Ancient Monuments

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High Grains medieval pele tower and three shielings 200m west of High Grains Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Askerton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 55.0715 / 55°4'17"N

Longitude: -2.6502 / 2°39'0"W

OS Eastings: 358577.3595

OS Northings: 575417.75

OS Grid: NY585754

Mapcode National: GBR 99YS.1T

Mapcode Global: WH90D.8S7H

Entry Name: High Grains medieval pele tower and three shielings 200m west of High Grains Farm

Scheduled Date: 11 July 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015867

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27772

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Askerton

Traditional County: Cumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Gilsland St Mary Magdalene

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of High Grains
medieval pele tower and barmkin and three adjacent shielings located on fairly
level moorland 200m west of High Grains Farm. `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 remains of the pele tower include the largely grass covered lower
courses of the tower's substantial walls 1.5m thick which survive up to 1.3m
high and indicate that it was a rectangular structure measuring approximately
10m by 9m. A wall running south from the south east corner of the pele for a
distance of 3m is identified as the remains of the tower's barmkin or
defensive wall, whilst the position of the barmkin on the tower's north side
is marked by a distinct earthwork or ledge beyond which the ground is of a
rougher nature. Once the pele tower had been abandoned three rectangular stone
shielings were constructed adjacent to the ruin and the turf covered
foundations of these structures survive. That on the tower's east side
measures 8.7m by 5m and up to 0.4m high and it appears to have utilised the
remains of the pele tower which has had part of its east wall removed to
create a two roomed shieling. There is a smaller single roomed shieling on the
tower's west side which measures 6.4m by 4.5m and up to 0.3 high. Only two
walls of the third shieling on the tower's south side survive above ground
level but this is sufficient to show that it measured approximately 6.9m by at
least 2.5m. These shielings are depicted on a map dated 1603 accompanying the
Gilsland Survey.

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

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 examples 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.
High Grains pele tower and barmkin and the three adjacent shielings survive
reasonably well. The monument is a rare example of the juxtaposition of a pele
tower and shielings and it will add greatly 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), 16
Ramm, H G , Shielings and Bastles, (1970), 16, 28
Schofield, A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Description - Shielings, (1989)
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)
Schofield,A.J., MPP Single Monument Class Descriptions - Shielings, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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