Alnham Vicars Pele

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameAlnham Vicars Pele
Alternative NamesAlnham Vicarage; Aylnane; Alname
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishAlnham

This stone tower lies just to he west of the church. It is 11.7m by 8.8m and is built of good quality stone. It has thick walls (1.7 to 2.1m) clearly designed for defence. Like most similar houses the ground floor has a barrel shaped stone vault, and may have been used as a storage area. There is no obvious access between the ground floor and the first floor. Access to the upper storey may have been through an external ladder or staircase. The structure was probably built in the late C14, as it is first mentioned in documents of 1415. It was called a little tower in 1541, but was noted as being ruined by C17. It was believed to belong to the church and was called the Vicar's Pele. Sometime between 1821 and 1844 the building was restored, and a house attached to its east side. At this point, the battlements on the top of the structure were built and replacement windows added. It is now a private house. (Keys to the Past)

The second tower, which still stands today, served from the start as the vicarage. It is first mentioned as a 'lytle toure' in Bowes and Ellerker's survey of 1541. The lack of any reference to it in the 1415 list of Northumbrian strongholds would suggest that it was built at some time after that date, in the 15th or early 16th century. Like the earl's tower, the vicar's pele was in need of maintenance by the time of the 1541 survey.

There is no evidence that it received the necessary repairs and probably suffered steady deterioration instead. A terrier of the glebe land (the land endowment of the parish church), cited by Dixon (1895, 43), indicates the 'vicaridge-house which is an old tower' was in a ruinous state by 1663, having collapsed c. 1651, while the Rev. Robert Thomson was vicar

Warburton's description in 1715 shows its condition had not improved by that date (Hodgson 1916, 3) and no significant repair seems to have been attempted during the 18th century:

Near to the church is the ruins of an ancient well-built pile seemingly to have been a building of note, but, at present, claim'd by the parson of the vicaridge.

In 1758 the vicar was recorded as residing at Ilderton (NCH XIV (1935), 572) and this was still the case in 1828 when Archdeacon Singleton described the 'old tower' as 'long uninhabited and uninhabitable' (cf. NCH XIV (1935), 561).

However it was in use once more by 1844, when the vicarage house and glebe were valued together at £33 (NCH XIV (1935), 561), having been rebuilt in the intervening period with the addition of the current battlements, corner turrets, window openings and a completely new L-plan residential wing in the Tudor style (Grundy 1988, 54: ALN 3). The tower's appearance prior to the rebuilding is shown in a sketch by John Hodgson in 1821, who described it as 'rather low and squat'. (Northumberland National Park)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNT990109
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Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image
Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image
Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image
Copyright Mike Quinn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image

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  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 48
  • Ryder, Peter, 2004, 'Towers and bastles in Northumberland National Park' in Frodsham, P., Archaeology in the Northumberland National Park (CBA Research report 136) p. 262-271
  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 162
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 12
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 170
  • Pevsner, N., 1992 (revised by Grundy, John et al), Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 129
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 11, 34
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 325
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 13
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 53
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 26-7
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1935, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 14 p. 561, 572-3
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Dixon, D.D., 1895, Whittingham Vale (Robert Redpath) p. 43
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 43 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)


  • Hodgson, J.C., 1916, 'List of Ruined Towers, Chapels, etc., in Northumberland; compiled about 1715 by John Warburton, Somerset Herald, aided by John Horsley' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser3) Vol. 13 p. 3 abridged transcription
  • 1899, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 9 p. 81 online copy
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 43 online copy

Primary Sources


  • The Archaeological Practice Ltd., 2004, 'Alnham Northumberland an archaeological and historical study of a border township' Northumberland National Park Historic Village Atlas (The Northumberland National Park Authority) online copy
  • Grundy, 1988, Historic Buildings of the Northumberland National Park (A Report to the National Park Authorities. Napper Collerton Partnership) p. 54