High Rigg Pele, Hepple

Has been described as a Rejected Pele Tower

There are masonry footings remains

NameHigh Rigg Pele, Hepple
Alternative NamesGunner's Bar
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishHepple

Both Darden Lough and High Rigg have been noted in old documents as the site of fortified watch towers, but the evidence is so scant it is impossible to say whether there was a tower at each, or a single tower with two names. (PastScape ref. Dodds 1999)

This is a mound of stones on a hill to the north-east of Darden Lough. It is unclear whether this was the site of a medieval pele tower, or as is more likely, the remains of a Bronze Age burial mound. (Keys to the Past)

Pele at High Rigg (Hadcock 1939).

Applies to the remains of an old watch tower ... the property of Sir J Diddell (Revision ONB 1921 4)

The remains consist of a circular foundation 14m in diameter and 0.5m high. The containing bank and interior are very stony, and inside a crude shelter of dry stone walling has been built. None of the stones show any traces of tooling and nowhere in the area are there any remains remotely resembling a peel tower. The circular feature is probably the remains of a robbed cairn, some of the stones being used to build the shelter. NY 98299626. A short distance west is a small mound of stones 7m in diameter, 0.4m high with a deep water-filled hollow in the centre. This is also probably the remains of a small cairn.

These features are situated on the crest of a ridge about 1300ft above sea level. The site commands an excellent all-round view except to the north east where the slightly higher summit of the ridge intervenes (F1 EG 15-FEB-1957).

On OS 25 inch of 1865 the feature is shown as two small enclosures. It is named 'Sheepfold'. The original O.N.B. is destroyed and it is therefore impossible to say what was actually on the ground; it seems possible that the remains are no more than those of a sheepfold (R3 ER 15-FEB-1958).

The remains are as described by F1

The larger consolidated mound is likely to be a round cairn robbed to build the overlying sheepfold or shelter, the walls of which still stand to a height of 1.4m. The smaller stony mound is also of consolidated construction, and may be a robbed cairn (F2 DS 10-FEB-1971).

Condition unchanged. It is possible that the smaller mound to the west is the material from an excavation of the larger cairn. (Larger cairn only surveyed) (F3 BHP 29-JUN-1976).

High Rigg Pele. Remains on hill ENE of Darden Lough. Only some rough ground in the fence over the hill is visible (Long 1967). (Northumberland HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Isolated site high up in the hills. A fine example how the attraction and romance of military history can distort the interpretation of archaeological remains. This location could never have been the location of a high status residence since it has no reliable water supply and describing it as a watch tower gives no account of how such a watch would be mounted or financed. The site is within Rothbury Forest but there is nothing to suggest it was any sort of hunting related feature.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNY983962
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  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 190
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 361 (reject)
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 204
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 120


  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 182
  • Graham, A., 1945-6, 'Notes on Some Northumbrian 'Peles' Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 80 p. 37-43 (?mention as Gunner's Bar) online copy