Welcome to Dalton Castle, Cumbria!

Situated in Cumbria, the home of the Lake District, this beautiful castle, built in the 14th Century, was once the heart of the ancient Capital of Furness.

Built as a centre of justice by the Abbot of nearby Furness Abbey, this castle, and the surrounding area, has seen its share of gore, murder and intrigue.

A Brief History

Dalton Castle has stood tall and proud for around 700 years. During that time it has witnessed immense changes in both the society and the landscape. Here is a (very) brief overview of the history of Dalton and its castle.

  • 1086 Doomsday Book – This mass document recorded a settlement in the same location as the modern day town, called Daltune
  • 1123 Furness Abbey- King Stephen commissioned the building of Furness Abbey, the Abbot of whom would become the local administer of justice
  • 1127 Courts- King Stephen gave power to the Abbot to hold trials, local courts and administer justice to the local people
  • 1239 Jury- Records show that a jury was held by the Abbot as early as 1239
  • 1292 Punishment- the Abbot of Furness was given permission to erect gallows, a pillory and a ducking stool
  • 1314 and 1346 Scots- Scottish raiders, including Robert the Bruce, destroyed much of Furness during these years and may have destroyed the centre of administration that existed on this site before the present castle was built. It is thought from architectural evidence that it is around this time that Dalton Castle was built- perhaps in protection from future raids
  • 1315 and 1360 Castle built- The Castle or Pele tower is similar to many of this period, being constructed as a rectangle measuring 45ft by 30ft with walls at a maximum of 6ft thick
  • 1337 Coroner- In this year the Abbot of Furness gained the right to appoint his own coroner
  • 1344 Bloodshed- In this year the Abbot of Furness gained the right to deal with issues of bloodshed
  • 1350 Thomas Bardsey- In this year Thomas Bardsey was imprisoned in the dungeon by the Abbot’s Baliff for attacking and wounding him
  • Use as a prison, guard rooms and court rooms and action for debt and trespass were held at the Abbot’s Court on Saturday, every three weeks.
  • 1546 King Henry VIII- At the instruction of King Henry VIII the castle was repaired at the cost of £20 and using materials taken from Furness Abbey.
  • 1644 Parliamentary and Royalists- A skirmish broke out between Parliamentary and Royalist troops between Dalton and Newton and as a result some of the Parliamentary prisoners were kept in the dungeon of Dalton Castle
  • 1704 Floor replacement- The original wooden floors are thought to have been replaced about this time
  • 1774- Stopped using the dungeons of the castle as a prison
  • 1784 and 1816- Modernisation takes place
  • 1856- One of the original floors were taken out leaving the two floors we now have

Crime and Punishment

From 1292 the Abbot of Furness was entitled to erect gallows, a pillory and a ducking stool in Dalton, all as a means of punishment for the various misdeeds of the local community, although perhaps the Abbot should have been watching his own flock more carefully!

In a manuscript dating from between 1399 and 1413 is a detailed and grisly account of a murder, taking place not in the local community, but within the Abbey itself.

It states that 3 monks plotted together to create a lethal poison, which one would add to his wine during Mass. If this didn’t work then the second monk would use a sword to stab the Abbot during his private mass, and failing this, the third monk would poison the Abbot’s evening broth!

In the end, the three monks needn’t have made such a complex plan as the Abbot was killed with poison mixed with the holy wine, from the holy chalice during Mass.

For a more detailed account please visit Furness Abbey

However, it was not only the monks who needed to be punished. The local people completed their fair share of misdemeanours.

For example, in 1350 records show that Thomas Bardsey was imprisoned in the dungeon of Dalton Castle by Roger Belle, for attacking and wounding him. Thomas attempted to avoid punishment by running to his Father’s house in Ulverston and placing bars up at the doors and windows. However, he could not escape judgement for his crime, and a great crowd of people, including Roger Belle (who was the Abbot’s Bailiff at the time) and the Abbot himself, broke down the door and Thomas was forcibly taken to Dalton Castle.

But the misdemeanours did not end with the local people, it even extended to the local animals! It is recorded that sometime after the suppression, that a dog notorious as a sheep worrier had been sentenced to be hanged!

 

Unmissable Architecture

Museum and Shop

Dalton Castle offers a historical and architectural treat for the whole family, as well as some hidden extras.

As the castle is part of the National Trust collection of fantastic ancient buildings and parks, at Dalton Castle you can find a small shop selling a wide range of National Trust items.

Also, in the original Guard Room, on the ground floor of the castle is a museum collecting an assortment of objects and artefacts, including an original Knight’s helmet. This is definitely not to be missed!

Gallery

Contact

Dalton Castle is open from 2-5pm every Saturday from the 26th March until the 26th of September.

If you would like to get in touch please fill in this contact form.