Brampton Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification built on top of a ridge of high ground which gave it clear views towards the Scottish border. Precisely who raised it is uncertain and the fortification probably had a relatively short lifespan. A beacon had been established on the site by the mid-fifteenth century.
Some authors suggest that Brampton Castle was originally a Saxon moot, a location used for dispensing justice and other administrative functions, although no documentary or archaeological evidence currently supports this theory. The castle was built on the site in either the twelfth or thirteenth century although who raised it is unknown. Cumbria had once been part of the Earldom of Northumbria but, following the Norman Conquest, the territory was claimed by both England and Scotland. William II had seized the area in 1092, started construction of Carlisle Castle and imported settlers. It is possible that Brampton Castle was raised at this time as an outlying fortification and observation post. However, when Henry I died in 1135 a civil war broke out in England which enabled David I of Scotland to annex Cumbria. It was held by the Scots until 1157 when it was retaken for England by Henry II. If it wasn't already in existence, Brampton Castle may have been built shortly afterwards or in the 1170s as a result of the subsequent Scottish raids into England led by King William the Lion (which ended in his defeat and capture at the Battle of Alnwick).
The castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification raised upon the south-western end of a ridge of high ground known as Brampton Ridge which stands over 100 metres above sea level. The motte itself was created by construction of a ditch around the summit of the ridge and using the spoil to create the mound. It would originally have been topped with a timber palisade. A plateau to the north-west of the motte may have been the site of the bailey. The steep scarping on all sides provided strong natural defences.
The castle probably had a relatively short lifespan and there is no evidence of it ever being rebuilt in stone. It was certainly out of use by the fifteenth century as the site was recorded as being in use as a beacon in 1468. It had probably served in this function since Henry III established a border-wide beacon system to warn of Scottish attack during the thirteenth century. A statue of George Howard, seventh Earl of Carlisle was erected on the summit in the nineteenth century.
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Brampton Castle consists of the earthworks of a motte-and-bailey fortification although the remains were partially landscaped during the nineteenth century and the entire site is now woodland. A statute of George Howard, Earl of Carlisle stands upon the summit. The site is freely accessible to the public.
Brampton Castle Earthworks. The castle's earthworks consist of the motte and its ditch but these have been damaged by modern landscaping.
Dominant Position. The castle occupies a dominant position on top of Brampton Ridge although, as it is heavily wooded, this is not immediately obvious. Originally the summit would have been devoid of trees giving a commanding view to the north, east and west. By the fifteenth century, and probably long before, it was used as a beacon to warn of impending Scottish attacks. It was seemingly linked with a chain of such beacons extending east along the Tyne valley.
Earl of Carlisle. A statute of George Howard, seventh Earl of Carlisle was erected on the summit in the nineteenth century. Prior to inheriting the Earldom, he had been the Member of Parliament for Morpeth and later Yorkshire.