Pendragon Castle is situated close to Kirkby Stephen. It is said to have been founded by King Arthur’s Father, Uther Pendragon and legend has it that Uther and a hundred of his soldiers were killed here when they drank water from a well poisoned by the Saxon invaders.
The Romans are said to have built a fortress on this same spot to fill the gap between their forts at Burgh and Bainbridge. However, in spite of the local legends there is not firm proof of any kind of fortress being built here before the Normans built a castle in the 12th century.
It is thought that Pendragon Castle was built by Hugh de Morville but it came into the possession of the Cliffords and was abandoned after a Scottish raiding party set fire to it in 1341. In 1360 it was rebuilt and burned again in 1541.
Anne Clifford, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Cumberland had it rebuilt in about 1650 but it fell into ruin after her death.
It is possible to gain access to the castle although it is sited on private property but it is in a dangerous condition and care needs to be taken.
KIRKBY STEPHEN, KIRKBY THORE, KIRKBY LONSDALE
The name of the town Kirkby Stephen comes from the old Scandinavian word ‘kirkju-by’ which meant ‘village with a church’. It was first recorded in about 1094 as ‘Cherkaby Stephan’. The word ‘Stephen’ is attached to the town’s name with reference to the name of the church, or perhaps the name of an early landowner.
Kirkby Thore was first recorded as ‘Kirkebythore’ in 1179 and the addition of the word ‘Thore’ is the old Scandinavian word ‘Thorir’ which meant ‘a manor’.
Kirkby Lonsdale was recorded in the Doomsday Book in 1086 as ‘Cherchebi’ and also known as ‘Kircadi Lauenesdale’ between 1090 and 1097. ‘Lauenesdale’ means ‘in the valley of the River Lune’ and comes from the old Celtic river name and old Scandinavian.
The names of these three places in Cumbria give an insight into just how much influence the Vikings, or Norsemen from Scandinavia had in the area.