Pendragon Castle
Pendragon Castle is a ruin located in Mallerstang dale, Cumbria, close to the hamlet of Outhgill, at grid reference NY781025 It stands in an atmospheric spot, above a bend in the river Eden, overlooked by Wild Boar Fell to the south-west and Mallerstang Edge to the east.

According to legend, the castle was built by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur, who is said to have unsuccessfully tried to divert the river to provide its moat, as is recalled in a well known local couplet: Let Uther Pendragon do what he can, Eden will run where Eden ran. Uther (if he was indeed a real person) was a 5th Century chieftain who lead resistance to the invading Anglo-Saxons. According to another local legend, Uther and many of his men died here when the Saxons poisoned the well (other legends give St Albans as the location for his death). There are several other "Arthurian" sites in Cumbria, for example King Arthur's Round Table, near Penrith - and many names in the North-west, such as Penrith and Cumbria have Celtic origins.

However, apart from legend (and the finding of a Roman coin), there is no evidence of any pre- Norman use of this site. As far as factual history goes, the castle was built in the twelfth century by Ranulph de Meschines, during the reign of King William Rufus. It has (the remains of) a Norman Keep, with the later addition of a fourteenth century Garderobe Turret, and some further additions in the seventeenth century - see below. One of its most notable owners was Sir Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland - one of the four knights who murdered St Thomas Beckett in 1170. (A nearby high-point on Mallerstang Edge is named after him, as Hugh Seat). Another owner was Lady Ideona de Veteripont who, after the death of her husband, spent much of her remaining years living in the castle, until her death in 1334. (Lady Ideona founded the church of St Mary in the nearby hamlet of Outhgill, ca 1311). The castle was attacked by Scots raiding parties in 1342 and again in 1541. After the latter attack it remained an uninhabitable ruin until it passed into the hands of Lady Anne Clifford, who rebuilt it in 1660, adding a brew house, bake house, stables and coach house. It remained one of the favourites among her many castles until her death in 1676 at the age of 86 years. Lady Anne's successor, the Earl of Thanet, had no use for the castle and removed anything of value from it, including the lead from the roof. By the 1770s much of the building above the second storey had collapsed, and it gradually decayed further to the ruin we see today - but it is a romantic ruin, enhanced by the beautiful scenery in which it is set. In recent years some of the rubble has been cleared, some consolidation of the crumbling walls undertaken, and a limited archaeological survey was carried out by Lancaster University. The castle is privately owned, and on farm land, but public access is permitted. ( N.B. Care must be taken, especially if accompanied by children, because of its potentially dangerous condition).


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Building Activity

  • updated a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via Annotator
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