Ancient Monuments

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Ninebanks tower house

A Scheduled Monument in West Allen, Northumberland

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Latitude: 54.8732 / 54°52'23"N

Longitude: -2.3412 / 2°20'28"W

OS Eastings: 378201.451681

OS Northings: 553211.674855

OS Grid: NY782532

Mapcode National: GBR DD22.YW

Mapcode Global: WH91J.0SF0

Entry Name: Ninebanks tower house

Scheduled Date: 4 April 1951

Last Amended: 7 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016813

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32717

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: West Allen

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Whitfield and Ninebanks

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes a tower house of medieval date, situated on the right
bank of the River West Allen. The tower is all that remains above ground level
of a once much larger house, as it was originally attached to the eastern
gable of an earlier building. The tower house is Listed Grade II*.
The tower is thought to have functioned as lookout tower as its slight
dimensions mean it is unlikely to have served as a defensible structure. It is
rectangular in shape and measures 3.6m by 4m externally, with walls of rubble
and dressed stone on average 0.5m thick. The tower, now roofless, stands four
storeys high but it is thought that the topmost floor is a later addition.
Access to the upper storeys of the tower is by a spiral staircase housed in a
small, rectangular turret attached to the north western corner. There are
windows, some now blocked, through most of the tower walls at all levels.
These are largely of square-headed form, although there is a two-light lancet
window at first floor level through the eastern wall. The lintel of the second
floor window above the latter has the remains of carving upon it: two heraldic
shields, thought to be associated with Sir Thomas Dacre, c.1520. Within the
tower there are doorways through the south wall at first and second floor
levels which originally gave access to the adjacent wing of the house. Both
doorways have been blocked. At second floor level there is also a blocked
window through the south wall. The upper storey retains an original fireplace
and a series of nest boxes thought to have functioned as a dovecote.

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. At many sites the tower comprised only one element of a
larger house, with at least one wing being attached to it. These wings
provided further domestic accommodation, frequently including a large hall.
If it was incorporated within a larger domestic residence, the tower itself
could retain its defensible qualities and could be shut off from the rest of
the house in times of trouble. 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.

The tower house at Ninebanks survives reasonably well despite some structural
instability, and retains significant archaeological deposits and many original
architectural features. It is an unusual example of its type as it has few
defensible qualities and is thought to have served as a look out tower. It
will add to our understanding of later medieval settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


NY75SE 01,

Source: Historic England

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