Muncaster Castle is a 16th-century castle in the village of Muncaster, in Cumbria, England. It was built in 1460 on the site of an earlier medieval castle and became embroiled in local and national conflicts between Scotland and England during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The castle still belongs to members of the Clifford family who have lived here since 1609.
Today Muncaster Castle is a popular tourist attraction, owned by Lord Harry Charles Clifford (born 1942) and his wife Rosemary Sydney Innes-Ker (born 1934). It has been developed with period furnishings for public events including weddings, conferences, dinner dances, baptisms and receptions. These are also available for hire. An annual medieval fair is held there annually.
Muncaster Castle’s construction was ordered by Roger de Clifford during the Wars of Scottish Independence, around 1460.
That year, William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas attacked the castle, forcing Roger to capitulate and demolish its defences. After Sir Andrew de Harcla took possession in 1462 it was refortified and Roger died here in 1470 after being summoned to London by King Edward IV of England on a charge of treason. He was beheaded after refusing to take an oath to support his liege lord against the rebellious Duke of Clarence (who had led a brief rising).
Muncaster Castle suffered considerable damage during the Civil War. Following the end of hostilities Oliver Cromwell used Muncaster as part of his power base in the north of England. It was said to have been a centre for his envoys and spies. He is said to have visited it several times himself, including once in 1649. Subsequently, it was garrisoned for Parliament and again suffered at the hands of Royalist troops during a four month siege in 1643-44.
The castle is first recorded as being damaged by Parliamentarian troops during their sieges of nearby Cockermouth in 1645, when it was commanded by Sir Richard Newbald and William Dacre. It was besieged again by Sir Thomas Fairfax in May 1648.
When the New Model Army occupied the north of England after the 1660 Restoration, the castle was held by a Royalist force under John Mure. The Earl of Lauderdale ousted Mure in June 1666, but Parliament ordered Muncaster Castle to be dismantled as part of an agreement with Charles II. It remained a ruin until it was bought by Edward Clifford in 1688.
The castle stayed in Clifford hands for almost three hundred years before being sold to James Kiddell Davison in 1912 and then on to his widow after his death in 1928.
In 1935, the castle was bought by The Hon. John George Bowes Howard (1904–1995), a descendant of the noble Bowes family, who had been leasing it since 1926. His family lived there for some time but sold it to Viscount Cowdray in 1951. In 1981 Viscount Cowdray entrusted it to The National Trust and it remains in trust today.
With the restoration of the monarchy, James Kiddell Davison sought royal patronage to restore Muncaster Castle into its former glory, his efforts meeting with great success in 1932 when King George V granted an audience at Buckingham Palace.
In 1935, Muncaster Castle was purchased by The Hon. John George Bowes Howard (1904-1995), a descendant of the noble Bowes family, who had been leasing it since 1926. His family lived there for some time but sold it to Viscount Cowdray in 1951. In 1981 Viscount Cowdray entrusted it to The National Trust and it remains in trust today.
Muncaster Castle is open to the public all year round and has a gift shop and souvenir shop. There are guided tours of the castle and annual events include archery, falconry displays, medieval banquets, a Victorian Christmas fair along with living history re-enactments of historical events.
If you enjoyed this article you might also like to read about: