Farnham Tower, Hepple

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameFarnham Tower, Hepple
Alternative NamesHigh Farnham; Fairnham; Thurnham; Thernham; Thernam; Tharnam
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishHepple

Mentioned in the 1414 Survey as the Turris de Thernham. Described in the 1541 Survey as "a tower, of one Rog' Horseley in measurable good repair" (Bates)

Fragments of the tower were built into later houses near the site, where only its well now remains, and in particular the two curiously carved hoodmould stops placed, wrong way round, at the ends of a doorway head (Dodds 1940)

The well is in the plantation on the north side of the present farmhouse. There is no mentioned of the Pele found in any document met with after the 1541 Survey (Dixon 1903).

At High Farnham are a series of dykes enclosing a field to the west of the steading and a portion of the field on each side of it. The dykes take in about 40 acres. "In the field to the north side is firstly a dene and about 100 yds beyond this a dyke commences a little below the road and runs down to the fence against the haugh. This is within the dyke to the corner of the field below the farm. The fence of this is on the level ground but the river (Coquet) will have shifted its bed in the gravels and we can form no idea where it may have been and it may have washed away any dyke. When we reach the SW corner of the field the dyke commences at a gate near the corner rising to climb the hill in the direction of Low Farnham. It keeps to the low side of a sunk road leading in that direction. When about half way over the field the dyke turns up to the east to about 50 yds from the road. It then returns northward through High Farnham and joins the dyke in the north field where we started".

"In the south field a water course goes through the dyke. About 50 yds south of this there are foundations of a building about 16 yds square, which looks as if by draining the water course the water could be made to surround it as a moat"

These features may be evidence of the park mentioned in the grant of free warren to Richard de Horsley in 1307 and of the tower mentioned as belonging to Roger Horsley in 1415 (Miller 1956).

The sculptured figure heads placed above a doorway in the farm buildings (Dodds 1940 refers) at High Farnham were brought over from Holystone nearly a century ago, according to tradition, and probably came from a secular building formed out of the remains of the Nunnery. It is doubtful if they are pre-Reformation in date (Hall 1933-4).

Centred NT 96850245. The description of the dykes in the fields around High Farnham in Miller is generally correct except for errors in the use of cardinal points. The two stretches of bank still extant although not now connected appear to have enclosed an area of irregular shape measuring about 650.0m NW-SE and from 150.0m to 300.0m SW-NE. The banks are of earth 4.0m to 6.0m wide and varying in height from 0.7m to 1.2m. At one point near the NE corner of the area is an outer ditch 5.0m wide with a maximum depth of 0.7m. The bank is far stronger than the normal field banks found in this region and may well be part of a park pale as suggested by Miller.

'A' NT96870243. The 'foundations of a building' referred to by Miller as being possibly the remains of the tower consist of an earth platform attached to the outside of the above mentioned bank. It measures 16.0m NW-SE by 13.0m NE-SW and has a maximum height of 1.3m. There are traces of a slight inner bank, max height 0.3m, on the lip of the platform. There are no traces of stonework in its composition or on the surface of the interior. The water course referred to in the penultimate paragraph of Miller commences a short distance NW of the platform and runs quite straight in a SSW direction for approx 150.0m. It cuts through the enclosure bank to the NW of the platform and appears to be merely a drainage ditch to take away surface water from the ground NE of the enclosure bank. The only trace of anything resembling a moat is to the SE of the platform where the enclosure bank has a slight outer ditch. In any case the slope of the ground in the vicinity of the platform would not permit the formation of a water obstacle.

Although the platform shows no trace of a building it is difficult to see for what other purpose it could have been constructed. The site is good with a very fine southern aspect. It is therefore accepted that this platform is possibly the site of the tower.

The wall referred to by Dodds (1940) and Dixon (1903) could not be located and there is no local knowledge of its existence. Approximately 60.0m north of High Farnham farmhouse and immediately west of an old dried up pond the ground is very stony, suggesting that buildings may have once stood here. This position would be somewhere near the well, said by Dodds to be the sole remains of the tower. This evidence however is too slight for any conclusions to be made.

The sculptured figureheads mentioned by Dodds, and referred to by Hall as being of no significance to this site, are over a re-used Tudor doorway in the farm buildings a little to the SE of the farmhouse of High Farnham.

The tower was recommended for garrisoning in 1509 (King). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Thernham is the original place-name spelling which has become Farnham.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNT968024
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 178-9
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 114 (slight)
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 41
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 348
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 158
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 103
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1940, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 15 p. 267-8
  • Dixon, D.D., 1903, Upper Coquetdale Northumberland: Its History, Traditions, Folk-lore and Scenery (Newcastle-upon Tyne: Robert Redpath) p. 267-8 online copy
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 18, 24, 44 (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 173
  • Miller, E., 1956, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser5) Vol. 1 p. 396-7
  • Hall, K.G. 1933-4, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser4) Vol. 6 p. 156
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 18, 24, 44 online copy

Primary Sources