Ancient Monuments

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Heiferlaw tower house, 230m north east of Holywell

A Scheduled Monument in Denwick, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.4529 / 55°27'10"N

Longitude: -1.7127 / 1°42'45"W

OS Eastings: 418269.72084

OS Northings: 617711.739346

OS Grid: NU182177

Mapcode National: GBR J5HD.03

Mapcode Global: WHC1C.N6NK

Entry Name: Heiferlaw tower house, 230m north east of Holywell

Scheduled Date: 28 November 1932

Last Amended: 29 April 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014061

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25193

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Denwick

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Alnwick

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a medieval tower house situated in a
prominent position three miles north of Alnwick Abbey to which the tower
belonged. The tower house is rectangular in shape and measures 7.4m by 8.8m
externally with walls of neatly coursed ashlar blocks 1.2m thick. The tower
stands three storeys high with walls 7m high. A parapet above this level is
now missing and the tower is roofless. The original doorway giving access into
to the ground floor is situated in the centre of the west wall and is of
pointed form. In the south wall of the ground floor an original window loop
has been re-cut to form an 18th century quatrefoil window. The first and
second floors were carried on wooden beams, the holes and corbels which
supported the beams are visible in the interior of the north and south walls.
The upper storeys were reached by means of a wooden stair way in the south
west corner where grooves in the masonry indicate its position. There is a
fireplace in the west wall of the first floor and a blocked square headed
mullioned window in the centre of the south wall as well as a single window
loop in each of the remaining three walls. The second floor contains a single
loop in its south and north walls. The interior of the east wall contains a
niche in which it is thought originally stood a small statue. Of particular
note on the external east and south walls of the tower are the remains of two
stone panels bearing the badges of the abbot of Alnwick Abbey and the Percy
family which date the construction of the tower house to the late 15th
century. It is thought that this tower, located in a prominent position, was
used as a look out tower for the monks at Alnwick Abbey. The monument is also
a Grade I Listed Building. The stone wall which is attached to the east and
west sides of the tower house is excluded from the scheduling but the ground
beneath this feature is included.

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.

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

Heiferlaw tower house is very well preserved and retains significant
archaeological deposits. The importance of the monument is enhanced by its
association with the medieval abbey at Alnwick.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bates, C J, History of Alnwick 2, (1891), 43-4
Grundy, et al, The Buildings of England: Northumberland, (1992), 313
Hugill, R, Borderland Castles and Peles112
Tomlinson, W W, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland, (1888), 393

Source: Historic England

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