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Braes Pele medieval tower and shielings 350m east of Borderrigg

A Scheduled Monument in Askerton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.0704 / 55°4'13"N

Longitude: -2.6694 / 2°40'9"W

OS Eastings: 357350.736585

OS Northings: 575308.623769

OS Grid: NY573753

Mapcode National: GBR 99ST.W6

Mapcode Global: WH7Z7.ZT0B

Entry Name: Braes Pele medieval tower and shielings 350m east of Borderrigg

Scheduled Date: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015865

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27769

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Askerton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Bewcastle St Cuthbert

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Braes Pele medieval
tower and barmkin, an adjacent shieling and associated enclosure, a second
shieling, and a corn drying kiln. `Pele' is an alternative term to `tower',
and `pele towers' are members of the wider family of defensive buildings in
the northern borderlands which also include tower houses and bastles. The
monument is located on the hillside approximately 350m east of Borderrigg and
is divided into two areas; the corn drying kiln being a short distance to the
east of the pele and shielings in a separate area.

The remains of the pele tower include turf covered foundations measuring c.9m
square and up to 0.6m high with walls 1.5m thick. Turf covered remains of the
barmkin wall can be seen to the south and east of the tower and enclose an
area approximately 30m square. A short distance to the north of the pele there
are the turf covered foundations of a two roomed medieval shieling measuring
c.14.5m east-west by 7m north-south with an associated enclosure measuring
approximately 15m square immediately to the north. An earthwork boundary runs
from the shieling southwards towards the pele. On the eastern side of the
barmkin wall there are the remains of a second shieling; a single roomed
building measuring c.16.5m by 8m with its long axis aligned north-south. About
50m to the east of the complex of pele tower and shielings are the remains of
a corn drying kiln associated with these structures. It survives as a circular
stone-lined hollow measuring c.7m in diameter with a splayed stoke hole on its
south side. The kiln has been dug into the hillside and its presence indicates
the existence of small scale arable cultivation in the area.

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

Medieval shielings are small seasonally occupied huts which were built to
provide shelter for herdsmen who tended animals grazing summer pasture on
upland or marshland. They have a simple sub-rectangular or ovoid plan normally
defined by drystone walling and most have a single undivided interior although
two-roomed example are known. Some have adjacent structures such as pens or
enclosures. Shielings are reasonably common in the uplands but frequently
represent the only evidence for medieval settlement and farming practice here.
Those examples which survive well and which help illustrate medieval land use
are considered to be nationally important.

Braes Pele tower and barmkin, the two shielings, enclosure and corn drying
kiln survive well. The monument is a rare example of the juxtaposition of a
pele tower and shielings and will thus facilitate any investigation into the
contemporaneity or otherwise of these structures. Additionally the monument
will add to our knowledge and understanding of the wider border settlement and
economy during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 52
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)
SMR No. 61, Cumbria SMR, Braes, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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