10 castles in and around Lancashire that you should visit
PUBLISHED: 09:45 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 24 July 2020
Some are imposing landmarks, others now ruins and some not even that, but they all played a role in the county’s story.
This castle, first mentioned in 1102, early in the reign of Henry I, still has its modest keep atop Castle Hill and part of a wall. Roger de Poitou, who built Clitheroe Castle, was the son of one of William the Conqueror’s commanders at Hastings. Later, the castle passed to the de Lacy family, with the heiress Alice marrying the Plantagenet Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster, who rebelled against Edward II and was attainted and executed, his castle at Clitheroe becoming a part of the Duchy of Lancaster. The keep is the second-smallest surviving stone keep in England. Clitheroe Castle Museum is here too.
Lancashire’s jewel in the crown, Lancaster has Roman and Saxon origins, but the stone castle began with the Norman Roger de Poitou, who ceded it after a failed rebellion against Henry I. King John was here, undertaking much building and setting in train a succession of royal visitors too numerous to mention. Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king, established the Duchy of Lancaster as a separate entity to other Crown lands. The castle hosted a prison and criminal court from the 17th century and was held for Parliament during the English Civil War, as well as being occupied by the Jacobites in their 1715 rebellion. The castle remained a fully-functioning prison until 2011. Look out for the fascinating guided tours starting up again.
Another later castle, Grade I Listed Hoghton Tower was actually Elizabethan, so perhaps more mansion than fortress, but it was probably constructed on the site of an earlier castle. Blessed with two courtyards, it was ‘defensibly arrayed’ during the English Civil War, with one structure used as a powder store. When this catastrophically detonated in 1642 many men were killed. For years, the castle-cum-house, and ancestral home of the de Hoghton family, was a ruin, but was rebuilt during the later-19th century. Royal visitors have included three English kings, along with notables such as Shakespeare, J.M.W. Turner and Dickens. The castle opens to the public and has a tea room.
This was another pele tower, with a moat. Constructed in the late Middle Ages as a two-storey tower, Turton was much enlarged and altered during the late-16th century. The tower is about 35 feet high, although it was the late-Elizabethan alterations (c.1596) that saw it raised to this height, when the tower also appears to have had an additional storey added and a new entrance and entrance hall built. When the tower was sold to James Kay in 1835, it was in a ‘state of disrepair’, so we owe the current smart appearance to his restoration.
Painted by J.M.W. Turner, Hornby sits on the River Lune, but has been much-altered since its origins then evolution under the Harringtons and Stanleys. Sir Edward Stanley fought at Flodden against the Scots and was ennobled as Lord Monteagle. It was the fourth lord who was then responsible for tipping off the authorities about the impending Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Part-destroyed during the English Civil War, Hornby also hosted some of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobites on their march south in 1745, before facing first ruination and then restoration during the Victorian era. The gardens can be visited on open days and there’s an AirBnB at the castle too.
Situated near Garstang, Greenhalgh was built by the same Lord Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, who stood aside at Bosworth. Built in 1490, it was a relatively late castle. He oversaw the construction of a rectangular building with four towers, but this was ruined by the Parliamentarians following its surrender during the English Civil War of the 17th century. A part of one tower remains today, in a picturesque setting by the Catholic church, with a lot of the other stone having been pilfered by local farms. The castle is on private land and cannot be visited but the remains are clearly visible from the nearby road and there is also an information board.
There may have been earlier, 14th century origins, but ‘licence to crenellate’ (build a castle) was granted at Bury in the 1460s, during the Wars of the Roses, with the fortress erected by Sir Thomas Pilkington. Lord Stanley, one of the anti-heroes of the Battle of Bosworth, then acquired it. Stanley’s tacit support for Henry Tudor at that engagement was a major factor in the Yorkist king, Richard III, losing his throne and life. The essence of Bury Castle was pretty much lost meanwhile with an armoury, then drill hall, built on the site. It was not until the Victorian era that workmen discovered the castle (1865) and the excavated and restored site (late-20th century) is now part of Castle Square.
It is believed that there was a wooden castle originally at Lathom, which was superseded by stone-built Lathom House, another Stanley castle, built during the reign of the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII. The castle came replete with towers, a thick wall and moat, defences that were put to the test during the English Civil War when the castle was besieged twice by the Parliamentarians. After its eventual surrender in 1645 the castle was destroyed. An 18th century house would be built on the site of which the west wing (now apartments) and a restored chapel survive. There are also almshouse cottages near the chapel.
Penwortham had an early Norman castle near the church, courtesy of that man Roger de Poitou once more. It was mentioned in Domesday Book but declined in importance following the building of Lancaster Castle. The River Ribble acted as a more than capable moat on three sides of the fortress. In the early-13th century Ranulf de Blondeville, the Earl of Chester, held his courts at the castle, but it seems to have fallen into disrepair after this, its last mention being in 1232. Today, just the motte remains, overlooking the churchyard.
A pele (or peel) tower existed near the church. These free-standing towers were small fortified keeps or tower houses that proliferated in the English-Scottish border regions from the mid-14th century to about 1600, a reflection of the turbulence of this area. One of their functions was as watch towers. Radcliffe’s Grade I Listed tower was unusual perhaps for being joined on to a large hall, which was over 40 foot in length and had a fine oak roof. This was later demolished to accommodate a row of cottages, so only the remains of the tower can be seen today, which is still about 20 feet high in places.
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histories and mysteries
Dalton-in-Furness: (National Trust) – 14th century pele tower and former manorial court
Farleton: the motte and a few stones of Farleton (or Castle Stede) lie one mile from Hornby
Fouldry: early-14th century island fortress of Fouldry (or Piel) near Barrow
Gleaston: 14th century quadrilateral castle with four towers and curtain wall
Gresgarth: hall and stunning 12-acre gardens built on the site of a pele tower
Liverpool: castle once stood on the south side of the city with large keep and bailey
Manchester: Chetham’s School of Music occupies the site of onetime Manchester Castle
Preston: castle fell into disuse at an early stage and was levelled in the mid-19th century
Thurland: completely rebuilt in the 1880s following a fire and now converted to apartments
Warrington: Mote Hill was the largest motte and bailey in Lancashire
West Derby: this motte and bailey was reportedly in ruins in the early-14th century
Wraysholme: 15th century pele tower attached to a farmhouse