Workington Hall evolved from a timber pele into a substantial lordly residence surrounded by landscaped grounds. Most of what is visible today dates from the eighteenth century but some sections of the original stone fortification, built between 1362 and 1404, can still be seen. The hall was gutted by fire during WWII and thereafter left to drift into ruin.
The manor of Workington was acquired by Gospatric in the twelfth century when William FitzGilbert exchanged it for Middleton in Westmorland. Gospatric's son, Thomas, was granted the lordship of Culwen in Galloway and from this his family took their name which had morphed into Curwen by the fifteenth century. Some form of hall probably existed at Workington since the family acquired the manor, it would have been needed to administer their estates, but the first known fortification was an earth and timber pele. This was built around the late thirteenth century as relations between England and Scotland soured in light of the Wars of Scottish Independence.
In 1362 the Curwens built a stone pele tower within the timber defences. This was further upgraded in 1379 when Richard II granted the then owner, Sir Gilbert de Culwen, a licence to crenellate. The new defences included a Barbican Tower whilst a substantial curtain wall, replacing the earlier timber palisade, had been built by 1390. Further upgrades were made in 1404 which transformed the site into what was effectively a small castle.
In 1568 Mary, Queen of Scots fled her country following defeat at the Battle of Langside. After crossing the Solway Firth by boat, she landed at Workington on 16 May 1568 where she was received with full honours. The following day she was taken to Carlisle Castle and then further south where she would spend 18 years as a prisoner before finally being executed at Fotheringhay Castle. Following the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, Mary's son - James VI of Scotland - became King of England. Whilst he never visited Workington the castle was a key facility in his efforts to suppress the border reivers - the thieves and robbers who blighted the border region. Over 100 such individuals were rounded up and held at Workington Hall before transported to Ireland in indentured servitude.
In the late eighteenth century the then owners of Workington Hall, John Christian and Isabella Curwen, made significant upgrades. The hall itself was completely rebuilt by John Carr of York. The structure now consisted of the original medieval tower with an adjoining L shaped wing which, coupled with the existing medieval buildings, enclosed a courtyard. The surrounding gardens and park were re-styled circa-1783 by Thomas White of Retford.
Workington Hall was occupied as recently as 1929 but thereafter was vacated. It was requisitioned by the War Office upon the outbreak of World War II to billet troops but suffered a significant fire that gutted parts of the structure. Despite post-war aspirations to convert the site into a town hall, the structure remained derelict and quickly deteriorated into ruin.
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The ruins are normally closed to the public although the exterior can be viewed at any reasonable time. Most of the remains date from the eighteenth century although portions of earlier masonry, including the original pele tower, can be seen.
Workington Hall Layout. The hall was substantially rebuilt in the eighteenth century although the boundary followed the line of the medieval curtain wall.
Pele Tower. The pele tower can be seen embedded into the structure (right hand side).