Shidlaw Tower, Carham

Has been described as a Questionable Pele Tower

There are no visible remains

NameShidlaw Tower, Carham
Alternative NamesCarham Hall
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishCarham

Carham Hall was built on the site of a C13 tower. In 1541 it was called a 'little tower without barmkin or gate'. The hall was built in the mid to late C19 for the Compton family. (Keys to the Past)

SHIDLAW, a hamlet, half a mile E. of Carham. Its name is supposed to be a corruption of Shield-law, which signifies a guard-hill, or exploratory. Perhaps there was a strong-hold here, to which the people of Carham retired with their cattle, on the approach of a hostile party; as the summit of this eminence commands an extensive view into Scotland. (Parson 1828)

Gatehouse Comments

It is not at all certain that there was a medieval building of any sort at the site occupied by Carham Hall which is on the bank of the Tweed and not upon the Shidlaw hill half a mile south of it. The authority given for the statement is Straker Smith, a man who lived in the hall and may have been repeating earlier unfounded stories designed to give the C19 house some kudos (or even to give himself kudos - he was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1938, a position which was often held by people with family seats that were genuine medieval fortifications). The medieval manor caput of Carham was Wark Castle and it does not appear from Vickers full county history (which makes no mention of any such tower) that any of the tenants of Carham vilage had the income to build a tower. The C16 references to a 'little tower' are for Carham pele recorded by Leland and which was said to be provided for the villages as an emergency refuge should, arguably, be in the village. It is likely there was just one tower despite there being two PastScape records. However Dodds (1999) does imply two sites with the suggestion the site at Shidlaw (he may mean the hamlet at NT807380 on a hill top rather than Carham Hall) was a watch tower, rather than a refuge or tower house.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNT803387
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Calculate Print


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 35
  • Straker Smith, Sir T.D., 1954, Carham p. 5
  • Vickers, Kenneth H. (ed), 1922, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 11 p. 23-4 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 344
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 67 online copy


  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 28-30 online copy

Primary Sources