Ancient Monuments

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Tower house in Chillingham Park, 270m north east of Hepburn Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Chillingham, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5176 / 55°31'3"N

Longitude: -1.8895 / 1°53'22"W

OS Eastings: 407076.377319

OS Northings: 624880.070358

OS Grid: NU070248

Mapcode National: GBR H47M.QX

Mapcode Global: WH9ZR.YKFZ

Entry Name: Tower house in Chillingham Park, 270m north east of Hepburn Cottage

Scheduled Date: 30 November 1932

Last Amended: 2 July 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017360

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31718

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Chillingham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Chatton with Chillingham

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the ruins of a medieval tower house of early 16th
century date situated within the grounds of Chillingham Park. It was modified
in the later 16th or 17th century and buildings were attached to it. It is
commonly known as Hepburn Bastle. The tower, which is Listed Grade II*,
stands two storeys high plus twin gable ends to the east and west. It is
rectangular in plan and measures about 16.6m by 10.8m externally with walls of
tooled sandstone ashlar. Externally, there is a chamfered plinth and a
chamfered set-back a little below eaves level. At basement level, the walls
are about 2.7m thick, except for the east wall which incorporates a mural
stair and is 3.5m thick. The entrance lies in the south wall and is a square-
headed doorway, altered at some time and incorporating reused blocks in its
jambs. East of the doorway the wall has partially crumbled following the
collapse of the well of the newel stair. Additionally, there appear to be
rough footings projecting about 1.2m in front of the wall, and which suggest
an external stair. The south wall has one window at first floor level and a
scar left by the roofline of a former building, the footings of which are
partially visible close to the main building but obscured elsewhere by deep
tussocky grass. The east wall has a slit window and small loop with the
remains of sockets for an iron grille at basement level and an area of patched
masonry; two windows lie at first floor level and in the gable ends are two
smaller openings. The north wall has a window at first floor level as well as
two openings for garderobe chutes. The west wall has a single chamfered loop
to the basement and a pair of windows to the first floor; the gables also have
two openings.
Internally, the ground floor comprises a barrel vaulted basement with a later
fireplace in the north wall. At the east end, a doorway leads to a mural
chamber with a trap door in the floor which drops 2.5m into a small
rectangular chamber. The mural stair in the south east corner would have given
access to the first floor, although it appears to have been modified as the
stairwell contains evidence of blocked openings and different size building
stone used in its construction. It has been suggested that the original
stairwell must have projected beyond the face of the south wall and may have
been corbelled out. Additionally, there appear to be rough footings in front
of the wall which may suggest an external stair. The first floor was divided
into three rooms, each with a fireplace. The second floor, or attic level, is
partially obscured by ivy but fireplaces, windows and a window seat are
traceable. The twin gables at this level are thought to be late 16th or 17th
century in date.
The earliest documentary reference to the building is in 1509, when it was
described as a 'hold' and in 1542 it was referred to as a tower. By 1564, it
was called a mansion house and was of a larger extent than remains today. The
house appears to have been abandoned after the death of the last male heir,
Robert Hebburn, in 1755.

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. 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.

Despite alterations in the late 16th or 17th century, the medieval tower house
in Chillingham Park is well preserved and retains many original features and
significant archaeological deposits. It will make an important contribution to
the study of settlement at this time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dodds, M H, A History of Northumberland, (1935), 347-50
Ryder, P F, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland: Part I Berwick District, (1995), 8-10

Source: Historic England

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