Ancient Monuments

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Great Tosson tower house

A Scheduled Monument in Whitton and Tosson, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.2988 / 55°17'55"N

Longitude: -1.9554 / 1°57'19"W

OS Eastings: 402928.530703

OS Northings: 600517.842496

OS Grid: NU029005

Mapcode National: GBR G7S5.GC

Mapcode Global: WHB0W.Y20Q

Entry Name: Great Tosson tower house

Scheduled Date: 8 February 1968

Last Amended: 6 October 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008096

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20877

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Whitton and Tosson

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of the medieval tower house of Tosson
situated in a grassy enclosure on the south side of Great Tosson hamlet. It
commands extensive views to the north across the Coquet valley. The tower is
rectangular in shape and measures 8.5m east-west by 6.5m north-south within
stone walls 2m thick and survives to first floor level, a height of 7m. Few of
the facing stones have survived, with the exception of an area at first floor
level on the north elevation, which shows them to be large square blocks laid
in a regular fashion. The basement is entered through the remains of an
original entrance at the south-eastern corner of the tower and is lit by two
narrow windows in the east and west walls. A fireplace survives on the north
wall. The basement vaulted roof does not survive but traces of it can be
detected around the walls. At first floor level there are the remains of an
internal passage and a well preserved garderobe in the north-eastern corner,
as well as a window opening in the west wall and a fireplace recess in the
north wall. The tower house is also a Grade II* listed building. There is no
visible evidence of attached buildings and therefore it is identified as a
free-standing building. Tosson tower is first mentioned in a document of 1517
in which it was given by William Ogle to Lord Ogle in exchange for Cocklaw
Tower but it is not mentioned in a survey of 1415; it therefore would appear
that the tower was constructed in the late 15th century.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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

Great Tosson tower house survives reasonably well despite the evident stone
robbing. It exhibits no evidence for a surrounding barmkin (outer enclosure).

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dixon, D D, Upper Coquetdale, (1903)
Ryder, P F, Bastles and Towers in Northumberland National Park, (1990)
Tomlinson, W W, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland, (1888)
Pagination 49, DOE, District of Alnwick Northumberland, (1987)

Source: Historic England

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