Lake District Castles
English Castles Amy Green  

Brougham Castle

Brougham Castle is situated in an excellent defensive position above the River Eamont, within sight of the Roman fort at Low Borrowbridge. The castle was built in 1120 by Robert de Romille, a Norman baron who had arrived with William the Conqueror’s army in 1066. Construction began just after 1120 when de Romille was granted the land by Baron Hugh de Morville (a local Saxon lord) in thanks for his help suppressing a rebellion.

Where is Brougham Castle?

Brougham Castle is built on an outcrop of red sandstone which lies about 6 miles north west of Penrith, Cumbria, England. The castle lies within sight of the Roman fort at Low Borrowbridge and is about a mile from Brougham Hall.

Brougham Castle Layout

The castle takes the form of a massive curtain wall, reinforced by eight D-shaped towers ranging from 7 to 9 metres in diameter. The entrance to the inner ward has been altered over time and now consists of a fortified rampart walkway with two small flanking towers.

The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building, in recognition of its national importance. It is now in the care of English Heritage and is open to visitors throughout the year.

Visiting Brougham Castle

The present-day ruins of Brougham Castle are on private land but can be viewed from the public footpath which runs through the old kitchen garden.

Brougham Castle History

In the early 18th century, William Talbot was a rector in Sessay and Carrickbyrne. He was at this time the owner of nearby Brougham Castle on which he set about some extensive improvements to turn it into his family seat.

He had been born in 1610 in Long Critchell, Cornwall where his father was the rector. It is thought that he studied at Oxford University and he definitely studied law after which he entered Lincoln’s Inn. He became a barrister and bencher and on his father’s death in 1670, William inherited the family estate of Long Critchell.

The influence of Lord Peterborough who encouraged Talbot to spend more time in Yorkshire eventually led to him becoming the Lord of the Manor at Brougham.

Whilst he was revamping his new castle, Talbot’s building plans were hampered by various setbacks such as problems with the water supply and subsidence due to mining activities taking place below ground level.

One winter morning in 1711, a fire broke out in the castle whilst Talbot’s wife was in bed. The timber roof caught alight, so she ran to a small window, where she stood precariously balanced on an old stone jamb whilst holding her child over the head of another person standing below her.

William Talbot had been working with his foreman Samuel Atkinson that morning. They had been checking on the castle’s water supply which was coming from an underground spring nearby. On hearing of the fire, Talbot ran to his wife and child outside but realised that they were in greater peril than just being scorched by flames within due to the frozen ground. He shouted at them to jump into his arms but it was a long way down. He would have broken their fall – possibly ending up with a number of injuries themselves.

So instead, he went to the nearest building site and returned with some loose bricks which he stacked up as a makeshift ladder against the castle wall. One can imagine that it wasn’t particularly sturdy but his wife managed to climb down from the window and so did her maid. He was then able to catch the child as it fell from his wife’s hands into his own without causing them any harm whatsoever. In fact, their only injury was a twisted ankle which occurred when they jumped onto the ground.

The fire was eventually subdued by Talbot throwing buckets of water through an upper window but not before it had caused severe damage to the roof timbers.

Following this incident, Talbot decided that perhaps Brougham Castle was not the best place to spend their future together and he sold the estate in 1715.

Further Reading

You might like to read more about some of the other Lake District Castles.

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