An investigation to uncover the hidden history of the Norman Conquest of Cumbria is underway and will be featured on BBC2’s Digging for Britain.
A team combining History and Archaeology from across the North West has been investigating the physical remains and documentary evidence surrounding the medieval earthwork castle and village at Lowther Castle and Gardens, near Penrith.
Whilst Lowther is famous today for the dramatic ruins of its nineteenth century castle, its medieval history has lain little known for generations. But its medieval castle and village is potentially of national significance – a remnant of the campaign of conquest led by King William Rufus in 1092.
Rare documentary evidence of the castle, and life in Lowther’s medieval village in the following centuries, also survives to tell the story of the site.
An archaeological dig, combined with documentary excavation, has been underway in 2023, funded by the Castle Studies Trust.
The team – including Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Allen Archaeology and Lowther Castle and Gardens – is working to uncover the hidden history of this crucial chapter in Britain’s past.
Whilst every school child knows that the Normans conquered England in 1066, the reality was different.
Cumbria, in England’s far North West, was not subdued by William the Conqueror. In fact it was an independent kingdom – distinct from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the south – that held out for another generation.
It wasn’t until 1092 that King William Rufus led his army north and annexed Cumbria to the English crown, sending settlers to colonise the land.
What did this second generation of the Norman Conquest look like? The remains of a Norman earthwork castle and village at Lowther potentially contain the answer.
In the summer of 2023, the team began excavation of the site, uncovering evidence of the castle’s construction and its relationship to the village.
The investigation is now to be featured on BBC2’s flagship series on current archaeology, Digging for Britain, presented by Professor Alice Roberts.
The programme will feature a tour of the excavation by Dr Jim Morris and archaeology students from UCLan, as well as little-known documentary evidence of the medieval castle and village, introduced by Dr Sophie Ambler, of Lancaster University.
Hidden amongst the Lowther family archive are deeds from the thirteenth century produced by people living in the village, in the shadow of its medieval castle. Written on parchment in Latin, they include a rare mention of the castle itself, at a time when the fortification seems to have been derelict.
Piecing together Lowther’s medieval past through documents and archaeology will help to fill in a crucial chapter in Britain’s history: the moment when Cumbria’s independence was crushed and the Norman Conquest was completed – not in 1066, but 1092.
· The investigation is due be featured on BBC2’s flagship series on current archaeology, Digging for Britain, presented by Professor Alice Roberts, on January 2, 2024, at 8pm.Back to News