Haughton Castle, Humshaugh

Has been described as a Certain Tower House, and also as a Certain Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameHaughton Castle, Humshaugh
Alternative NamesHoughton; Hawghton
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishHumshaugh

Castle. C13, remodelled and heightened C14. Alterations c.1780, c.1816 and 1845 by John Dobson. West wing 1876 by Anthony Salvin; further internal alterations 1889. Heavy coursed rubble with dressings, west wing squared stone with ashlar dressings; flat leaded roofs; external stair to east under timber canopy hung and roofed with stone slates. Rectangular tower-house with angle turrets.

South elevation 5 storeys, 5 bays, irregular, partly concealed by ivy at time of survey. 2-storey arcade of blocked segmental-pointed arches, the central partly behind 1845 2-storey oriel with 2-light 1st floor and 3-light 2nd floor windows. 1st floor shows 2-light C19 windows to right of oriel bay; 2nd floor three 2-light C14 windows with transoms and trefoiled heads, partly renewed; elsewhere various chamfered loops. Embattled parapet with taller end turrets and corbelled-out centre turret. To left, west wing in 2 sections; slightly- projecting left part 3 storeys, 2 bays, with arched doorway; right part 2 storeys, 3 bays; 2- and 3-light transomed windows; embattled parapets.

East elevation shows 1812 external stair with late C19 canopy; above left 1845 oriel to oratory; to right projecting turret with chamfered set-backs and 7 levels of chamfered loops.

North elevation similar to south, with tall blocked arches and central 1845 bay. C16 2- and 3-light transomed windows with round-headed lights to 2nd floor, some restored. End turrets show corbelled-out garderobes at different levels.

Interior: basement has parallel axial segmental vaults with chamfered ribs. Mural stair at east end to 1st floor, newel stair to upper floors in south-west turret. Various mural chambers including former 1st-floor entrance lobby on south, with good moulded C13 doorway, and 2nd floor oratory with piscina in south-east turret

Fittings and furnishings mostly C19, but including 2 richly- carved C17 overmantels from Derwentwater House, Newcastle.

The mid-C13 hall house may have had a 2-storey hall block with a taller solar tower at the east end, the whole heightened in the C14 when the arcades (a defensive feature, meurtriere in the arch soffits protecting the wall foot) were infilled. (Listed Building Report)

Haughton Castle dates back to at least the 14th century, when it was fortified. It was first called a castle in 1373 when the original tower house was heightened and turrets were added together with parapet walks. At this time the castle was owned by Gerald Widdrington and, although it was still owned by the Widdringtons in the early 14th century, the Swinburns were living in it. By the 16th century the castle seems to have been falling into disrepair and ruin and an attack by Border reivers in 1541 saw nine horses and goods worth £40 stolen from it. No major improvements were carried out until the early 19th century when it was turned into a fashionable country house and parkland was laid out.

The early development of the castle shows it was an upper floor hall house with turrets and a parapet added in the 14th century. Outside, there is a unique feature in the blocked five bay arcade of tall pointed arches in each long wall. Inside the castle the basement has vaulted sections with small loop openings. The basement has been altered to create and opening into the 19th century extension. Above the basement are three or four floors in different parts of the castle. Outside the castle a 16th century drawing shows a barmkin and gateway to the south. Traces of the barmkin are apparently visible in dry weather as parchmarks on the lawns. The castle is probably one of the earliest 13th century upper floor hall houses in Northumberland and must be one of the best preserved hall houses in the north of England. (Keys to the Past)

Gatehouse Comments

In its original form this was probably a chamber tower attached to a hall house (i.e a 'pele tower') but was altered in the C14 into tower house. Both the Swinburn's and Widdrington's were gentry (knightly) families but at the top end of that social bracket with baronial aspirations (which William Widdrington achieved in the C17).

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

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 ReferenceNY919729
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Primary Sources

  • 1541, View of the Castles, Towers, Barmekyns and Fortresses of the Frontier of the East and Middle Marches Survey of the East and Middle Marches
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  • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 4 Tynedale District Vol. 2 p. 105-12