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Piel Castle defending Barrow Harbour

Piel Castle, Barrow in Furness, Cumbria and the Lake District.
Piel Castle can only be visited by ferry.

Welcome to the EDGE Guide to Piel Castle. This castle stands on an island in the entrance to Barrow harbour.

A licence to crenelate was granted to John Cockerham, Abbot of Furness Abbey, in1327 to fortify his house on the island in Barrow harbour.

In 1403 the pele tower was taken apart by Abbot John de Bolton, because of the high cost of its upkeep. The destruction of the tower was in contravention of an agreement made between Abbot Cockerham and King Stephen.

The King had specified that a fort should be built and maintained on the island in order to protect the harbour.

When the pele was taken down the Crown took possession of the island, and did not return it to the Abbey until 1411.

Repairs were made to what remained, but they were only enough that the castle could be made habitable, never again was it an effective defence for the harbour.

In 1487 a man called Lambert Simnel landed on Piel Island with an army of 8,000 men, mostly regular German soldiers plus a complement of lrish. The army had been paid for by Duchess Margaret of Burgundy, and led by Martin Smart.

Their purpose was to put Simnel on the English throne in place of Henry VII. Soon they joined forces with Sir Thomas Broughton, who had a grievance with Henry.

The attempt ended with Smart, Broughton and their commander all dead, however Simnel was spared and died in 1525.

By the time of the English Civil War Piel Castle was still in decline, and not considered worth improving by the time of the English Civil War.

The Royalist forces considered the option of occupying the Castle and rebuilding the fortifications, but the idea was rejected.

In 1688 the Castle was given over to the Duke of Buccleuch, and remains in that family's possession today.

Restoration continues today in an attempt to stay the forces of nature, much has been washed away in the past, but much still remains and the Castle is well worth a visit.

You can get to the Castle by ferry between 12.00 noon and 6pm Easter to October, tel 01229 22520 for more details

Map of Castles in Cumbria.