Alnham Castle: a medieval tower house
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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This copy shows the entry on 31-Mar-2020 at 08:33:43.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- NT 99184 10812
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
The tower house at Alnham is reasonably well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. Substantial masonry remains of the basement remain intact and will add to our understanding of medieval and post-medieval settlement in the region.
The monument includes the remains of a medieval tower house at Alnham, often
referred to as Alnham Castle. It lies on high ground to the south of the
medieval village remains which are the subject of a separate scheduling.
The tower is rectangular in plan and survives as a prominent sub-rectangular
mound which measures 22m east-west by 18m north-south and stands up to 2m
high. Part of the inner face of the north wall and its junction with a cross
wall are visible as exposed masonry and there is a possible doorway at the
north east corner. Some 15m east of the tower is a slightly curving earthwork,
orientated north-south, which may indicate the site of an attached hall or
The tower is one of two in Alnham and is first mentioned in 1405 when it was
surrendered to royal troops. It belonged to the Earl of Northumberland and is
recorded in documents in 1415, 1514 and 1541, by which time both towers were
in a state of poor repair due to Scottish raids.
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:
NT 91 SE 7,
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