History of Brough Castle
Brough Castle, at the upper end of the Eden Valley, is a spectacular medieval ruin on the site of the Roman fort of Verteris. The earthworks represent an 11th-century castle, but the visible remains date from the 12th century onwards. The castle was a seat of the celebrated Clifford family for 450 years, and enjoyed a last lease of life in the 17th century thanks to the work of Lady Anne Clifford.
The Roman Fort
Built in about AD 79–80, Verteris was one of a chain of Roman forts guarding the strategically important road from York (Eboracum) to Carlisle (Luguvalium). Excavations in 1953 indicated that the fort had substantial stone buildings and defences, with the capacity to house a battalion of up to about 500 men.
A large number of Roman lead seals were found in the vicinity, many of which carry the name of cohors VIII Thracum (the Eighth Thracian Cohort). Originally from Thrace (now in Turkey), it may have garrisoned the fort in the 3rd century AD.
The fort may have been repaired or renovated by Virius Lupus, governor of Britannia AD 197–200, as possibly commemorated on a Roman inscription found at Brough.
In the 12th century Brough and Appleby were the two principal castles of the lordship of Westmorland, but Henry II (r.1154–89) deprived its holder, Hugh de Morville, of his estates for supporting the king’s sons in the rebellion of 1173.
Brough was garrisoned for the king when, the following year, William I (‘William the Lion’), King of Scotland (r.1165–1214), invaded the north of England to support the continuing rebellion. He captured Brough and set it on fire, destroying almost the entire keep. The contemporary chronicler Jordan Fantosme related how the castle was bravely defended by six knights.
In 1179 Henry II of England (r.1154–89) granted the castle to Theobald de Valoines, who held it through the reign of Richard I (1189–99) and is the most likely builder of the present square keep. The castle reverted to the Crown, and in 1203 King John (r.1199–1216) gave it, with the lordship of Westmorland, to Robert de Vieuxpont or Vipont (d.1228).
The House of Clifford
Roger Clifford probably came into possession of Brougham and Brough castles on his marriage to Isabella. He may have carried out important works at Brough shortly after, which included adding the circular Clifford’s Tower at the south-east corner. He may also have made substantial repairs to the curtain walls.
Roger and Isabella’s elder son, Robert (1274–1314), inherited the other Vieuxpont estates in Westmorland on the death of his aunt Idonea in 1308, and was created 1st Baron Clifford. He was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314, the same year in which Brough was devastated by a Scottish raid.
The castle was again attacked in 1319. At that time it may have accommodated a large garrison, as 15 men-at-arms and 20 ‘hobelers’ (cavalry) were kept there in the early 1320s. These attacks led to the strengthening of the curtain walls.
Lady Anne Clifford
Had it not been for the intervention of Lady Anne Clifford (1590–1676), the story of Brough might have ended there. On his death in 1605 her father, George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland, bequeathed the family estates to his brother, Francis, the 4th Earl. She fought protracted legal battles against her uncle and his son, Henry, the 5th Earl, in defence of her right to inherit. Henry died in 1643, when at long last the Clifford inheritance largely passed into her hands.
In 1649 Lady Anne left London, where she had lived during the Civil War (1642–9), and travelled north. She found her estates badly neglected and the five Clifford castles (the four in Westmorland and Skipton Castle in Yorkshire) ruined or in poor condition. Gradually she repaired them all.
In 1659, as Lady Anne wrote in her account of the year, ‘this Aprill after I had first bin there my selfe to direct the Building of it, did I cause my old Decayed Castle of Brough to be repaired’.
Lady Anne visited the rebuilt castle briefly in September 1661. She put up an inscription recording her restoration at the end of 1663, which indicates that the work was probably finished by then. She spent eight days at Brough in 1664, made a lengthy stay from 10 November 1665 until 19 April 1666, and made three more extended visits. When at Brough, she always occupied the chamber at the top of Clifford’s Tower.