Barden Tower medieval fortified house and medieval garden earthworks


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Barden Tower medieval fortified house and medieval garden earthworks
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Craven (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SE 05072 57064

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 owner. 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 gardens. 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 found. 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 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:
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Books and journals
Moorhouse, S, Barden quarries, (1995)
Moorhouse, S , The Forest of Barden, (1992)
Brown, A E, 'CBA Research Report' in Garden Archaeology, , Vol. No 78, (1991)
Moorhouse, S , 'CBA Forum' in An Archaeological Survey of Barden Tower, (1991)
Moorhouse, S , 'CBA Forum' in An Archaeological Survey of Barden Tower, (1991)
Dr S Moorhouse, (1995)
Moorhouse, S, (1996)


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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