Vicar's Pele: a medieval tower house on north side of Main Street


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1017042.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 08-Mar-2021 at 15:50:47.


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

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NZ 16473 72839

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.

Despite having been incorporated within a later building in the 19th century, the medieval tower house, or Vicar's Pele, at Ponteland survives well. It will contribute to any study of defensible buildings at this time.


The monument includes a tower house of medieval date situated in the centre of Ponteland. The tower, built of random rubble and patched with brick, is roofless and survives as a standing building three storeys high. Some restoration work was carried out in 1971. It is rectangular in plan and measures a maximum 7m north-south by 6.2m east-west. The south elevation contains three large openings, one on each floor, with concrete lintels and sills and metal grilles incorporated during the work in 1971; the ground floor opening is a doorway and clearly a later insertion. The west elevation has several blocked openings, including two window loops and two doorways, as well as the chamfered jamb of a doorway, a series of socket holes outlining the roof line of a former attached building and a round window, possibly of 18th century date. The north elevation also contains two blocked doorways, the lower one probably a later insertion and the first floor one possibly contemporary with a mural stair of which there are indications in the wall fabric. The first floor doorway incorporates part of a medieval incised grave cover in its western jamb. Other openings include two window loops at first and second floor level, where there is also another old roof line. The east elevation contains a blocked window loop at first floor level with a larger bricked-up opening to the south; at second floor level there is another circular window similar to that on the west elevation. Internally, there are traces of a former north-south vault, which has now been cut away, and various blocked openings. In the north east corner, at first floor level, a small room is interpreted as a garderobe. The tower, which is a Grade II Listed Building, is commonly called the Vicar's Pele and was part of the former vicarage which was demolished at the end of the 19th century, leaving the tower standing alone. The earliest documentary reference to the tower is in a list of 1415. It has been suggested that the tower was created in the 15th century by the conversion of a 13th century hall house. There are slight earthworks on the north and west sides but no clear indications of the extent of this former building. The metal window grilles, first floor fireplace and external wall plaque are excluded from the scheduling, although the structure to which these features are attached 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:
Legacy System:


NZ 17 SE 5,


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].