Edlingham Castle fortified manor and solar tower


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1011646

Date first listed: 08-Feb-1915

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Jan-1994


Ordnance survey map of Edlingham Castle fortified manor and solar tower
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Edlingham

National Grid Reference: NU 11617 09211


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Fortified manors are residences of the lesser nobility and richer burgesses and date from the late 12th century and throughout the rest of the Middle Ages. Generally they comprise a hall and residential wing, domestic ranges, and fortifications such as a moat or crenellated wall, or both. In the north, as at Edlingham Castle, it was common for a solar tower to be a later addition to a hall. Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. Often, the tower comprised only one element of a larger house, with at least one additional domestic wing being provided; in the case of Edlingham by an earlier hall. The tower house could be shut off from the rest in times of trouble and defended from its roof and turrets. Tower houses were being constructed and used from at least the 13th to the late 16th centuries, concurrent with three hundred years of Border unrest which only ended with the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603. They were prestigious houses, usually permanently occupied by wealthy or aristocratic families, and, as such, were important centres of medieval life. All surviving examples retaining significant medieval remains are normally identified as nationally important. At Edlingham, although the buildings of both the solar tower and the manor are only moderately well preserved, archaeological remains relating to earlier medieval manorial features are retained throughout the monument.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument known as Edlingham Castle includes the hall, solar tower, curtain wall and gatehouse of a late 13th to 14th century fortified manor and an outer defensive earthwork. Included within the courtyard are drains and the remains of service buildings dating to all periods of occupation. Earlier examples survive as buried features beneath 16th century upstanding remains. The earliest standing remains are those of the hall. Built between c.1295 and 1300, this structure stood on the south side of a cobbled courtyard and was a rectangular building with octagonal corner turrets. Only a fragment of the south-east turret survives to any height, but the building would originally have been two storeyed, the ground floor consisting of an undercroft used for storage, and the first floor including the public and private apartments of the lords of the manor of Edlingham. In the mid-14th century a curtain wall and projecting gatehouse were built to enclose the hall and courtyard, thereby strengthening the rampart which originally surrounded the manor and survives as an earthwork measuring c.12m wide by c.1m high. Only the base of the curtain wall and gatehouse remain standing, but enough of the latter survives to show that it included three arches, the central retaining the groove for a portcullis. A variety of service buildings would have existed within the courtyard, round the inner face of the curtain wall, and would have included, for example, kitchens, accommodation for servants and men-at-arms, stabling, a brewhouse, a bakehouse, and shelter for livestock. The foundations of those service buildings that are currently visible are 16th century and date from the replanning of the courtyard ranges after 1514. Their construction involved the demolition of earlier structures, possibly timber or timber-framed, whose remains now survive as buried features within the courtyard. The tower was built in the mid to late 14th century. It was built adjacent to the earlier hall to provide private accommodation for the owner and his family. Because of its role in providing such private living space it is known as a 'solar' tower. This building, whose north and west walls survive almost to their full height, is roughly square and includes a forebuilding on the north side and stepped diagonal buttresses at each corner, each originally surmounted by a circular bartizan or battlemented turret. The forebuilding originally connected with the hall and also contained the stairs that provided access to each floor and the parapet around the roof. The tower is three storeyed, the ground floor being unusual in that, instead of functioning as a storeroom, it was clearly a comfortable private chamber containing a decorated fireplace, a garderobe or latrine and a recessed window with seats. The first floor chamber, which served as the hall or public room, is equally well- appointed with the remains of an elaborate fireplace and a double line of windows, the larger lower ones having seats. The second floor room is simpler, having a plainer fireplace. The original hall and fortifications were built by William Felton after he purchased the manor from Thomas de Edlingham in 1295. It remained the principal residence of his family until c.1402 when historical records suggest it was split between two households, each concurrently occupying either the tower house or the hall. In 1514, the estate was purchased by the Swinburnes who rebuilt the courtyard buildings and lived at Edlingham until c.1630. By 1661, the buildings were being dismantled for their stone. The standing remains have been in State care since 1975 and are also a Grade I Listed Building. Excluded from the scheduling are all English Heritage fittings and fixtures, the modern timber bridge into the monument and all modern fencing, although the ground underneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 5 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 23227

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Fairclough, G, 'Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society' in Edlingham Castle, Northumberland, , Vol. NS 28, (1984), 40-59
Fairclough, G., Edlingham Castle (excavation), 1994, Monograph, forthcoming
Fairclough, G., Edlingham Castle: Excavations 1978-80 Interim Report, 1982,

End of official listing