Picture by kind permission of the family of Ernest Collinson

Information for this page has been taken from the book, Greenhalgh Castle, Garstang and The Earls of Derby, written by Ernest Collinson and reproduced by kind permission of the Collinson family.

The castle today

Photo by kind permission of Clare Bradshaw

Building the castle

On 2nd August 1490, Thomas Stanley was granted a licence by King Henry VII which empowered him and his heirs “to all with stone, lime and other material in his manor called Greenall in the parish of Garstang, to embattle, turellate, machioate or otherwise fortify them and hold forever without impediment or instruction”.

The licence gave Thomas the right to build a castle that could withstand the an armed onslaught, including by battering rams or large catapults known as trebuchets which were common weapons prior to the use of gunpowder.

The site Thomas chose for his castle was on a small hill just to the east of Garstang. It gave a good views all around it, and importantly a direct line of sight to the watchtower that was built on the nearby bridge over the River Wyre after the castle was completed.

The watchtower allowed sentries to monitor travellers on the road through the town, which ran from London to the north.

The castle consisted of four towers joined together by curtain walls surrounding a central, rectangular courtyard. It was surrounded by a circular moat, and entry was via a single door.

The towers stood around sixty feet high, and the remaining western tower is externally 25 feet square. The tower walls are 5 feet 6 inches thick, making the internal measurements 14 feet square.

The walls of the western towere were extended at the eastern corner to form curtain walls linking the other towers to enclose the central courtyard. A passage measuring 6 feet three inches wide connected the tower to the courtyard.

On the northwest wall were 3 narrow, vertical slits called embrasures which enabled the garrison to observe what was going on outside and to defend the castle.

The moat surrounding the castle would have been a dry ditch because of the location of the castle on a hill top, and this would probably have been filled in by the rubble from the castle demolition in 1649/50.

The siege of Greenhalgh Castle

During the Civil War, Garstang was mostly supportive of the Royalists, under King Charles I, although four companies of Reformists who supported Oliver Cromwell were raised in the area.

In February 1644, Greenhalgh Castle was placed under siege by a Parliamentary regiment led by Colonel Dodding and companies led by Major Joseph Rigby. The Parliamentary Army were known as Roundheads, due to their short haircuts – while many of the Royalists wore long haired wigs that were fashionable at the time, and were referred to as Cavaliers.

The Royalists in the castle resisted the siege, sending out raiding parties to kill the Roundheads, and to obtain food and supplies.

The Roundheads tried to undermine the castle and blow it up but the soil was too sandy – and on one occasion the Royalists even managed to capture 5 barrels of gunpowder from the Roundheads.

The Royalists finally surrendered in May 1645 following the death of the governor Nicholas Anderton. A condition of the surrender was that all the garrison were given safe conduct with no fear of reprisals, which was agreed.

Following the surrender the castle was dismantled by an order of Parliament so it could not be used for any further military purposes, but parts of the western tower were left standing and can still be seen today.

The castle ruins are not accessible today as they are on private land, but it can be seen from the River Wyre bridge where the watchtower used to be, and also from Castle Lane.