Little Harle Tower

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLittle Harle Tower
Alternative NamesEast Harle
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishKirkwhelpington

An elaborately modernised tower at the west end of the present Victorian house (Pevsner 1957).

Mentioned in a survey of 1541 (Bates).

Littleharle Tower. House. Medieval, early 18th century and 1861-2. Medieval work rubble, early 18th century work dressed stone, 19th century work ashlar. Welsh slate roofs. Irregular plan. Garden front has 3-storey medieval tower on left; 2-storey, 5-bay early 18th century centre and large externally Victorian tower on right.

Medieval tower has slit windows on ground floor and a blocked pointed-arched doorway on right return. 1st floor has 12-pane sash with thick glazing bars in architrave. Similar 9-pane sash on 2nd floor. Crenellated parapet.

Centre section has part-glazed Victorian door under hood mould and 15-pane sashes with thick glazing bars in architraves; except 3 central first floor windows which are later 12-pane sashes. Plain parapet.

Tower on right has Georgian core (cf. interior) with rusticated quoins and bands, but was altered and extended 1861-2. Two bays. Left bay has mullioned and mullion-and-transom windows. Right bay has 2-storey canted bay window with mullions and hoodmould on ground floor. 1st floor has tall Gothic windows with cinquefoil heads, and blank, pointed-arched panel of Geometric tracery above. Roofs not visible. 18th century section has tall stone conjoined corniced ridge stack. Octagonal corniced stacks elsewhere.

Entrance front is entirely mid 19th century. Gothic doorway behind large crenellated porte-cochere. Irregular fenestration with similar Gothic detail to Victorian tower on garden front.

Interior of medieval tower has walls 6 ft thick, vaulted ground floor and a stone newel stair which is actually in 18th century section and evidence of medieval house adjoining tower. The section of Victorian appearance has 18th century open-well stair

Drawing room in same part has Rococo plaster ceiling of 1740-50; carved mid 18th century fireplace with broken semi-circular lintel framing bust, and side terms; also 2 elaborate Palladian pedimented doorcases.

Other rooms Victorian, especially library, and hall with screen of 3 pointed arches (Listed Building Report). (PastScape)

The tower is mentioned in the 1541 survey but not in the 1415 list; the house originally belonged to the De Harles, later passing to the Fenwicks and Aynsleys.

The house is extensive and complex, although reduced in size c.1980. The earlier part of the building consists of a main (hall) block of two storeys and five bays, with the medieval tower at its western end, projecting to the south, and a balancing block at its east end; extending east and north from this are a series of extensions, mid-18th century in parts but heavily remodelled in the 1860s and now partly demolished.

THE TOWER: The old tower is of three storeys and is roughly 8m square, being built of large squared stone. There is a chamfered plinth exposed on the east and south, but cut away on the west. The northern part of the east wall is covered by the hall block, and the entire north wall by a three storeyed 19th century extension.

At basement level there is a blocked opening, presumably a doorway, in the west wall, just to the south of the main block. This has a chamfered segmental pointed arch (the chamfer dying away briefly to simulate an impost), and is set rather strangely some courses above the plinth. Internally there are said to be remains of a north-south barrel vault, and a central splayed recess (presumably a loop) in the north wall. Old photographs show a blocked window in the centre of the south wall, now obscured by vegetation.

At first floor level there are central sash windows on the south and west (the latter within the jambs of a wider window); at the east end of the south wall is a chamfered loop, and at the south end of the west wall two similar loops; the first lights an L-plan mural chamber, the second a mural recess with a shelf/recess on the south; both may have been garderobes. At second floor it is clear that the sash windows on south and west are set within larger openings; there is a similar broad recess, probably originally a window, at the south end of the east wall; to the east of the window in the south wall is another small chamfered loop, now blocked. In the north wall is a fireplace with a wave moulded surround and a triangular head within a square frame, perhaps of early 17th century date; a straight joint immediately east of the fireplace may be part of an earlier window. Access to the upper floors of the tower is by a newel stair occupying the southern half of the western bay of the main block. This is entered from the hall by a square headed doorway with a chamfered surround, the chamfer curving round the angles of the doorhead; there is also a second doorway, opening north out of the foot of the stair well, which has a flat pointed chamfered arch. The treads of the stair all have a prominent notch adjacent to the centre newel; the stair now ends in a rather indeterminate manner in the present attic of the main block, from which a doorway with a timber lintel gives access to the second floor of the tower.

The present roof of the hall is pitched, within a wall walk; although this is of recent date (except for some old beams) it probably reproduces an earlier form.

THE HALL BLOCK AND EAST WING: The sash windows of the hall block look of mid 18th century date, but the central doorway is clearly Victorian; the south wall of the block, of no great thickness, has a chamfered plinth, but of different section (with a step above the

chamfer) to that of the medieval tower. The north wall of the block has been largely removed at ground floor level by the insertion of a Gothic arcade.

The east wing is shown in an old engraving (of late 18th century date?) as being of very similar appearance to the tower; it was considerably altered in the 19th century, but on the west 18th century stonework survives, above a few courses which appear considerably older. Once again there is a plinth, but its exact character was not determined.

CONCLUSIONS: Littleharle Tower seems likely to have originated as a medieval hall house with the surviving tower serving as a cross wing; the situation of the newel stair within the central block shows that this is earlier than its 18th century exterior indicates. The apparent survival of pre-18th century fabric in the east wing is interesting, hinting that the late medieval house may have had a hall with a tower at each end, or at least a solar tower and a storeyed service wing. The position of the blocked doorway in the east wall of the tower, the only clearly pre-16th century feature seen, is interesting being raised well above the plinth. One explanation might be that this doorway originally opened within an adjacent hall, from the dais platform - which would explain its positioning. The hall may have been rebuilt as a rather narrower block, perhaps in the 16th century, leaving the original doorway in an external wall. The present newel stair may date from this phase; the tower certainly seems to have been thoroughly remodelled in the later 16th or 17th century.

The development of the house might be:

i) medieval house with solar tower; the tower perhaps of later 15th century date, is perhaps built onto an earlier hall, possibly aisled;

ii) the medieval hall is replaced by a hall block of the present dimensions, perhaps in the later 16th century; the tower is remodelled and refenestrated. There is also a storeyed cross wing (or possibly a second tower) at the east end of the hall;

iii) the hall block and western wing are recast, or virtually rebuilt, in the mid 18th century, when considerable extensions are built to the east;

iv) Thomas Anderson's remodelling of 1860-1, with a rambling north east wing incorporating a lofty tower. The present north front, with its porte-cochere, is all of this period;

v) c.1980 much of the 1860s wing is demolished, some lower walls being retained (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)

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 ReferenceNZ013834
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Calculate Print


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 244
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 75
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 200 (slight)
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 6, 50
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 334
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 227
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 132
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London) p. 204
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 152-3
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 46 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Hodgson, J., 1827, History of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Part 2 Vol. 1 p. 209 online copy


  • 1993-94, Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 4 p. 9
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 46 online copy

Primary Sources


  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 4 Tynedale District Vol. 2 p. 113-15