Braes Pele medieval tower and shielings 350m east of Borderrigg


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015865

Date first listed: 11-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of Braes Pele medieval tower and shielings 350m east of Borderrigg
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Carlisle (District Authority)

Parish: Bewcastle

National Grid Reference: NY 57348 75308, NY 57390 75343


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.

Medieval shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on upland or marshland. They have a simple sub-rectangular or ovoid plan normally defined by drystone walling and most have a single undivided interior although two-roomed example are known. Some have adjacent structures such as pens or enclosures. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here. Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate medieval land use are considered to be nationally important.

Braes Pele tower and barmkin, the two shielings, enclosure and corn drying kiln survive well. The monument is a rare example of the juxtaposition of a pele tower and shielings and will thus facilitate any investigation into the contemporaneity or otherwise of these structures. Additionally the monument will add to our knowledge and understanding of the wider border settlement and economy during the medieval period.


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


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Braes Pele medieval tower and barmkin, an adjacent shieling and associated enclosure, a second shieling, and a corn drying kiln. `Pele' is an alternative term to `tower', and `pele towers' are members of the wider family of defensive buildings in the northern borderlands which also include tower houses and bastles. The monument is located on the hillside approximately 350m east of Borderrigg and is divided into two areas; the corn drying kiln being a short distance to the east of the pele and shielings in a separate area.

The remains of the pele tower include turf covered foundations measuring c.9m square and up to 0.6m high with walls 1.5m thick. Turf covered remains of the barmkin wall can be seen to the south and east of the tower and enclose an area approximately 30m square. A short distance to the north of the pele there are the turf covered foundations of a two roomed medieval shieling measuring c.14.5m east-west by 7m north-south with an associated enclosure measuring approximately 15m square immediately to the north. An earthwork boundary runs from the shieling southwards towards the pele. On the eastern side of the barmkin wall there are the remains of a second shieling; a single roomed building measuring c.16.5m by 8m with its long axis aligned north-south. About 50m to the east of the complex of pele tower and shielings are the remains of a corn drying kiln associated with these structures. It survives as a circular stone-lined hollow measuring c.7m in diameter with a splayed stoke hole on its south side. The kiln has been dug into the hillside and its presence indicates the existence of small scale arable cultivation in the area.

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: 27769

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 52
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)
SMR No. 61, Cumbria SMR, Braes, (1985)

End of official listing