Naworth Castle

Castle in Brampton, Carlisle

Naworth Castle From The Air
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Simon Ledingham

Naworth Castle, is a castle in Cumbria, near the town of Brampton, England. It is on the opposite side of the River Irthing to Lanercost Priory.

Naworth was the headquarters of the Lord Wardens of the Marches. A square keep and bailey were built here in as early as 1270 and in 1335, a licence to crenellate was granted to Ralph Dacre, during the reign of Edward III. It was extended by the Dacre family over the next two centuries.

In 1513 Thomas, Lord Dacre played an important role at the battle of Flodden, where the English, under Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey defeated the Scots. Thomas Dacre was awarded lands around Lanercost, and with that new wealth was able to extend Naworth.

He built the whole of the south and east wings including the 100ft Great Hall, and what is now known as Lord William’s Tower. Thomas Dacre was also Warden of The West March for Henry VIII, and provided loyal service to the crown until his death in 1525. Unfortunately for the Dacre family, in 1560 the then Lord Dacre died, leaving a widow, three daughters and a young son called George. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin, married the widowed Lady Dacre, and arranged to marry his three sons to her three daughters. Young George was killed in a fall from a vaulting horse and the vast Dacre estates which covered great tracts of the north of England- including 70,000 acres of the Barony of Gilsland, lands in Cumberland including Greystoke and Dacre, 20,000 acres around Morpeth and 30,000 acres in Yorkshire – now part of Castle Howard estate, all came under the control of the Howard family.

Following the death of his wife, he then rather foolishly became embroiled in a plot to marry Mary Queen of Scots. Thus Thomas Howard, like his father before him, went to the scaffold and was executed in 1572.

The eldest Dacre daughter, Elizabeth, married the Duke’s third son, Lord William Howard. It took Lord William until 1602 to raise and pay a ransom of £10,000, in order to secure his wife’s estate, (his lands and titles having been seized by an angry Queen Elizabeth I). He then set about restoring the castle. A great antiquarian and man of letters, he served both James I and Charles I, and was responsible for the maintenance of law and order. In the castle grounds stands the stump of the renowned oak tree where Lord William Howard used to hang Scottish Reivers.

Lord William was also very religious. He spent nine months in the Tower of London because he refused to recant his Catholic faith. His half brother Philip Howard, Earl of Surrey, spent 13 years in the Tower of London until he died. He was known as the Blessed Philip Howard, and was later canonised in 1975 when he became Saint Philip Howard.

Lord William’s great grandson, Charles Howard was less scrupulous than his illustrious ancestor; three times he was put in the Tower of London. He managed to avoid committing himself to either side in the Civil War until he was caught in Preston in 1647. He then offered his allegiance to Cromwell, and became firstly Cromwell’s ADC, and then one of his Colonels in the North. Cromwell created Charles Howard Viscount Morpeth in 1657.

He had the distinction of being one of only two viscounts created by Cromwell. Being a very shrewd man, Charles Howard soon realised that Cromwell’s son and successor, Richard Cromwell was a man of lesser calibre than his father. Charles was a great friend of General Monck, and the pair became allies. Together with George Downing, an American spy, they were instrumental in restoring Charles II to the monarchy in 1660. As a result, Charles Howard was ennobled as Earl, and George Downing gave his name to the most famous street in London. Charles Howard was then sent to Russia on a trade mission and presented the Tsar with the Garter. He was governor of Jamaica and even owned St Lucia personally, amassing an enormous fortune which enabled his grandson, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle to commission Vanbrugh to build Castle Howard.

Increasingly the Earls of Carlisle used Castle Howard as their main residence, and Naworth was very much a secondary home, left as an old medieval fortification. Unfortunately, in1844 there was a disastrous fire, which destroyed virtually all of the Castle, including the old dungeons in the West Wing. Only the top rooms of Lord William’s Tower, (his bedchamber, private library and chapel) survived.

The reconstruction of the Castle commenced in the 1850’s. Most of the structure was restored by the illustrious Victorian architect Anthony Salvin, who reconstructed the magnificent Great Hall – this time with a marvellous vaulted ceiling replacing the flat roof covered in hand painted pictures of the Saxon Kings and Queens of England. Much of the interior was reconstructed by the 9th Earl of Carlisle, George Howard, and his wife Rosalind. George was primarily a painter and devoted his time to doing just that. His wife, a formidable character, concentrated on running the estate. She was also fanatically concerned with women’s suffrage, the Temperance movement and Liberal politics. The 9th Earl’s circle of friends included Philip Webb, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and many other eminent Pre Raphaelites. All were regular house guests, whose signatures can be seen today in the visitors book.

Philip Webb was commissioned to restore much of the interior of Naworth, including the library, drawing room and the former Protestant chapel, which became the 9th Earl’s private library.

George died in 1911, leaving Naworth and a small entail of land to his eldest son Charles, the 10th Earl of Carlisle. Most of the remaining estate was left in the control of his wife Rosalind. By that time she had lost through death, or fallen out with, most of her sons. She moved to Castle Howard and also spent time at Boothby, a house on the Naworth estate, though she was based mainly in Yorkshire until her death in 1922. Rosalind left the bulk of her estate, including Castle Howard, to her eldest daughter Lady Mary Murray, who had married Gilbert Murray, a very eminent Greek professor at Oxford. Lady Mary, a committed Socialist, refused Castle Howard, commenting that it was not the sort of thing a woman inherits, and it was decided at a family conference that Castle Howard would pass to the fifth son, Geoffrey. Castle Howard is still in the hands of the Howard family, having passed to Geoffrey’s son George who was created Lord Howard of Henderskelfe and it is now owned and run by two of George’s sons, Nicholas and Simon. Naworth passed to George, the 11th Earl of Carlisle, and subsequently to Charles 12th Earl of Carlisle, who moved back into the Castle with his wife, Ela, after it had been leased out and neglected in the post-war years.

Philip, the second son of the 12th Earl, purchased Naworth from his father in 1994. He married Elizabeth in 1992, and the family now live in the Castle.

The Naworth Castle appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Brampton, Carlisle!

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Visiting Naworth Castle


Not open to the public

Duration: 20 minutes

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