Kendal’s first Norman fortification, Castle Howe, was abandoned in the early 13th century in favour of the new Kendal Castle, which was constructed by Baron Gilbert Fitz Reinfred, sheriff of Lancaster, on the old pastoral lands of the somewhat appropriately named Castle Hill. Oh, all right, maybe the hill was named after the castle was built. The new location offered plenty of room for expansion, and the castle rapidly grew.
As I made my way up the hill and around the castle I couldn’t help but feel that the crumbling remains of the curtain wall and the outer defensive ditch still look a very formidable defence indeed, and I was greatly relieved when I finally located the entrance. Emerging into the massive central courtyard, I was immediately struck by the scale of this medieval fortified residence. The most substantial ruins of the once magnificent Great Hall are complete with vaulted under-croft and the substantial garderobe tower, which, as the name suggests, once held the castle toilets.
The other substantial remnant is the round Troutbeck Tower across the courtyard, originally a lookout tower. Complete with a fireplace and en-suite garderobe , it still offers unparalleled views over the town. A more thorough search will also turn up the remains of the well, the chapel, and other structures, but there is little to hold you here for long. The castle passed into the hands of the Parr family, and local legend says that Queen Catherine the Sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII was born here in 1513, although this is unlikely, as the castle is believed to have already been abandoned and in an advanced state of decay by this time as shown in a survey carried out in 1572.
The castle was acquired by the town in 1869 and opened to the public to mark the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The bitterly windswept ruins now make a romantic viewing point from which to survey the town and the mountains beyond.
March 10, 2005
From journal Kendal: Have Your Mint Cake & Eat It