Dally Castle fortified house and tower house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018537

Date first listed: 06-Sep-1934

Date of most recent amendment: 19-Mar-1999


Ordnance survey map of Dally Castle fortified house and tower house
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Greystead


National Grid Reference: NY 77492 84377


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

Reasons for Designation

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers, gunports and crenellated parapets. Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables, brew houses, granaries and barns were located. Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderland 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. 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. Dally Castle and its associated buildings and earthworks are very well preserved and retain significant archaeological deposits. The fortified house is thought to be the earliest surviving hall house in Northumberland and its architectural features are of the highest quality. Its subsequent modification to a tower house enhances its importance and it will add greatly to our knowledge and understanding of this type of high status medieval dwelling.


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


The monument includes the remains of a fortified house, later remodelled as a tower house, of medieval date, situated on the summit of a ridge within a meander of the Chirden Burn. The upstanding remains are Listed Grade I. The site of the fortified house has been isolated by the digging of a substantial ditch, 25m wide and a maximum of 4.5m deep, across the north western part of the ridge, and by a less substantial ditch across the south eastern side. Natural protection is afforded on the north east and south western sides by steep slopes. The fortified house, which is situated between the two ditches, is visible as a rectangular structure measuring 20.9m north west to south east by 11.8m north east to south west, with walls of regular sandstone blocks 1.8m thick. This building is thought to be early 13th century in date and its basic plan is an upper floor hall house above a columned basement. Each of the long side walls had three regularly spaced arrow loops, or narrow windows, and each of the end walls had one loop placed centrally. All of the windows were blocked soon after building and in the south west corner of the house two of the windows have been obscured by an internal cupboard and a fireplace. The most westerly window in the south wall was subsequently replaced by a larger window, still clearly visible. In the later 13th and 14th century the house was remodelled into a tower house and a number of features were added; these include a square tower at the north west corner, a tower at the north east corner, a pair of butresses on the north wall and a small tower at the south west corner. It is also thought that an entire storey was added. A pair of buttresses added to the south wall of the house are thought to be an even later addition. The original entrance to the house is thought to have lain in the eastern end of the south wall, although there is now only a gap in the masonry. The foundations of a rectangular building, orientated east to west and measuring 9m by 6.4m, are located 10m east of the house. The building is thought to be the remains of an associated chapel. Further to the east of the house, on the eastern side of the smaller ditch, there are further slight foundations of a small building 3m square. Dally Castle is believed to be the building erected by David Linsey in his manor of Chirdon, referred to in a document of 1237 as the `house with remarkably thick walls in the form of a tower'. The manor was confiscated on two occasions in 1289 and 1296. On the second occasion it was granted to John de Swinburne, reverting to the Crown on his death in 1326 when it was described as `the site of a manor burnt by the Scots'. The fortified house is not mentioned in the 1415 or the 1541 lists of Border strongholds but it is known that by 1604 it was held of the Crown and occupied by the Dodds family. The condition of the house deteriorated; by the 18th century it was roofless and in the early 19th century little stonework was visible. The building underwent limited excavation in 1888 when a series of columns forming part of the basement were removed. The work also uncovered a helmet and part of a sword. After substantial consolidation in the late 20th century, the walls are visible standing to a maximum height of 1.8m. Further columns and other architectural fragments were also uncovered and remain at the site.

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: 28588

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ryder, P F, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland: A Survey, (1995), 73-4
Ryder, P F, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland: A Survey, (1995), 73-4
NY78SE 09,

End of official listing