Whitton Tower

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameWhitton Tower
Alternative NamesWhitton near Rothbury; Wytton; Wytton
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishTosson

Tower house and attached house, originally a 'vicar's pele' and later the rectory; now divided into two units. C14 tower; attached house mid C19. Tower squared stone, house ashlar; Welsh and Lakeland slate roofs. Irregular plan. C19 house in Tudor style.

Entrance front entirely C19. 2 storeys, 4 bays. Castellated porch in 3rd bay. Mullioned and mullion-and-transom windows, under hoodmoulds on ground floor, floating cornices on 1st floor. Complex and irregular roofs with elaborate kneelers, shaped gables and large corniced end stacks.

Attached to rear, 4-storey tower with chamfered plinth; 2 small slit windows with chamfered surrounds lighting staircase. C19 mullion-and-transom bay window with castellated top. Parapet and corner turrets C19. To rear the shield of the Umfravilles.

Interior: Tower walls c.8 ft. thick. Basement has pointed tunnel vault entered by doorway with shouldered lintel; fine ashlar well in floor. Ground floor has high pointed tunnel vault divided into two rooms by later wall. Ground-floor entrance has tunnel-vaulted wall passage whose inner and outer doorways have pointed arches and continuous chamfers; the outer doorway now blocked. A 3rd door, with shouldered lintel, leads from this passage to base of stone newel stair. The staircase has another door also with shouldered lintel, directly into the main vaulted room. Similar original doorways lead from stairs on upper floors.

Attached house had cantilevered stair with slender turned balusters. 4 pointed stone arches in hall. Several stone Gothic fireplaces. (Listed Building Report)

Tower and a little barmkin at Whitton (Hadcock).

Whitton; a small village on a high ground south of the river Coquet in which is a tower belonging to the Rector of Rothbury (Hodgson 1916).

Mentioned in the 1415 Survey as the 'Turris de Whitton, iuxta Rothbury'

Described in the 1541 Survey as a tower and a little barmkin being the mansion of the parsonage of Rothbury and in good repair (Bates 1891).

The former rectory of Rothbury is a pele tower of the 14th c. It was repaired at the end of the 17th c, altered and enlarged in the 18th c,and almost completely rebuilt but for the more indestructible lower parts, by Rev C.G.V. Harcourt, who also had built the modern east wing in Tudor style.

On the north side are the kitchen wing and extensive out-buildings round the 'lytle barmekin' of 1541.

The old tower measures externally 46 feet north to south and 33 feet east to west, and is still about 60 feet high on the north side, but only 42 on the south side where the ground rises.

The entrance was near the west end of the north front, where there is a small doorway, with a pointed head, and surrounding chamfer. Within is a lobby, from which it is almost certain a doorway led to a mural stair on the west side. An inner door leads into the vault, roofed by an unribbed pointed barrel roof running north and south, and pierced by a small square hatchway in its southern half. The ground floor has walls more than 9 feet thick, and a well 3 feet in diameter, said to be 15 feet deep.

The first floor is covered by a plain pointed barrel ceiling which may be modern. In the south east corner, a newel stair leads up to the roof. In the centre of the east wall of the second floor is a recess covered by an elliptical arch, interupted at its south end by a modern passage to the east wing. In the south wall of the recess, which was no doubt part of the oratory, there is a piscina carved with oak leaves and having an ogee-leaded fenestella.

The battlements are modern, and none of the external openings, apart from the entrance door, now within the kitchen wing, seem older the the 18th c. (Dodds 1940).

The tower seems evidently to be the work of the last half of the 14thc. Some sort of stone house may have been built on to the tower in the 17th c. The east wing was built after 1784, and rebuilt in Tudor style later.

The first floor stone vault may be accounted for by the fact of its being on ground level on the south side. The pointed inner door from the east side of the ground level still remains and near it the shouldered door that leads to the wheel stair (Bates 1891).

On the west front, a carved shield probably contains the arms of Alexander Cooke, Rector of Rothbury, 1435-1474, who probably restored the tower and built the upper stange in which the shield is inserted. The piscina was discovered during alterations in 1871. The masonry throughout is massive, especially in the lower courses, where the quoins consist of huge blocks of sandstone; a rudely chamfered base runs around the whole building. About midway up the wall is another stange, above which the work appears to be of later date.

The tower stands near the summit of a ridge, formed by one of the lower spurs of the Simonside range of hills, on the south bank of the Coquet, and commanding an extensive view up the valley to the west (Dixon 1903).

The walls at the base are 11 feet thick, in the kitchen, 9 feet, and towards the top, 6 feet. Whitton Tower was a few years ago acquired by Sir Angus Watson and turned into a children's hospital (Tomlinson 1902). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

In an appendix on bastles in Castellarium Anglicanum (vol. 1 p. lxviii) David King suggests a bastle at Whitton, listed by Mr Dixon, can be identified with this site. King is incorrect in this as Dixon refers to Whitton Farmhouse.

- Philip Davis

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 ReferenceNU056010
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 45
  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 191
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 110
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 152
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 199
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 11, 37, 60, 62
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 344
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 3352
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 173
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 322
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1940, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 15 p. 315-7
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 229-31
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Dixon, D.D., 1903, Upper Coquetdale Northumberland: Its History, Traditions, Folk-lore and Scenery (Newcastle-upon Tyne: Robert Redpath) p. 443-7 online copy
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1902, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle) p. 335
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 431 online copy
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 18, 45, 393-6 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)


  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 182
  • 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. 13 abridged transcription
  • Dixon, D.D., 1885-6, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 2 p. 264-6
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 18, 45, 393-6 online copy

Primary Sources