Clifton Hall tower


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Clifton Hall tower
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Eden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 53074 27113

Reasons for Designation

Tower houses 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. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall. If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of the house in times of trouble. 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 or 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 over half were elements of larger houses. All surviving tower houses retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

Although most of Clifton Hall has been demolished, the late medieval tower wing survives well and is a good example of this class of monument. It was occupied continuously from the late 15th-early 16th centuries until the 19th century and still retains considerable medieval fabric and many original architectural features. Additionally limited archaeological excavation adjacent to the tower undertaken in the late 1970's has located artefacts and building remains associated with the structural development of Clifton Hall from the late 14th-early 15th centuries to the late 18th century, and further evidence of this nature will exist in areas beneath and adjacent to the tower.


The monument includes the upstanding late 15th-early 16th century tower wing of Clifton Hall together with adjoining buried remains of the hall which vary in date from the late 14th century to the late 18th century. Clifton Hall tower wing is constructed of red sandstone. It has external dimensions of 10m by 7.9m and is entered via the central of three doorways in its south face. The ground floor of the tower is divided into three rooms which latterly functioned as service rooms and a kitchen. Originally it was a single room with its west end partitioned off. The largest part of the ground floor would have been well furnished and decorated as befitted its status and function as a 15th century parlour. The present windows are 17th and 18th century and there are two fireplaces, one original, the other 18th century. Access to the upper floors is by a newel or circular stair situated in the south west corner of the tower. This gives access to the most important room in the tower, the principal chamber or solar, located on the first floor. Apart from an 18th century window the room has changed little. It has a fireplace in the north wall, an original window in the west wall, and a garderobe or latrine chamber in the thickness of the wall in the north west corner. Prior to the 17th century it was originally entered at first floor level from an external staircase on the south. Access to the uppermost chamber is by the newel staircase from the solar. In more recent centuries this chamber has been sub-divided and used as bedrooms, but it still retains original windows and a fireplace, only the east windows being 18th century insertions. The present roof was restored in 1979. It is a 17th century replacement of an earlier roof and was raised at the same time that the tower's crenellated parapets and south west corner turret were built. Limited archaeological excavations adjacent to the tower undertaken between 1977-79 have located buried structural foundations ranging from the late 14th century to the late 18th century. These included remains of the original late 14th-early 15th century hall to the north east of the tower; the late 14th-early 15th century west wing of the original hall, and two 18th century additions thought to have been a suite of bedrooms and a dairy or laundry to the north of the tower, an original well to the north west of the tower and an early 16th century timber-framed building replaced by a late 16th century stone hall to the south of the tower. This excavation, together with a structural survey of the tower, documentary evidence and antiquarian descriptions, have enabled a comprehensive history of Clifton Hall to be interpreted. The earliest building was probably undertaken by Elainor Engaine or her son William Wybergh during the late 14th-early 15th century and consisted of a hall with two cross wings. The tower replaced the west cross wing by the late 15th-early 16th century. Shortly after a timber- framed structure of two floors was added to the south face of the tower. This was demolished towards the end of the 16th or early in the 17th century and replaced by a larger stone built hall. During the 18th century further additions were made to the north of the tower. The hall was demolished in the early 19th century and replaced by the present farmhouse a short distance to the east. The tower remained in use as a farm building until renovation during the late 1970's. The tower and the surrounding environs enclosed by a wall and fence were placed in the guardianship of the Secretary of State in 1973. All walls, fences, gateposts, information boards and English Heritage fixtures and fittings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included. Also excluded is the gravelled surface of the modern enclosure within which the tower stands and the modern arrangement of stone setts depicting buried walls of structures associated with Clifton Hall, but the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Nicolson, , Burn, , History of the Antiquities of Westmorland and Cumberland414-20
Fairclough, G, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Clifton Hall, Cumbria: Excavations 1977-79, , Vol. LXXX, (1980), 45-68
Taylor, M W, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. Extra Series' in The Old Manorial Halls Of Westmorland And Cumberland, , Vol. VIII, (1892), 77-81
SMR No. 2895, Cumbria SMR, Clifton Hall, Tower wing, (1987)


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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