Egremont Medieval Festival
The History of Egremont and the Castle

 The following text is lifted verbatim from the booklet "A 1000 Years of Egremont". The booklet was written by E.A. Read. Details of more of Alan's publications can be found here

The Town of Egremont.....a Potted History.

990 The king of Denmark had set hinself the task of conquering all England. The Danes came to his part of the country and built themselves a fort on the site which, at a later date, would become Egremont Castle.
1092 The year when William the Conqueror's son marched north to Carlisle bringing the Norman influence to the North West of England.
1095 Ranulph de Briquessart was given, by Rufus William II (1087 - 1100) the greater part of Cumberland and a large part of Westmorland.
1100 Ranulph de Briquessart, now known as Ranulph le Meschines, was made Earl of Chester and his great estates were returned to the crown.
1120 Henry I granted the Barony of Copeland to William le Meschines, brother of the now Earl of Chester. This was all the lands lying between the River Duddon in the south to the River Derwnt in the north and from the Irish sea in the west to the interior mountains in the east. William fixed his place of residence at Egremont (a name most likely derived from the Norman French "Egremond"). The building of the castle appears to have commenced about this time. The
first building was of the motte and bailey type of structure. The sandstone castle being built as the need for stronger fortification became necessary.
1125 The town of Egremont begins to grow around the castle, which is said to have taken 150 years to to complete. The entrance tower and courtyard are reckoned to have been completed by the year 1180 and the Great Hall was probably not completed until 1270.
1130 It was about this time that William le Meschines died and his estates
were taken over by his son Ranulph.
1135 Ranulph le Meschines died without male issue and his Barony was governed on behalf of his sister by William Fitzduncan, the nephew of King David I, who had by this time occupied the whole of Cumberland claiming it for the Scots.

1140 William Fitzduncan married Alice, daughter of Cicely, only child remaining of William le Meschines and she had married Robert de Romilly, Lord of Skipton.
1145 It was about this time that Alice gave birth to a male child who,
through his tragic and untimely death became celebrated in tradition as "The Boy of Egremont".
1150 William Fitzduncan held great power as a result of his marriage and inheritance "he held a status within the kingdom that was inferior to no other!".
1157 It was whilst on holiday at the home of his Aunt Cecily at Bolton in Craven, now Yorkshire, that the son of William and Alice Fitzduncan met his untimely and tragic death in The Strid where the River Wharfe
flows through a narrow defile.
1160 William Fitzduncan dies and as a result of his death, and that of his son, the large estates are divided between his three daughters, namely Cecily who married The Earl of Albermarle, Annabel married Reginal de Lucy and Alice, who married twice but died later, childless.
1165 Alice's estates were divide and part of them came to Richard de Lucy, son of Annabel. He married Ada, co-heiress of Hugh de Morville Lord of the Barony of Burgh. They had two daughters also named Annabel and Alice who, as a result of their fathers death, became wards of Thomas de Multon.
1175 Annabel de Morville married Lambert de Multon.Alice de Morville married Alan de Multon.
1177 Lambert de Multon and Annabel inherited the Barony of Copeland so Egremont Castle again had a Lord in residence. It was he who granted, by Royal Charter from Henry III, Egremont's borough charter and the right to hold a weekly matket and an annual fair. This fair was to become known as "Crab Fair" and is held annually on the Saturday nearest the 19th September.

1200 Richard de Lucy established his claim to the Lordship of Copeland and had to sue his relatives to obtain his inheritance.
1205 It was at this time that one of Egremonts legends came into being.The story of Grunwilda, wife of Richard de Lucy who, on a hunting foray, was slain by a wolf. The tale is told in the poem "The Woeful Chase".
1212 Richard de Lucy dies leaving no male heir. Superstition has it that no male child should ever survive to inherit Egremont Castle because of the perfidious conduct of William le Meschines to one Robert Curthose by desertion and for the atrocities committed on helpless women and children by William Fitzduncan. It was he that held the unsavoury title the "Butcher of Craven".
1295 Egremont was considered important enough to be able to be represented in Parliament with two members, but this proved to be too expensive for the town. Subsequently the Burgesses petitioned the Crown "that they may be spared this expense" and so it was granted.
1300 The town as envisaged by Richard de Lucy is much as we see it today and the land that he set aside for agriculture at Briscoe and Ullcoats, even after over 700 years still remains under agricultural usage.The 1300's were times of turmoil and trouble as a result of the frequent incursions made by the Scots into what they had always claimed as
"debatable lands".
1315 The district of Copeland is again ravaged and Egremont is devestated by the marauding Scots. King David I of Scotland used Egremont Castle during this period as his headquarters when ranging down the Cumberland coast as far as Furness.
1322 Robert Bruce pillaged and plundered the town on his great raid which lasted for three weeks and resulted in an enormous loss of life.
1330 An uneasy peace followed these blood thirsty raids for the next few decades.1386 It is at this time that Maud, sister and co-heiress of Anthony, the fourth Lord Lucy, married Henry Percy the Earl of Northumberland on
condition that he should quarter his arms with hers.The Egremont estate passed by marriage to the Seymours of Somerset.

1400 The castle at Egremont is left empty for long periods during these years and consequently fell into a state of neglect and disrepair. The powers which had held the area for so many years were no longer apparent.The bloodiest period of the towns history was drawing to a close and the Scots were making less and less raids down the Cumberland plains. The
chaos and uncertainties of the previous century were receding.
1463 King Edward IV had made a truce with the Scots and the Duke of Gloucester, who was later crowned King Richard III. The "debatable lands" though, were still a burning issue. 1500 The Castle by now was of no iportance and was falling into decay. It is said that Oliver Cromwell was responsible for the destruction of the castle at the same time as his followers destroyed Calder Abbey and the Priory at St Bees but there is no evidence of this. Inded, Cromwell did
not come into his prime until some 140 years later!
1565 The building of a stone "brygge" mentioned in a property deal at this date is most likely the bridge known as "Old Bridge".
1578 The town was now smaller than it had been in the 1300's due to the frequent raiding by the Scots. The number of "burgess" properties had fallen from 138 in 1295 to 101 in 1565.
1600 The town is at a standstill, the castle is but a ruin of its former glory and little, if any, building is taking place.
1667 New stone buildings, apparently built with stone from the now derelict castle, are being built on Main Street. The Ponsonby family of Haile Hall seems to have been responsible for some of these. The town is once again on the move.
1683 One Edward Benn was granted a plot of land on which to build a barn,on condition that "he rebuilt the stone brygge of 1565 and he should bind himself and his heirs forever to repair and maintain this brygge".
1710 Isaac Pearson, a Tanner, needed a plot of land on which to build a tannery. The Borough Court granted him a plot, on the riverside near the place known as Black Bridge, on condition that he did rebuild and maintain the bridge at the bottom of Bookwell Hill over Skitter Beck.
1748 Another bridge was built close to Briscoe Mill by John Pearson, a Hatter, at his own expense. This amounted to £28-15s-0d.
1749 A "Turn Pike Trust" was inaugerated and roads improved. The town began to service the port of Whitehaven, the then third largest port in England. A mail coach passed through the town, on its way from Ulverston to Whitehaven, three times a week.1800 The town was thriving, Tanneries, Corn Mills, Sailcloth Mills, Flint Mills and Flax Mills had all been built along the River Ehen from which they obtained their motive power.1822 A new double arched sandstone bridge was opened a few yards upstream from the bridge of 1565 and 1683 and the Old Bridge demolished.1824 The bridge near Briscoe Mill was widened to allow passage of wheeled vehicles.1830 Iron ore mining began in earnest around this time.

1850 The sound of iron caulkered clogs was a welcome sound to the people of Egremont. It was boom time for the mines. The town was lit by gas, a small company had been formed of local business men and a gasworks built at Beck Green. The railway had come with a line from Whitehaven via Moor Row.1860 The first Fire Engine, horse drawn, had been bought and delivered to Egremont Railway Station.1869 The railway line was extended via Beckermet to Sellafield to join up
with the coast line from Furness to Whitehaven.1879 The first piped water supply from a 6,000 gallon reservoir at Howbank
was laid to a standpipe in Main Street. Wyndham and Gillfoot mines began to lift ore.

1880 A new school opened at Bookwell, the population had increased from 1,000 in 1800 to 6,000 in 1880.
1881 The Parish Church was rebuilt. There has been a church on this site since 1130.
1882 The iron ore trade suffered a depression, the first of many during the next 60 years.
1885 The telephone came to town.
1888 The Main Street is paved, the Town Hall is built, a water supply comes to town from Cogra Moss and trees are planted all down Main Street.1901 The Church tower is extended and a peal of bells installed, much to the delight of a group of local campanologists.1909 The last Leet Court is held in the castle, a long tradition is no more. Beckermet Mining Company open their new mine at a depth of 600 fathoms.
1914 The First World War begins and Egremont gets its first casualties. Before the end of the war, 120 local men will have laid down their lives.1915 A new housing project is built at Briscoe Mount to the east of the town,

1918 The Great War ends and the soldiers who have survived begin to return home to "a land fit for heroes to live in". However, they found unemployment was rife in the area even though the Beckermet Mining Company had opened their second new mine.
1920 Another new housing estate, Castle Croft, was being built with semi-detached 3 and 4 bedroom houses with piped water, gas lighting and water sewage, all with rentals from 6/3d per week.1930's A depressing time with high unemployment over long periods. A point was reached where 9 out of every 10 men were on the dole.
1939 This year saw the beginning of another conflict in Europe, with Germay the aggressor again.Those who had been born during the First World War were now old enough to be called up and over 30 men of Egremont and District were to lay down their lives.1940 As a result of the War the iron ore mines are in full production
Smithfield housing estate is started.1945 Armistice is signed, another war is over. Passenger service ceases on
the line from Whitehaven to Sellafield via Egremont. Electric lighting is installed on Main Street.1950 Gulley Flatts housing estate is built. Rowntrees open their chocolate crumb factory at East Road. A new industrial scene begins to grow, the
Royal Ordnance factory at Sellafield is taken over by the Atomic Energy Authority.1964 Comprehensive Schooling comes to Wyndham, the first in the British Isles.
1968 Florence Iron Ore Mine closes. The town has lost some of its oldest
buildings with the clearance of houses in South St, hurch St, Croft Terrace, Rafferty St, Drummond St and North Road.

1970's This period sees a great influx of construction workers needing accommodation, the nuclear industry is expanding.
1980's Windscale Mine closes, the iron ore mining industry is finished, the days of the Red Men are over.Only part of the new Florence Mine is to remain, producing a small quantity of high grade iron ore for special purposes. The mine is
destined to become a curiosity to visitors of the town.The Atomic Energy Authority at the now renamed Sellafield open a large
Visitors Centre.Egremont becomes a dormitory town for the influx of contractors building the huge THORP complex at Sellafield.A town once well known to Royalty is now well known to the World as it stands on the doorstep of one of the most controversial industries ever known.1990 A new era envisaged for the town, a bypass is to be built, the town
may once again become a quiet little Market Town. Are a thousand years
of time to come full circle?
Egremont Castle.egremont castle overlooking the River Ehen

The mellow ruins of Egremont Castle stand high above the town on a natural hill that is steeply scarped and improved by art. As Norman Nicholson says "lifted above the town like the Ark in the wilderness".The Norman control of Cumbria did not come until some time after the famous year 1066. It was not until 1092 that William Rufus established Ranulf de
Mescines as Earl of Carlisle and not until after 1120 that HenryI created a number of baronies, of which Copeland was one, and installed William de Meschines, Ranulf's younger brother, there.The Normans were great church builders and William de Meschines in 1125 endowed St Bees Priory. He was succeeded by his son, Ranulf, in 1134. Ranulf did not live long but before he died he endowed Calder Abbey.The barony went to his sister, Cecily, who had married Robert de Romilly,
Lord of Skipton in Craven. Their only child, Alice, carried the Barony of Egremont and Lordship of Skipton to her husband, William Fitzduncan, son of Duncan, Earl of Murray and nephew of David, King of Scotland.

Fitzduncan died in 1151 leaving three daughters and a son, William de Romilly, "the boy of Egremont" so called either because he was born there or because Egremont was the most extensive English property to which he was heir. It stretched from the Derwent to the Duddon.Some nine years later, young de Romilly was drowned when his horse failed to jump the river Wharfe at a dangerous place called the Strid. His death was a tragedy because of the high hopes centred on him. The ORKNEYING SAGA calls him "William the Noble, whom all the Scots wished to take for their King".Egremont passed to his sister Annabels husband, Richard de Lucy, who granted a charter of privileges to the burgesses of the town. Richard de Lucy died
young and the guardianship of his two daughters was purchased by Thomas de Multon of Gilsland, who promptly married them off to his two sons and then married the widow himself. The Multons, who continued in possession until
1335, built the Great Hall of the castle. On the death of the last de Multon it passed to Baron Fitzwalter and later to the Percy's, Earls of Northumberland, who let the castle fall into decay. By 1578 it was completely in ruins except for the courthouse.The early Lords of Egremont possessed the powers of "pit and gallows" and had a short way with vexatious villeins and surly serfs. On the top of Clints, on the road from Egremont to Bigrigg, is a field called Gibbet Holme, and according to Jeffersons history of Allerdale-above-Derwent, "several skeletons have been found at various times".Egremont was too far south of the Border to be affected by the usual Reiver activity, but in 1315, Robert the Bruce and Lord James Douglas drove deep into Cumberland, did much mischief at Egremont and spoiled the Priory at St Bees. It was on this raid or the subsequent one in 1322 that Calder Abbey suffered severe damage.

Norman Nicholson once wrote "the stone of the castle is dark and sullen. Much blood has soaked into it" and in his FIVE RIVERS (Faber 1944) has a poem entitled "Egremont" in which he declares:

Still the moated dungeons hide
Legends of poverty and pride
And murdered skulls are stuffed with lore
Of pillage, plunder, famine, fear
And dirk has carved upon the bone
'Blood will not show on the red stone'

Legends there are about Egremont. Parson and White in their history and gazetteer of Cumberland (1829) remind us that there is a traditional story of a lady of the Lucy family, on a n evening walk near the castle, being devoured by a wolf. Hence a place nearby has a cairn of stones and the name Woeful Bank.It is around the Lucies that legend lies thickest. About 1204, Richard was made Forester of Cumberland. The badge of the forester was a bugle horn and from this sprang the story of the Horn of Egremont.The legend exists in various forms but basically it is the story of two brothers riding away to the wars, of the elder being captured and held for ransom and the younger brother being sent home to raise the price of freedom. Once home he decides to do nothing and to assume his brothers place. The latter however, is freed through the love of his captors daughter, and returns to blow the horn that hangs by the castle gate and which only the true heir can blow.In 1806 William Wordsworth wrote a poem called "The Horn of Egremont Castle" in which he tells a variant of the tale. Sir Eustace Lucy and his brother
Hubert set off on one of the Crusades and as true knights they showed their mettle:

Side by side they fought (the Lucies
Were a line for valour famed)
And where'er their strokes alighted
There the Saracens were tamed

But Hubert becomes envious and arranges to have his brother bushwhacked:
"Sir" the Ruffians said to Hubert
Deep he lies in Jordans flood"

And with this assurance Hubert rides home. But Sir Eustace is not quite as dead as reported and years later rides home to sound the Horn and claim his own. Hubert begs forgiveness and enters a monastery.Curiously enough, Walter Fitzwalter, when Lord of Egremont, was taken prisoner when fighting in France and had to mortgage the Castle to raise his ransom.A modern version of "The Horn of Egermont" appears in Harold Morland's LAKELAND BALLADS (Lakeland Printers Ltd. 1972).

Armoured knights and men-at-arms no longer clatter through the gateway of the keep, but the peaceful ruins are well worth a visit for the view they demand
People have heard of the egremont legacies, whether they are on flights to india r flights to germany. They give them up in favour of flights to london immediately. History lovers do not bother themselves with the worries of cheap flights.
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