Ancient Monuments

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Tower house in the churchyard of St James's Church

A Scheduled Monument in Hunstanworth, County Durham

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Latitude: 54.8359 / 54°50'9"N

Longitude: -2.0812 / 2°4'52"W

OS Eastings: 394882.889087

OS Northings: 549006.934079

OS Grid: NY948490

Mapcode National: GBR FDXJ.78

Mapcode Global: WHB2Z.0Q73

Entry Name: Tower house in the churchyard of St James's Church

Scheduled Date: 17 January 1962

Last Amended: 19 March 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016926

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28589

County: County Durham

Civil Parish: Hunstanworth

Traditional County: Durham

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): County Durham

Church of England Parish: Blanchland with Hunstanworth

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a tower house of medieval date situated
in the churchyard of St James's Church, on the south side of the valley of the
River Derwent. The tower house, which is Listed Grade II, is visible as the
lower courses of a rectangular building with maximum measurements of 15m east
to west by 12m north to south. The remains of the collapsed upper storeys are
visible as a spread of material 1m to 3m wide on all sides. The walls, bonded
with clay, stand to a maximum height of 1.5m and are at least 1m thick. The
vaulted basement of the tower house fell in 1883, but some of the springing on
the south side at the western end remains in situ.

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

Although the upper storeys have fallen, the tower house in the churchyard of
St James's Church retains significant archaeological deposits. Tower houses
are an uncommon monument type in County Durham and this one will contribute to
the knowledge and understanding of higher status medieval settlement.

Source: Historic England


Durham SMR 2282,

Source: Historic England

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