Tower house in Chillingham Park, 270m north east of Hepburn Cottage


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017360

Date first listed: 30-Nov-1932

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jul-1999


Ordnance survey map of Tower house in Chillingham Park, 270m north east of Hepburn Cottage
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Chillingham

National Grid Reference: NU 07076 24880


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. 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.

Despite alterations in the late 16th or 17th century, the medieval tower house in Chillingham Park is well preserved and retains many original features and significant archaeological deposits. It will make an important contribution to the study of settlement at this time.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the ruins of a medieval tower house of early 16th century date situated within the grounds of Chillingham Park. It was modified in the later 16th or 17th century and buildings were attached to it. It is commonly known as Hepburn Bastle. The tower, which is Listed Grade II*, stands two storeys high plus twin gable ends to the east and west. It is rectangular in plan and measures about 16.6m by 10.8m externally with walls of tooled sandstone ashlar. Externally, there is a chamfered plinth and a chamfered set-back a little below eaves level. At basement level, the walls are about 2.7m thick, except for the east wall which incorporates a mural stair and is 3.5m thick. The entrance lies in the south wall and is a square- headed doorway, altered at some time and incorporating reused blocks in its jambs. East of the doorway the wall has partially crumbled following the collapse of the well of the newel stair. Additionally, there appear to be rough footings projecting about 1.2m in front of the wall, and which suggest an external stair. The south wall has one window at first floor level and a scar left by the roofline of a former building, the footings of which are partially visible close to the main building but obscured elsewhere by deep tussocky grass. The east wall has a slit window and small loop with the remains of sockets for an iron grille at basement level and an area of patched masonry; two windows lie at first floor level and in the gable ends are two smaller openings. The north wall has a window at first floor level as well as two openings for garderobe chutes. The west wall has a single chamfered loop to the basement and a pair of windows to the first floor; the gables also have two openings. Internally, the ground floor comprises a barrel vaulted basement with a later fireplace in the north wall. At the east end, a doorway leads to a mural chamber with a trap door in the floor which drops 2.5m into a small rectangular chamber. The mural stair in the south east corner would have given access to the first floor, although it appears to have been modified as the stairwell contains evidence of blocked openings and different size building stone used in its construction. It has been suggested that the original stairwell must have projected beyond the face of the south wall and may have been corbelled out. Additionally, there appear to be rough footings in front of the wall which may suggest an external stair. The first floor was divided into three rooms, each with a fireplace. The second floor, or attic level, is partially obscured by ivy but fireplaces, windows and a window seat are traceable. The twin gables at this level are thought to be late 16th or 17th century in date. The earliest documentary reference to the building is in 1509, when it was described as a 'hold' and in 1542 it was referred to as a tower. By 1564, it was called a mansion house and was of a larger extent than remains today. The house appears to have been abandoned after the death of the last male heir, Robert Hebburn, in 1755.

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: 31718

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dodds, M H, A History of Northumberland, (1935), 347-50
Ryder, P F, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland: Part I Berwick District, (1995), 8-10

End of official listing