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury and had forged a large and valuable Lordship with manors across England. The castle's purpose was to control a ford across the River Ribble and movement along the Ribble valley. At the time of its construction, the castle marked the northern extremity of Roger's power-base but this didn't last long and by 1092 he had acquired new estates in modern day Cumbria.
The castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification raised upon an east facing slope overlooking the river possibly on top of an existing high status or important Saxon site.. The motte was topped by a wooden tower built around a central post. Its base was protected by a ditch. The primary bailey was to the south and west extending towards the site of St Mary's church. There may also have been another bailey to the north on the narrow plateau between the motte and the river.
Penwortham Castle remained in use until the mid-thirteenth century and was upgraded on at least two separate occasions. Each time the motte was enlarged. The castle was abandoned in 1232 and allowed to drift into ruin.
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Penwortham Castle consists of the earthworks of an eleventh century motte-and-bailey castle. The remains have been damaged by the use of the baileys and ditches as a graveyard.
Penwortham Castle Motte. The motte was enlarged on at least two occasions. Nineteenth century excavations revealed a cobbled pavement and extensive archaeological finds (including fishing gear, pegs, nails and animal bones) buried deep within the motte. Whether these items were associated with the first castle, built circa-1086, or earlier Saxon occupation is not known.
Motte Ditch. The base of the motte was surrounded by a ditch which has more recently been used as a graveyard.
St Mary's Church. The church occupies the site of the castle’s main bailey.
Scarp. The steep scarp between the castle and the waterfront.
Second Bailey. It has been suggested that a second bailey may have occupied the lower plateau between the motte and the river.
River Ribble. The castle was built to control a ford across this important waterway.