High Grains medieval pele tower and three shielings 200m west of High Grains Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015867

Date first listed: 11-Jul-1997


Ordnance survey map of High Grains medieval pele tower and three shielings 200m west of High Grains Farm
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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: Askerton

National Grid Reference: NY 58577 75418


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 examples 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. High Grains pele tower and barmkin and the three adjacent shielings survive reasonably well. The monument is a rare example of the juxtaposition of a pele tower and shielings and it will add greatly 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 High Grains medieval pele tower and barmkin and three adjacent shielings located on fairly level moorland 200m west of High Grains Farm. `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 remains of the pele tower include the largely grass covered lower courses of the tower's substantial walls 1.5m thick which survive up to 1.3m high and indicate that it was a rectangular structure measuring approximately 10m by 9m. A wall running south from the south east corner of the pele for a distance of 3m is identified as the remains of the tower's barmkin or defensive wall, whilst the position of the barmkin on the tower's north side is marked by a distinct earthwork or ledge beyond which the ground is of a rougher nature. Once the pele tower had been abandoned three rectangular stone shielings were constructed adjacent to the ruin and the turf covered foundations of these structures survive. That on the tower's east side measures 8.7m by 5m and up to 0.4m high and it appears to have utilised the remains of the pele tower which has had part of its east wall removed to create a two roomed shieling. There is a smaller single roomed shieling on the tower's west side which measures 6.4m by 4.5m and up to 0.3 high. Only two walls of the third shieling on the tower's south side survive above ground level but this is sufficient to show that it measured approximately 6.9m by at least 2.5m. These shielings are depicted on a map dated 1603 accompanying the Gilsland Survey.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number: 27772

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 16
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 16, 28
Schofield, A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Shielings, (1989)
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)

End of official listing