Ninebanks tower house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016813

Date first listed: 04-Apr-1951

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Ninebanks tower house
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This copy shows the entry on 22-Feb-2019 at 19:17:31.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: West Allen

National Grid Reference: NY 78202 53212

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. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall. If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of the house in times of trouble. 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 or 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 over half were elements of larger houses. All surviving tower houses retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

The tower house at Ninebanks survives reasonably well despite some structural instability, and retains significant archaeological deposits and many original architectural features. It is an unusual example of its type as it has few defensible qualities and is thought to have served as a look out tower. It will add to our understanding of later medieval settlement in the region.


The monument includes a tower house of medieval date, situated on the right bank of the River West Allen. The tower is all that remains above ground level of a once much larger house, as it was originally attached to the eastern gable of an earlier building. The tower house is Listed Grade II*. The tower is thought to have functioned as lookout tower as its slight dimensions mean it is unlikely to have served as a defensible structure. It is rectangular in shape and measures 3.6m by 4m externally, with walls of rubble and dressed stone on average 0.5m thick. The tower, now roofless, stands four storeys high but it is thought that the topmost floor is a later addition. Access to the upper storeys of the tower is by a spiral staircase housed in a small, rectangular turret attached to the north western corner. There are windows, some now blocked, through most of the tower walls at all levels. These are largely of square-headed form, although there is a two-light lancet window at first floor level through the eastern wall. The lintel of the second floor window above the latter has the remains of carving upon it: two heraldic shields, thought to be associated with Sir Thomas Dacre, c.1520. Within the tower there are doorways through the south wall at first and second floor levels which originally gave access to the adjacent wing of the house. Both doorways have been blocked. At second floor level there is also a blocked window through the south wall. The upper storey retains an original fireplace and a series of nest boxes thought to have functioned as a dovecote.

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: 32717

Legacy System: RSM


NY75SE 01,

End of official listing