Reasons for Designation
Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most
powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic
and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic
additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military
aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with
individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture
often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification
varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers,
gunports and crenellated parapets.
Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic
and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later
houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often
receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some
fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables,
brew houses, granaries and barns were located.
Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between
the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as
the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I
and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further
back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland
areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses
which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with
fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant
surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.
In common with other medieval complexes, fortified houses would also
frequently have a range of gardens by or near the house often falling within
the curtain wall. Gardens were both functional and decorative. There would be
a kitchen garden for producing food and a herb garden which had a medicinal as
well as culinary use. In the formal and decorative garden there may be
terraces and walled enclosures which contained raised beds and pedestals for
plant holders and statues, linked by pathways and, in larger gardens, rides.
Other gardens adopted a romantic and pastoral style which could include a
camomile lawn and arbours. Some gardens would have a water garden which
included ponds, cascades and fountains as well as providing irrigation.
Orchards and herb gardens served a dual role as both providers of produce for
the household and as a pleasant and aromatic location. Within the pleasure
gardens of the wealthy a wide range of ornamental but functional buildings
would exist depending on the size and style of the garden. In early medieval
gardens these were limited to galleries and elaborate entrances but by the
16th century the buildings included, pavilions, summerhouses, stands,
grottoes, belvederes, grandstands, kennels, gazebos, banqeting houses and
prospect mounds. Gardens at high status secular buildings were positioned so
that they were overlooked by private chambers and rooms of relaxation within
the building and in some cases the house and garden were planned as a single
design. As with the size and architecture of their houses the gardens of the
wealthy were created for prestige and thus reflected the status of their
The standing structure at Barden Tower survives well and important information
about the architectural details and internal arrangements are preserved within
the fabric. Remains of the wider complex survive as earthworks and further
remains will be preserved below the ground. Unusually the original quarries
from which the stone to build the tower, and the construction camp have been
identified and still survive as earthworks. This offers important scope for
understanding both the technical and social aspects of large scale
construction projects; a hitherto little understood aspect of the medieval
period. The importance of the monument is enhanced by being at the centre of
an identifiable medieval lordly landscape. The remains at Barden Tower and
its relationship with the wider landscape offer important scope for the study
of high status dwellings and their impact on the economy and environment in
the medieval period.
The monument is located on a bluff in the narrow valley of the River Wharfe,
and is bisected by the B6160 road, which is post-medieval in origin.
Barden Tower was a fortified high status house located at the centre of a
planned landscape which extended over a large area across the whole valley and
surrounding land. The house lay within a complex of domestic and
agricultural buildings and was probably surrounded by a curtain wall beyond
which was an outer park containing deer parks, fishponds, warrens and barn
complexes. A major structure within this complex was the chapel and connected
priest's house. These buildings which survive today are substantial stone
built, roofed structures, which still display many original architectural
details. They are built on a terrace partly cut into the slope. The chapel and
priest's house are both Grade I Listed Buildings and are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath them is included. The monument includes
the remains of the fortified house and ancillary buildings, some of the quarry
areas which provided stone for construction, and the earthwork remains of
Barden Tower which is Listed Grade I is a ruined building consisting of hollow
shell surviving to roof height. The core of the building is a three storey
rectangular tower dating to the late 15th century with a stair turret on the
north wall and a projecting rectangular tower on the south wall dominated by
an impressive window which opened onto a first floor great hall. In the
17th century the building was extended to the west and a further `L' shaped
tower was added to the south east angle. A further tower was added to the
north west which has subsequently collapsed and is identifiable only by
foundation walls and earthworks. An internal wall inserted in the 17th century
which divided off the eastern third of the building still stands to roof
height. Throughout the building there are architectural details including
windows, fireplaces, doorways and floor and ceiling supports which illustrate
the development of internal arrangements during its use.
A range of ancillary buildings including kitchens, guest and senior staff
lodgings lay to the west of the tower and extended as far as the valley side.
The remains of these buildings are preserved below ground and are identified
by a broad low mound leading westward across the road to a wide platform cut
into the valley side. A further range of domestic buildings extended
southwards at the edge of the valley, the remains of which are preserved as a
series of low platforms on a wide terrace.
To the north and east of the tower and the south of the chapel are a number of
earthworks representing the remains of further ancillary buildings and
gardens. The exact extent and nature of the medieval gardens is not yet fully
understood but it is known from sites elsewhere that medieval gardens included
functional areas such as a kitchen garden, orchards and herb gardens, as well
as ornamental or formal gardens. Formal gardens included raised beds laid out
on terraces often within small enclosures and linked by pathways. Within
formal gardens a range of structures including galleries, walls and summer
houses or pavilions, and plinths and pedestals for plant holders could be
To the north of the tower there is a ruined rectangular building with a large
arch at the north gable end which is post-medieval in date but sits on the
foundations of an earlier building.
In the woods at the west and north west of the monument are the earthwork
remains of the quarries from which the stone to build the tower was taken.
There was a considerable workforce employed over many years and the remains of
their camp and quarters have been identified in this area as platforms,
terraces and hollow ways.
The site was originally the location of one of six lodges of the Forest of
Barden. The tower was built by Sir Henry Clifford after he regained his family
estates in 1484. He made Barden rather than Skipton the centre of his lordly
estate and established the wider formal landscape with Barden at its heart.
Further remodelling occurred under Lady Anne Clifford in the 16th century.
The chapel and priest's house, the bunk barn, the stone barn, the surface of
the road and trackway, fences, gates, stiles and all modern walls are excluded
from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these features is
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.