Thurland Castle

Thurland Castle is a country house in Lancashire, England which has been converted into apartments. Surrounded by a moat, and located in parkland, it was originally a defensive structure, one of a number of castles in the Lune Valley. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building.[1] Situated between the villages of Cantsfield and Tunstall the castle stands on a low mound on a flat plain, with the River Greta on the south side and the Cant beck to the north. A deep circular moat surrounds it.[2]

Thurland Castle
Thurland Castle, Lancashire (geograph 1896885).jpg
Thurland Castle, looking west from the A6
LocationBetween Cantsfield and Tunstall, Lancashire, England
Coordinates54°09′07″N 2°35′52″W / 54.1520°N 2.5978°W / 54.1520; -2.5978Coordinates: 54°09′07″N 2°35′52″W / 54.1520°N 2.5978°W / 54.1520; -2.5978
OS grid referenceSD 611 731
Founded14th century
ArchitectPaley and Austin
Architectural style(s)Elizabethan Revival and
Gothic Revival
Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated4 October 1967
Reference no.1164439
Thurland Castle is located in the City of Lancaster district
Thurland Castle
Location in the City of Lancaster district


Thurland Castle seen though the arch of the gateway of the bridge crossing the moat

The earliest existing fabric dates from the 14th century.[1] In 1402 Sir Thomas Tunstall (d. 05 Nov 1415),[3] was licensed to crenellate the building.[4][5] The castle passed through successive generations of the family and was eventually inherited by Tunstall's great-grandson, Sir Brian Tunstall, a knightly hero who died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.[6]

Sir Brian was a younger son of Thomas Tunstall III and the heir of his brother Thomas IV.[7] Dubbed the "Stainless Knight" by the king, he was immortalized in the poem Marmion - A Tale of Flodden Field by Sir Walter Scott. His son Marmaduke was High Sheriff of Lancashire in 1544.

The castle stayed in the family for two or three more generations until it was sold to John Girlington in 1605. It passed to his grandson Sir John Girlington, a Royalist major-general during the Civil War. Parliamentarian forces besieged the castle in 1643. The damage was described as "ruinous."[1] Sir John's son, also John, was High Sheriff of Lancashire for 1663.[8]

Work was done on the building to convert it to a country house in 1810 by Jeffry Wyattville, and in 1826–29 by George Webster,[5] but in 1876 it was gutted by fire.[9] The owner, Mr North North, commissioned the Lancaster architects Paley and Austin to rebuild it, and what is now present is mainly their work.[1][5] Work began in 1879, over 100 men were employed, and it was not completed until 1885.[9] From 1885 until the early twentieth century,[10] Thurland Castle was owned by the coal-mining Lees family, formerly of Clarksfield, near Oldham, Lancashire, from a junior branch of which came the writer James Lees-Milne.[11][12][13] The house and stables have since been converted into several luxury apartments.[5]


The building is constructed in sandstone rubble, with slate roofs. It consists mainly of two ranges on the north and west sides of a courtyard. Its architectural style is a mixture of Elizabethan Revival and Gothic Revival.[1] It is approached by an arched bridge crossing the moat.[5] Its windows are either mullioned or mullioned and transomed, and there are two towers, one of which has two storeys, the other three. Many of the parapets are embattled.[1] Around the building are terraces with bastions.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Historic England, "Thurland Castle, Cantsfield (1164439)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 18 November 2012
  2. ^ Leslie Irving Gibson (1977). Lancashire Castles and Towers. Clapham, North Yorkshire: Dalesman Books. p. 45.
  3. ^ Richardson, D. (2011). "Joan Mowbray," in Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 2nd ed, pp. 254-255. Google Books.
  4. ^ "Membrane 23," (1402, October 23). Calendar of Patent Rolls. PDF.[1]
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hartwell, C. & Pevsner, N., (2009). Lancashire: North, pp. 673. Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-12667-9.
  6. ^ Gastrell, F. (1850). Notitia Cestriensis, or Historic Notices of the Diocese of Chester, 3, pp. 491. Chetham Soc. Google Books.
  7. ^ Flower, W. (1881). "Tunstall," in The Visitation of Yorkshire in the Years 1563 and 1564. Charles Best Norcliffe, Ed. The Harleian Society, 16, pp. 327. London. Google Books.
  8. ^ Scogland, Thesta (1976). The Garlington Family. Gateway Press.
  9. ^ a b Brandwood, G., Austin, T., Hughes, J. & Price, J. (2012). The Architecture of Sharpe, Paley and Austin. Swindon: English Heritage, pp. 131, 231. ISBN 978-1-84802-049-8.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry, 18th edition, vol. 3, ed. Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, 1972, "Lees formerly of Thurland Castle" pedigree
  12. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry, 18th edition, vol. 1, ed. Peter Townend, 1965, 'Lees-Milne formerly of Wickhamford Manor' pedigree.
  13. ^