Ancient Monuments

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Alnham Castle: a medieval tower house

A Scheduled Monument in Alnham, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.3913 / 55°23'28"N

Longitude: -2.0144 / 2°0'51"W

OS Eastings: 399183.772106

OS Northings: 610811.918165

OS Grid: NT991108

Mapcode National: GBR G6C3.P6

Mapcode Global: WHB09.1R1B

Entry Name: Alnham Castle: a medieval tower house

Scheduled Date: 15 October 1980

Last Amended: 21 June 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017057

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31727

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Alnham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Upper Coquetdale

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a medieval tower house at Alnham, often
referred to as Alnham Castle. It lies on high ground to the south of the
medieval village remains which are the subject of a separate scheduling.
The tower is rectangular in plan and survives as a prominent sub-rectangular
mound which measures 22m east-west by 18m north-south and stands up to 2m
high. Part of the inner face of the north wall and its junction with a cross
wall are visible as exposed masonry and there is a possible doorway at the
north east corner. Some 15m east of the tower is a slightly curving earthwork,
orientated north-south, which may indicate the site of an attached hall or
The tower is one of two in Alnham and is first mentioned in 1405 when it was
surrendered to royal troops. It belonged to the Earl of Northumberland and is
recorded in documents in 1415, 1514 and 1541, by which time both towers were
in a state of poor repair due to Scottish raids.

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

The tower house at Alnham is reasonably well preserved and retains significant
archaeological deposits. Substantial masonry remains of the basement remain
intact and will add to our understanding of medieval and post-medieval
settlement in the region.

Source: Historic England


NT 91 SE 7,

Source: Historic England

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