Ancient Monuments

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Howtel tower house

A Scheduled Monument in Kilham, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.6006 / 55°36'2"N

Longitude: -2.1636 / 2°9'48"W

OS Eastings: 389790.469375

OS Northings: 634123.30981

OS Grid: NT897341

Mapcode National: GBR F3BP.D5

Mapcode Global: WH9Z7.QHXB

Entry Name: Howtel tower house

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1932

Last Amended: 15 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018438

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31703

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Kilham

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Kirknewton St Gregory

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the ruins of a 15th century medieval tower house. It is
now part of a farm complex and is surrounded on three sides by farm buildings,
with the west side looking onto the farm courtyard.
The tower is rectangular in shape and measures 10.4m by 9.6m externally with
walls which at basement level vary between 2.05m and 2.2m thick. The tower had
at least three floors, the first marked by an internal set-back and the second
by an external chamfered set-back on the south east wall. All four walls are
relatively intact up to a level slightly above the former first floor. Above
this, only the south east wall survives to a total height of 11m. The north
west, north east and south west walls are constructed of a dark igneous rock
which is occasionally roughly coursed. The south or front wall is faced with
roughly coursed and squared blocks of sandstone. At basement level was a
doorway at the west end of the south wall. There is also a single window loop
in the centre of the west wall. Access to the upper floors would have been by
timber stair or ladder as there is no evidence of a mural stair.
The first floor may have had a barrel vault which was subsequently replaced by
a timber floor. Evidence of the former survives in the form of the south walls
which bulge inwards suggesting they once supported a vault, and of the latter
in the form of socket remains in the south wall for transverse beams. At first
floor level, one window survives intact, a little west of centre in the south
wall. Another blocked opening can be seen east of this window which may have
been a doorway or a window. Traces of another blocked opening can be seen
internally in the east wall, adjacent to the south east corner. Evidence of a
splayed window loop exists at the west end of the north wall. The second floor
was carried on eight transverse timber beams, the sockets of which survive in
the internal face of the surviving south wall. There is a single window set
centrally in this wall.
The tower is recorded in 1541 as partially standing after destruction by James
IV of Scotland in 1496. It was repaired in the 16th century, but probably
finally fell out of use in the 17th century.

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.

Howtel tower house is well preserved and retains significant archaeological
information. It will contribute to studies of medieval architecture and
settlement patterns at this time.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ryder, P F, Howtel Tower, Kilham, Northumberland, (1990)
Ryder, P F, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland: A Survey, (1995), 18-21

Source: Historic England

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