Dalton Tower; Dalton Castle



Dalton Castle/Peel Tower is located at Dalton in Furness, Cumbria. It sits in the west side of the town near the entrance to St Mary’s Church.

It is a Grade I Listed Building and currently used as a museum.

The structure comprises of limestone rubble and brick. It was originally 3 storeys but is now 2, and measures 13.5 m x 9 m externally. The walls measure 1.5 m thick except for the west wall of the building which is 2.75 m thick and houses a passageway. A Bronze Age spearhead was located within the walls of the building – measuring 7.8 inches long with chevron decorations, the artefact is now housed in the Lancaster Museum.

The entrance is located to the south east and the floors are made of timber. The building includes a dungeon which measures 1.75 m deep, and the ground floor is divided into two rooms – one used to be used as a stable. There is a spiral staircase leading to the upper floors. Two fireplaces are located within the building – one above the other. At the roof there is a parapet measuring 1.5 m high and located at each of the corners are figures of knights kneeling. These have been dated to the period of Edward III – 1327-1377.

During its history, stone was taken from Furness Abbey and used to repair Dalton Castle. Carved stone heads in the building may come from the Abbey and could possibly date to, or just after, the time of the Dissolution. Henry VIII ordered that Dalton be repaired. He also stated that feudal service had to be performed from Dalton.

There is some controversy surrounding a Roman presence in the area – I will be discussing this later this week – but to whet your appetite here is a small piece referring to it.

The area of the castellum has probably been all the church-yard, the ground on which the present castle stands, and from that to the crest of the precipice on the western side. The situation is such as Agricola would have chosen and such as the Romans always did choose where it was possible. Steep rocks on the south and a precipice on the west, with a rampart and

ditch on the east, secured the fort from surprise; and a brook, which flows in the valley below, furnished the garrison with plenty of water: but by what means it communicated with the station at the head of Windermere, or whether it was abandoned soon, or how the stones were carried from Dalton to the head of Windermere, cannot be ascertained from anything yet discovered ; and suppositions, unless founded on facts, are little to be depended upon. (West 1805)

The site has an interesting history. Starting out as possibly owned by Furness Abbey, they used it for their court, as a prison and also for meetings. It has undergone a few renovations and alterations, and as with most fortified sites, it has seen action. The action here was during the English Civil War. More about that later this week! We are told, however, that a

solidly constructed building, an abbey or a peel tower, defended by a few dozen men could stall an army, until hungry and dispirited it trudged home empty-handed. (Phillips p.399).

Riveting stuff! This may be a very small building, but its history is very colourful. Take a look at its timeline….


79 –     Possible site of a castellum of Agricola, with possible remains of the outer bank and ditch located on the eastern side of the churchyard.

1066 – Owned by Tostig, Earl of Northumbria.

1127 – Possibly mentioned in the Foundation Charter of Furness Abbey. King Stephen granted Furness Abbey the authority to hold court in the town – possibly in a building on the site of the Tower.

1272-1307 – Court held in Dalton on the 13th October each year, possibly at the Tower.

1314-1346 – Possible date of construction. Scottish raids in the area began.

1322 – Believed to have been built following a raid by the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, on the site of a previous stronghold.

1327-77 – Edward III granted Free Warren to the monks at Furness Abbey, including Dalton.

1399-1413 – Henry IV: There was a goal in the Tower for debtors.

14th C – Mid: Built following incursions from the Scots.

1538 – The Tower became the property of the Crown at the Dissolution.

1544 – A Commission ordered that the Tower be repaired.

1545-46 – In ruins. Repairs carried out under orders of Henry VIII following the Dissolution.

1631 – The plague hit Dalton – 360 deaths were recorded.

c.1644 – Parliamentary prisoners were held in the Tower following a skirmish near Newton.

1704 – The wooden floors were replaced. Extensive alterations carried out.

1774 – Up until: Used as a prison.

1784 – Alterations made to the windows.

18th C – An external access was cut through the wall at the base of the staircase.

1803 – Another fair was allowed at Dalton on 28th April for cattle and job seekers.

1807 – The Chief Lords of the area were the Duke of Buccleuch and Lord Beaulieu.

1816 – Alterations made to the windows.

1845 – New staircase added.

1850-51 – The two buildings against the outside wall were removed and replaced by a single building.

1856 – Up until: The middle storey was used as a courthouse. Two buildings were leaning against the outside wall.

1856 – Repaired. One half of the ground floor was converted into a stable. Alterations were made to the height of the rooms converting the building from 3 storeys to 2 storeys. All of the windows were built up. New slate rook installed. The doorway access to the stairs was blocked up.

1885 – The building against the outside wall was used by the Dalton Local Board.

1896 – The building against the outside wall was removed.

1907 – New roof installed. Upper rooms used by the local Masons.

1925 – Up until: The local Court Leet was held in the Tower. They were abolished this year by the Law of Property Act.

1958 – Field Investigation.

1965 – Handed to the National Trust.

1968-69 – After the Tower was granted to the National Trust by the Duke of Buccleuch, the building was restored.

20th C – Late: Used as a local Museum.

2002 – Scheduled Monument Notification.


With so much going on at and around this site I will be filling you in throughout the week on its possible Roman origins, its role in the English Civil War, and its archaeology.




References & Bibliography

Ansted. A. 1899. Pele Towers and Border Castles. The Artist: An Illustrated Monthly Record of Arts, Crafts and Industries (American Edition) , Sep., 1899, Vol. 25, No. 236 (Sep., 1899), pp. 186-199.

Beck. T. A. 1844. Annales Furnesienses: History and antiquities of the abbey of Furness. Payne and Foss Ulverston.

British History Online – https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/lancs/vol8/pp304-319

Broxap. E. 1973. The Great Civil War in Lancashire, 1642-1651. Manchester University Press.

Colvin. H. M. 1968. Castles and Government in Tudor England. The English Historical Review, Apr., 1968, Vol. 83, No. 327 (Apr., 1968), pp. 225- 234.

Dalton Castle. Pastscape. Available at https://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=38203.

Dalton Council –  https://daltoncouncil.org.uk/dalton-castle/

Elsworth. D. 2007. The “Streetgate” at Conishead, the “Castellum” at Dalton, and Roman Furness. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 3rd series, Vol 7, p31-48.

Farrer. W. & Brownbill, J. (eds). 1914. Victoria County History; Lancashire Vol. 8 p. 308-309.

Fishwick. H. 2020. A History of Lancashire. Books on Demand.

Gaythorpe. H. 1910. ‘Dalton Castle’. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Vol. 10 p. 312-30.

Gentles. I. J. 2014. The English Revolution and the Wars in the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1652. Routledge.

Historic England – https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1218342

Jepson. G. 2017. Secret Barrow-in-Furness. Amberley Publishing.

Kelly. P. V. 1928. Dalton Castle. Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Vol. 29 p. 234-41.

King, D.J.C. 1983. Castellarium Anglicanum. Kraus.

Leyser. K., & Reuter. T. 1992. Warriors and Churchmen in the High Middle Ages: Essays Presented to Karl Leyser. A & C Black.

Mackenzie, J.D. 1896. Castles of England; their story and structure. Macmillan.

Mccord. N., & Thompson. R. 2018. The Northern Counties from AD 1000. Routledge.

Neilson. G. 1893. Peel: Its Meaning And Derivation. Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, 1893, New Series, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1893), pp. 121-153

O’Sullivan. M., & Downey. L. 2009. Tower-Houses and Associated Farming Systems. Archaeology Ireland, Summer, 2009, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Summer, 2009), pp. 34-37.

Parker. J. H., & Turner.T. H. (Ed). 1853. Some Account of Domestic Architecture in England From Edward I to Richard II. John Henry Parker, Oxford.

Phillips. G. 1999. Strategy and Its Limitations: The Anglo-Scots Wars, 1480–1550. War in History, November 1999, Vol. 6, No. 4 (November 1999), pp. 396-416.

The National Trust – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dalton-castle

Watkin, W. T., 1880, “The Minor Roman Stations of Lancashire; Also the Camps and Miscellaneous Discoveries in the County”, Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire Cheshire, 32, 67-90.

West, T., 1805, Antiquities of Furness. Ulverston


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