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Afdaling naar bewcastle.jpg
Countryside near Bewcastle
Grid reference: NY565745
Location: 55°3’47"N, 2°40’57"W
Population: 411  (2001)
Post town: Carlisle / Newcastleton
Postcode: CA6, TD9
Dialling code: 016977
Local Government
Council: Carlisle
Penrith and The Border

Bewcastle is a village in the north of Cumberland, in the hills north of Hadrian's Wall and on the Kirk Beck. It is a tiny place but the site of a famous Roman fort, north of the wall.

According to the 2001 census the parish had a population of 411. The parish is large but sparse, extending to the bounds of Dumfriesshire. It includes the hamlets of Roadhead, Shopford, Blackpool Gate, Roughsike and The Flatt. Within the parish are Bewcastle Castle and Askerton Castle.


The origin of the name Bewcastle can be traced accurately from its spelling in ancient documents. These show that it was originally "bothy/booth caster", which suggests "Booth Fort". The original form of the first element "was clearly 'Buth-' from ON [Old Norse] búð, 'booth'."[1]. 'Cæster' is "an Anglian side-form of OE 'ceaster', referring to the defences of the Roman camp...a mediæval fortress was built within these defences..."[1]

Antiquarians, who did not have our access to well-catalogued and studied ancient documents, leapt at the chance to link the place name with a semi-mythological figure named Bueth, due to his romantic links with the prestigious Barony of Gilsland. The well-respected book "The Place-names of Cumberland" [2] states that it is impossible for Bewcastle to be named after Bueth.

Church and cross

St Cuthbert's churchyard contains the famous 7th Century Bewcastle Cross. The sundial on its surface is the oldest in Britain, divided into the four 'tides' which governed the working day in mediæval times. Its importance has been described by Nikolaus Pevsner thus; "The crosses of Bewcastle and Ruthwell....are the greatest achievement of their date in the whole of Europe."[3] A reconstruction of the whole cross is located in the churchyard of St Mary's neo-Romanesque Church at Wreay near Carlisle, but this differs in style and detail from the original. Stephen Matthews[4] calls the Wreay cross a "reinvention".

Roman Fort

Bewcastle is also known for its unusual hexagonal Roman fort, which has been identified as Fanum Cocidi. It was originally built from turf and timber and garrisoned by the First Nervian Cohort of Germans. It was later rebuilt in stone. Much of the stone was subsequently used to build a Norman castle, Bewcastle Castle.[5]


Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Bewcastle)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Armstrong, A. M.; Mawer, A.; Stenton, F. M.; Dickens, B. (1950). The place-names of Cumberland. English Place-Name Society, vol.xx. Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 60–61. 
  2. Armstrong, 1950, p..60-61
  3. Pevsner, Nikolaus (1967) The buildings of England - Cumberland and Westmorland. Penguin Books.
  4. Matthews, S. 2007. Sarah Losh and Wreay Church; Bookcase, Carlisle
  5. 'Bewcastle' in The Cumberland News supplement 6 June 2014.
  • John Marshall (railway historian) (1978). A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers. Newton Abbot: David & Charles. ISBN 0-7153-7489-3.