Tower house in the churchyard of St James's Church
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016926
Date first listed: 17-Jan-1962
Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1999
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This copy shows the entry on 21-Apr-2019 at 21:15:07.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: County Durham (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: NY 94883 49007
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
Although the upper storeys have fallen, the tower house in the churchyard of St James's Church retains significant archaeological deposits. Tower houses are an uncommon monument type in County Durham and this one will contribute to the knowledge and understanding of higher status medieval settlement.
The monument includes the remains of a tower house of medieval date situated
in the churchyard of St James's Church, on the south side of the valley of the
River Derwent. The tower house, which is Listed Grade II, is visible as the
lower courses of a rectangular building with maximum measurements of 15m east
to west by 12m north to south. The remains of the collapsed upper storeys are
visible as a spread of material 1m to 3m wide on all sides. The walls, bonded
with clay, stand to a maximum height of 1.5m and are at least 1m thick. The
vaulted basement of the tower house fell in 1883, but some of the springing on
the south side at the western end remains in situ.
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: 28589
Legacy System: RSM
Durham SMR 2282,
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