General History


Papcastle was the seat of Waldeof, first lord of Allerdale, before he built the castle of Cockermouth which was afterwards his baronial seat, and is said to have derived its name from Gilbert Pipard, who, it is probable re-built this castle, and called it by his name. Dr. Stukely supposes its ancient name was Derventio derived from the river Derwent. Here is the site of a Roman castrum where a great variety of coins, urns, inscriptions, the remains of baths, and several other antiquities, have been found, at a considerable depth. Camden says, whether this be the Guismoric, which Mimius tells us was built by king Guortigern, near Luguballia and that it was by the old Saxons called Palm castle, I shall not determine.” The male issue of Waldeof, failing in the second generation, the manor of Papcastle eventually came to the crown in the reign of queen Elizabeth, who, in 1596, granted it to Lancelot Salkeld, Thos. Braithwaite, and Richard Tolson, “who, it appears, soon after sold the same to the Lamplughs.”


The Name of Papcastle

Papecastre in 1267; the second element in Old English caster or ceaster meant Roman Fort; the first element might well be Old Norse papa, papi for ‘hermit’. [1]


From Askew 1864

The village of Papcastle occupies the site where once stood the Roman City of Derventio for a period of at least two hundred years. Coins, altars, buried grain, and earthen vessels are still frequently found in the gardens and fields. The first turn to the left on leaving Salathiel’s birthplace leads to Sibey Brows, a rich pasture field. Part of this field is fine table-land, the other a steep brow rising from the valley of the Derwent. About 21 feet from the base of the acclivity is an inclined way seven yards broad, which seems to have been a much used thoroughfare. In the field adjoining Sibey Brows, at the foot of a straggling wooded bank, a piece of splendid road sweeps down to the river. Between this road and the river are some faint traces of a large building, which may have been the public baths; and in the second field on the Broughton road, on the left, there are still some remains of an amphitheatre. About the middle of the table-land in Sibey Brows, there are still some traces of the western boundary of the military camp of the Romans. On the high ground above the village there was a strong castrum or Roman castle, up to which there are still some faint traces of streets. The Romans did nothing on a small scale—their walls and edifices nearly always approached the stupendous, so that we have every reason to conclude that Derventio was no mean city. In excavating for the foundations of Derwent Lodge, the workmen opened out a fine Roman well, and turned up a quantity of burned grain, together with some coins. Sibey Brows is one of the earliest and richest pastures in the neighbourhood. Mr. William Dickinson accounts for its fertility in his Agricultural Essay on Cumberland -“ The soil of Sibey Brows is reputed to be blackened with the carbon of burned grain belonging to the ancient Romans. Tradition says the extensive and well-stocked granaries of these warriors which stood there, were accidentally destroyed by fire; or this district may lie on the remains of an ancient forest destroyed by the same agency.”


Excavations in Papcastle

1912 W G Collingwood – a limited dig on the fort

1961-62 D Charlesworth – a major dig of the fort (before Castle Gardens was built)

1984 A Olivier (Lancaster Univ – land at the Burroughs

1999 Channel 4’s Time Team –Derwent Lodge Cottage and Sibby Brows

2003 Cumbria CC – site for dwelling now Quintana

2010 Broomlands after the flood of 2009; extensive discoveries including Roman mill

2011 Exploratory evaluations in Burroughs field

2012 Major dig at Bathhouse site

2013 Major dig at East Vicus site south of the Mount

2014 Further major dig at Broomlands, including bridge abutment

Note: technically Broomlands, across the river, is in Brigham parish but in Roman times was clearly part of Derventio town

Any building work in the village now requires clearance with the archaeologists.

More detail and full references to most of the above are given in Bradbury’s History of Cockermouth [3rd Edition, 2006]

Reports about the 2010-2014 work can be found, as they are completed, on the website Discover Derventio