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Ruins of Pendragon Castle, Outhgill

According to legend, the castle was built by Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur, who is said to have unsuccessfully tried to divert the river to provide its moat,

Uther (if he was indeed a real person) was a 5th Century chieftain who led resistance to the invading Anglo-Saxons. According to another local legend, Uther and many of his men died here when the Saxons poisoned the well (other legends give St Albans as the location for his death). There are several other "Arthurian" sites in Cumbria, for example King Arthur's Round Table, near Penrith - and many names in the North-west, such as Penrith and Cumbria have Celtic origins.

However, despite legend (and the discovery of a Roman coin) there is no evidence of any pre-Norman use of this site. The castle was built in the 12th century by Ranulph de Meschines, during the reign of King William Rufus. It has the remains of a Norman keep, with the later addition of a 14th-century garderobe turret, and some further additions in the 17th century.

One of its most notable owners was Sir Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland – one of the four knights who murdered St Thomas Beckett in 1170. A nearby high-point on Mallerstang Edge is named after him, as Hugh Seat. Another owner was Lady Ideona de Veteripont who, after the death of her husband, spent much of her remaining years living in the castle, until her death in 1334. Lady Ideona founded the church of St Mary in the nearby hamlet of Outhgill, ca 1311.

The castle was attacked by Scots raiding parties in 1342 and again in 1541. After the latter attack it remained an uninhabitable ruin until it passed into the hands of Lady Anne Clifford, who rebuilt it in 1660, adding a brew house, bake house, stables and coach house. It remained one of the favourites among her many castles until her death in 1676 at the age of 86 years.

Lady Anne CliffordLady Anne's successor, the Earl of Thanet, had no use for the castle and removed anything of value from it, including the lead from the roof. By the 1770s much of the building above the second storey had collapsed,[1] and it has since gradually decayed further to become the romantic ruin seen today.


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Taken on July 24, 2012