Kirkwhelpington; The Fawns Castle

Has been described as a Questionable Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Questionable Fortified Manor House, and also as a Possible Bastle

There are earthwork remains

NameKirkwhelpington; The Fawns Castle
Alternative NamesSawnes; Pele of Sawns; Fawnes
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishKirkwhelpington

The moated site at Fawns is exceptionally well preserved and is one of few surviving examples in Northumberland. The site displays a wide range of features including associated buildings on the internal island. The re-entrant of the ditch at the north-east corner indicates the existence of an earlier phase of settlement.

The monument includes a medieval moated site situated adjacent to the present farm. The moated site is roughly rectangular in shape with a rounded northern end, and is orientated north-west to south-east; it measures 120m by 95m within a broad flat bottomed ditch 6m wide. There is a large stoney external bank which stands to 1.8m above the bottom of the ditch and an internal bank standing to 1.2m above the bottom of the ditch. The internal bank has been faced with roughly coursed stonework. The interior of the moated site contains the remains of at least four slightly raised rectangular building platforms situated on the western side of the enclosure, and traces of several associated enclosure walls. The largest building platform is 25m by 10m and is thought to be the site of the bastle known to exist at Fawns in 1541. The entrance to the moated site is in the north-west corner where a deep hollow way enters the enclosure. An interesting feature of this monument is the curious bend or re-entrant in the surrounding ditch at the north-east corner of the moated site; this is suggestive of an earlier structure on the site. The earliest mention of Fawns in documentary sources is in a reference to John de Fawnes in 1303, and Fawns is again recorded in 1421 as a part of the manor of Wallington. At the southern end of the site are at least two rectangular hollowed out enclosures, one lies within the moated site at the south-west corner while the other is a later feature attached to the southern end of the site; these are thought to be the sites of fishponds

(Scheduling Report)

The Fawns: A moated medieval manorial site, contained by a broad ditch, nearly rectangular in shape. The interior, partially marred by quarrying, contains four slightly raised rectangular building platforms and traces of enclosure walls, now turf covered. There is a hollow way entrance to the north-west. The re-entrant formed by the ditch to the north may be suggestive of an earlier structure but ploughing has obliterated any feature that may have existed. The rectangular excavation or pond to the south is apparently late, and the slight ditch to the south east may be no more than an old field boundary. A John de Fawnes is mentioned in 1303, and there was a little pelehouse or Bastel at Fawns on 1541 (Jobey 1961).

Fawns (Sawns) Pele, mentioned in list of 1541. May have stood on the site of the farm (Long 1967).

At the Sawnes is a lytle pele house or bastell of thinherytaunce of the said Sr John Fenwyke in measurable good rep'ac'ons (1541 survey)

Gatehouse Comments

Marked as 'Manorial Earthworks' on the OS map but seemingly a farmstead and township within the manor of Wallington so actually might be considered a large homestead moat. Although 1541 is early for a pele house type bastle the specific mention of this as a 'pele house' may well suggest that form of house rather than the larger type of bastle.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ007853
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Calculate Print


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 242
  • 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. 11, 50
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 348 (as pele or bastle)
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 158
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 103-4
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 46 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Hodgson, J., 1827, History of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Part 2 Vol. 1 p. 195 online copy


  • Bond, C.J. (ed), 1979, Moated Site Research Group Report Vol. 6 p. 49
  • Jobey, G., 1961, 'Further notes on rectilinear earthworks in Northumberland: Some medieval and later settlements' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 39 p. 90
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 46 online copy

Primary Sources