Norton Tower, Rylstone

Has been described as a Possible Pele Tower

There are masonry footings remains

NameNorton Tower, Rylstone
Alternative NamesRylston; Rylestone
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishRylstone

Remains of tower. Probably C16 for Richard Norton. Coursed gritstone. A square structure, approximately 10m x 15m, the corners standing approximately 3m high but the walls slighted. Original entrance probably on the south side, remains of a fireplace and stone newel stair on east side, no windows survive. The ruin stands among extensive earthworks and is only one part of an important archaeological site which includes rabbit warrens (pillow mounds) and probably prehistoric field clearance cairns to the south. The building was a hunting lodge of the Nortons of Rylstone and Norton Conyers and was slighted after the family's involvement in the Rising of the North, 1569. (Listed Building Report)

Norton Tower stands on the strongest point of a natural ridge, and is flanked on the east side by a slight bank and ditch. The Tower is ascribed to Richard Norton circa 1540, and was probably erected to house watchers following a dispute with Clifford of Skipton over hunting rights in Rylstone. The bank and ditch is the obstructive part of a probable palisaded enclosure, later walled, which covered the summit of the ridge, and was primarily designed for herding deer. The Tower is 9.5m by 7.5m with walls 1.2m thick standing to a maximum height of 5.0m, see photograph. Villy's deer enclosure is best preserved for some 150m between 'C' and 'N', where the footings of a substantial wall are set on top of a bank 3.5m overall, with a shallow external ditch of the same width. The remainder of the east side as far as 'E' is represented by a modern wall with a stream on the outside. Between 'E' and 'F' water action has eroded the bank and ditch into a ragged and ill-defined feature. Solid wall footings continue across the north side passing the Tower, but these deteriorate, and all the stones of the west side have been grubbed out leaving the wall traceable as a slight robber trench

The small ditched feature at 'N' also appears to be the result of water action rather than an original construction. (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority)

HIGH on a point of rugged ground

Among the wastes of Rylstone Fell,

Above the loftiest ridge or mound

Where foresters or shepherds dwell,

An edifice of warlike frame

Stands single,—Norton Tower its name;

It fronts all quarters, and looks round

O'er path and road, and plain and dell,

Dark moor, and gleam of pool and stream,

Upon a prospect without bound. (William Wordsworth The White Doe of Rylstone )

Gatehouse Comments

On the other side of the valley from the lost New Hall Tower which it was inter-visible with. The Cliffords and Norton appeared to have been local rivals, in dispute over the deer hunting. Neither of these towers would be military although if an argument between hunting parties armed with hunting weapons got out of hand either or both might be safe refuges. Clearly their main function was as symbolic markers of territory and as leisure retreats for hunting parties.

- 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 ReferenceSD976570
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  • Moorhouse, S., 2007, 'The Medieval Parks of Yorkshire: Function, Contents and Chronology' in Liddiard, R. (ed) The Medieval Park new perspectives (Windgather Press) p. 118-9
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 67
  • Hartley, Marie & Ingilby, Joan, 1991, The Yorkshire Dales (Otley:Smith Settle)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 524
  • Ryder, P.F., 1982 (paperback edn 1992), The Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire (Ash Grove Book) p. 108-22
  • Whitaker, T.D., 1812, The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven in the County of York (London) p. 448-50 online copy


  • Villy, F., 1921, Bradford Antiquary Vol. 4 p. 178-89 (King writes 'rather off the subject')


  • Creighton, O.H., 1998, Castles and Landscapes: An Archaeological Survey of Yorkshire and the East Midlands (PhD Thesis University of Leicester) p. 619 online copy