Heiferlaw tower house, 230m north east of Holywell


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014061

Date first listed: 28-Nov-1932

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Apr-1996


Ordnance survey map of Heiferlaw tower house, 230m north east of Holywell
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Denwick

National Grid Reference: NU 18269 17712


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

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. 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.

Heiferlaw tower house is very well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. The importance of the monument is enhanced by its association with the medieval abbey at Alnwick.


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


The monument includes the remains of a medieval tower house situated in a prominent position three miles north of Alnwick Abbey to which the tower belonged. The tower house is rectangular in shape and measures 7.4m by 8.8m externally with walls of neatly coursed ashlar blocks 1.2m thick. The tower stands three storeys high with walls 7m high. A parapet above this level is now missing and the tower is roofless. The original doorway giving access into to the ground floor is situated in the centre of the west wall and is of pointed form. In the south wall of the ground floor an original window loop has been re-cut to form an 18th century quatrefoil window. The first and second floors were carried on wooden beams, the holes and corbels which supported the beams are visible in the interior of the north and south walls. The upper storeys were reached by means of a wooden stair way in the south west corner where grooves in the masonry indicate its position. There is a fireplace in the west wall of the first floor and a blocked square headed mullioned window in the centre of the south wall as well as a single window loop in each of the remaining three walls. The second floor contains a single loop in its south and north walls. The interior of the east wall contains a niche in which it is thought originally stood a small statue. Of particular note on the external east and south walls of the tower are the remains of two stone panels bearing the badges of the abbot of Alnwick Abbey and the Percy family which date the construction of the tower house to the late 15th century. It is thought that this tower, located in a prominent position, was used as a look out tower for the monks at Alnwick Abbey. The monument is also a Grade I Listed Building. The stone wall which is attached to the east and west sides of the tower house is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath this feature is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 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: 25193

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Bates, C J, History of Alnwick 2, (1891), 43-4
Grundy, et al, The Buildings of England: Northumberland, (1992), 313
Hugill, R, Borderland Castles and Peles112
Tomlinson, W W, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland, (1888), 393

End of official listing