Staward pele


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 80003 60765


Staward Pele, 570m WSW of Harsondale.

Reasons for Designation

Tower houses, including pele towers, are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. Virtually every parish had at least one of these buildings. Solitary tower houses comprise a single square or rectangular `keep' several storeys high, with strong barrel-vaults tying together massive outer walls. Many towers had stone slab roofs, often with a parapet walk. Access could be gained through a ground floor entrance or at first floor level where a doorway would lead directly to a first floor hall. Solitary towers were normally accompanied by a small outer enclosure defined by a timber or stone wall and called a barmkin. Tower houses were being constructed and used from at least the 13th century to the end of the 16th century. They provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by the wealthier and aristocratic members of society. As such, they were important centres of medieval life. The need for such secure buildings relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. Around 200 examples of tower houses have been identified of which less than half are of the free- standing or solitary tower type. All surviving solitary towers retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

Staward pele is a large example of a pele tower and is notable due to its prominent landscape position, associated defences and the unique character of its highly defensible position. The monument will contain archaeological deposits relating to its construction, use and abandonment. The monument provides insight into the character of defensive structures in the Borders during the medieval period.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 12 May 2016. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes the remains of a pele, gatehouse and associated ditches of medieval date, situated on a highly defensible narrow tongue-shaped promontory immediately over looking the gorge of the River Allen. Three sides of the rectangular structure of the pele are preserved describing a rectangular structure approximately 25m by 16.5m externally. The full length of the north west walls and parts of the north east and south west walls are upstanding. The walls are 2.3m thick and stand above a triple stepped plinth to a maximum height of roughly 3.5m. The external wall faces are constructed from close jointed squared stone of ashlar quality. The pele is situated on a promontory that was unapproachable from the north and only approachable by a narrow strip of land to the south east, where it was defended by a ditch and gatehouse, and from the north west where it was defended by a second ditch. The gatehouse is preserved as an upstanding wall 5m high and 3m long. It is constructed largely of reused masonry, some of which is Roman in date. One of the quoins of the gatehouse was a reused Roman altar and has been removed to Staward Manor. The gatehouse is a freestanding building and is protected to the east by a ditch up to 2m deep crossed by a narrow causeway. A second more substantial ditch is situated to the west of the pele tower and is up to 3.4m deep. A timber pele was built on the site in 1316 by Antony de Lucy of Langley. In 1326 Edward II annexed part of Lucy’s land and noting the defensible nature of the site asked for tenders for a larger defendable complex to be built. Thomas de Featherstonehaugh answered the request and built the fortification. The site passed to Queen Phillippa and then to Edmund, Duke of York. The duke rented the site to Hexham Priory in 1385 until the Dissolution.

The pele tower and gatehouse are listed buildings Grade II.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
ND 102
Legacy System:


PastScape Monument No:- 15448


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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