Heiferlaw Tower

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameHeiferlaw Tower
Alternative NamesHefferlaw; Highfarland; Highfarlaw; Heffordlaw; Heaforlaw
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishDenwick

Heiferlaw tower house is very well preserved and retains significant archaeological deposits. The importance of the monument is enhanced by its association with the medieval abbey at Alnwick.

The monument includes the remains of a medieval tower house situated in a prominent position three miles north of Alnwick Abbey to which the tower belonged. The tower house is rectangular in shape and measures 7.4m by 8.8m externally with walls of neatly coursed ashlar blocks 1.2m thick. The tower stands three storeys high with walls 7m high. A parapet above this level is now missing and the tower is roofless. The original doorway giving access into to the ground floor is situated in the centre of the west wall and is of pointed form. In the south wall of the ground floor an original window loop has been re-cut to form an 18th century quatrefoil window. The first and second floors were carried on wooden beams, the holes and corbels which supported the beams are visible in the interior of the north and south walls. The upper storeys were reached by means of a wooden stair way in the south west corner where grooves in the masonry indicate its position. There is a fireplace in the west wall of the first floor and a blocked square headed mullioned window in the centre of the south wall as well as a single window loop in each of the remaining three walls. The second floor contains a single loop in its south and north walls. The interior of the east wall contains a niche in which it is thought originally stood a small statue. Of particular note on the external east and south walls of the tower are the remains of two stone panels bearing the badges of the abbot of Alnwick Abbey and the Percy family which date the construction of the tower house to the late 15th century. It is thought that this tower, located in a prominent position, was used as a look out tower for the monks at Alnwick Abbey

(Scheduling Report)

Lookout tower for Alnwick Abbey, dateable to 1470-89 from heraldry. Large squared stone; roofless. Rectangular 3-storey tower 8.76 x 7.4 metres externally. South elevation shows ground floor loop re-cut to Gothick quatrefoil, blocked square-headed 2-light window above (mullion missing) under panel with Alnwick Abbey and Percy arms, and 2nd-floor loop. Left return shows moulded 2-centred-arched doorway and 1st floor loop; right return shows loops to lower floors with similar heraldic panel and trefoil- headed niche above. 1st and 2nd floor loops to rear.

Interior: 1st-floor fireplace with corbelled lintel;sockets for 1st-floor beams and corbels for 2nd floor.

The Percy arms have a pair of fetterlocks (handcuffs) within the usual crescent, a form used by the 4th Earl of Northumberland, who also built the towerhouse at Hulne Friary. (Listed Building Report)

Heiferlaw Tower was not built before 1470 (Bates 1891). It belonged to Alnwick Abbey and is mentioned in a survey of the Abbey's possessions dated 1540. The tower is three storeyed, of grey sandstone, and measures 28'9" x 24'4". The floors were of wood with access by a wooden stair in the SW corner. There is a fireplace on the second storey. A panel in the east wall and another on the south wall bear the combined badges of the Abbot and Percy. These badges were not used conjointly until the time of Henry the fourth earl Percy and the building is therefore not earlier than 1469. In the east wall is a small niche with a trefoil canopy, suitable for a statue, but now empty (Tate 1868-9).

The walls of the tower, which is now just a shell, are 1.2m thick and stand approximately 7.0m high. (Cardinal points referred to by Tate are incorrect - east wall refers to NE wall and south wall to SE wall, while SW corner should read south corner).

The entrance to the tower is by pointed doorway in the SW wall. All the windows are square headed. On the inside walls are corbels and joist holes to support the wooden floors, and in the south corner, grooves in the masonry indicate the site of the stairway.

The tower is in good condition (F1 EG 22-MAR-55). (PastScape)

Ruined tower built as a lookout for Alnwick Abbey, three miles north of the abbey site. It stands 7m high, with evidence of three floors connected by a wooden staircase in the southwest corner of the interior. The main entrance is by a pointed arch in the southwest wall. Dating is by panels on the northeast and southeast walls bearing the combined arms of Earl Henry Percy and the Abbot of Alnwick, which were not used in conjunction until after 1469. (Structural Images of the North East)

Gatehouse Comments

Gatehouse is rather unconvinced by the suggestion this was a 'lookout'. The actual function seems to have been accommodation for a tenant farmer of the Abbey's although the position, clearly visible from the main road to the north from Alnwick, to the east so that the panels of heraldry are visible, is that of an 'advertising' poster for the Abbey.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceNU182177
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


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 145
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 66
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 187
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 28
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 335
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 112
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 198
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 117
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 123-4
  • 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. 22 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Tate, G., 1869, The history of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick Vol. 2 (Alnwick), 43-4 online copy


  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 22 online copy


  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 1 Alnwick District p. 17