Whilst visiting Penrith and the Northern Lake District it is worth stopping off for a walk around Penrith Castle which is situated in the pleasant surroundings of Castle Park, on the southern edge of the town, opposite the railway station. The Castle is accessed via a wooden footbridge that spans the Castle’s moat.
The imposing ruins of Penrith Castle have a unique and intriguing history, with its sandstone remains of the ‘Castle of the Kings’.
The castle was built in 1399, when William Strickland, later to become Bishop of Carlisle and Archbishop of Canterbury, added a stone wall to an earlier pele tower, primarily as a defence against the Scottish raids.
In 1419 Ralph Neville, first Earl of Westmorland inherited Penrith castle, whilst later developing it, with additions and improvements. A walled quadrangular castle was built but without the customary angle towers. Strickland’s Tower, the original pele tower house, flanked the castle’s entrance on the northeast front. Ralph Neville added the Red Tower and a new gatehouse on the northeast. Ralph Neville was killed at the battle of Barnet in 1471.
In July of 1471, the castle came into the possession of Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Lord Warden of the Marches Toward Scotland, as part of the Warwick inheritance becoming a royal fortress for Richard, before he became King Richard III in 1483. Richard added the banquet hall along with other additions, and during building work took up residence at the nearby Duke of Gloucester inn, and by 1672 the castle was in ruins.
Orders where given to repair Penrith castle but during the Civil War, it suffered heavy damage, probably resulting in the ruins seen today. During the Civil War the castle was the headquarters for General Lambert, but not for long as most of the action took place around Eamont Bridge a mile to the south.
The castle and the town remained part of the Crown Estate until the reign of William III who gave it and most other Crown property in Cumberland to his friend Hans Willem Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland. The castle eventually passing from the Earls and Dukes of Portland, to the Dukes of Devonshire, who later sold it to the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway Company who built Penrith railway station opposite the site.
The castle later passed into the ownership of the Penrith Urban District Council, who in 1920 converted the grounds of Penrith castle into a public park and built housing nearby.
Penrith Castle is a great ruin to visit anytime of the year and open all year round.