Kirkby Stephen

The Main Road
The busy market town of Kirkby Stephen has the River Eden flowing close to the town and boasts several antique shops. The Pennine Hills can be seen close by and there are several walks close to the town by the river. It is situated at the head of the Eden Valley and its market square is surrounded by an ancient collar of cobblestones, which mark the boundary of an area used for bull baiting - a sport that stopped after a bull broke free.

Franks BridgeRiver Eden

Kirkby Stephen has a population of just over 1600 but it is often swollen each year by visitors some of which are passing through on the coast to coast walk.

Left : Stenkrith Gorge - River Eden

Below: The Cloisters Kirkby Steven

In the square the Cloisters (shown above) were built in 1810 between the church and the square and intended as a shelter for churchgoers and market people. They were also used as a butter market.

The parish church is built on the site of an old Saxon church and contains several relics including the 8th. century Loki Stone one of only two such stones found in Europe reprisenting a Norse God.

Not far from Kirkby Steven are two castles linked with the legend of King Arthur.

Pendragon Castle

Pendragon Castle

Pendragon Castle

Pendragon Castle - "Hill of the Dragon" is named from the hill or pen (Celtic), a man made mound, on which it was built. Legend has it that a dragon lived within the mound.

The castle is also linked with Arthurian legend and is supposed to be the home of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur. Uther was a fierce warrior and might have been a member of the Ughtred family, possibly Uchtred, son of an Earl of Northumberland. He it was that beat King Malcolm of Scotland in battle - read the Saxon stories by Bernard Cornwell, who wrote the Richard Sharpe novels.

A pele tower was built on the hill in the twelfth century - one of the oldest in Westmorland. Sir Hugh de Morville was supposed to have built the castle but the castle passed to his nephew when Sir Hugh was exiled to France after his involvement with the murder of Thomas a Becket. In 1202 the castle was given to Robert de Veteripont by King John and the castle remained in his family for over 700 years. It then passed to his descendants the Cliffords, Tuftons and Hothfields.

In about 1343 it was burnt and partly demolished and left uninhabited until 1360 when Roger de Clifford restored it over a ten year period. In 1541 the Scots set fire to the castle and again it was left uninhabited until Lady Anne Clifford restored it in 1660. On her death in 1676 the castle passed to the Tufton family. In 1685 Thomas, Earl of Thanet removed the lead from the roof along with anything else of value and the building steadily deteriorated, until in 1773 most of the castle collapsed and stone was removed over the years for building. In more recent times efforts have been made to consolidate the ruin in accordance with the regulations concerning ancient monuments.

Pendragon Castle from the air
Photograph courtesy of Simon Ledingham

Lammerside Castle

Lammerside Castle

Lammerside Castle

Lammerside Castle is a bit of a mystery as noone knows who or when it was built, who lived in it or who destroyed it. The castle was probably built to protect the owners from the raiding Scots in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Lammerside is only about a mile from Pendragon Castle and this is probably why the two are linked by Arthurian legend.

Tradition says that this is the Castle Dolorous home to a Saxon giant named Sir Tarquin.

A Gilbert de Querton (anglicised to Wharton) lived here at the end of the 1200's and then moved to Wharton Hall a short distance away, the castle fell into disrepair. The Wharton family prospered for 500 years but then their lands and titles were confiscated by the crown and then sold to the Lowther family.


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