West Whelpington Peel House

Has been described as a Questionable Pele Tower, and also as a Questionable Bastle

There are no visible remains

NameWest Whelpington Peel House
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishKirkwhelpington

Between 2000 and 3000 years ago, during what archaeologist call the Iron Age, people created an enclosure at West Whelpington surrounded by a wooden fence. This may have been a settlement, or it may have been a stock enclosure. People certainly lived at West Whelpington approximately 1500 years ago, during what archaeologists call the early medieval or Anglo-Saxon period. Archaeologists have found pieces of pottery, a post hole and a drain dating from this time. Around 500 years later, the village of West Whelpington had at least 25 houses, and possibly a tower house. By 1720 West Whelpington was a deserted medieval village. Today, the site of the village has been destroyed by quarrying. (Keys to the Past)

The excavated site of a pre-12th century to 1720 settlement, now destroyed by quarrying. Excavation revealed pottery dating from the 12th to the 18th century, seven Saxon sherds, a 13th century coin, three 17th century coins, a corroded bronze coin and a probable Iron Age palisaded trench. The remains of a pele tower were recorded on the site in the 19th century, but no such structure was positively identified during excavation. (PastScape)

The village of West Whelpington stood proudly on the northern margin of the Wansbeck, on an elevated plain, which slopes gently towards the east, and is defended on all sides, and especially on the south, by a whinstone precipice. It was of an oblong form, about 440 yards long, and consisted of two rows of houses inclosing a large town green, near the centre of which a small circle probably points out the site of its cock-pit, near which has stood a peel house, about 23.5 by 21.5 feet in the inside, having very thick walls, and a sort of yard or barmekin in front, apparently the only little fortified habitation which the place could ever boast of. (Hodgson 1827)

Gatehouse Comments

Hodgson is clear in calling this a 'peel house' not a pele tower. It seems the later writers in the archaeological databases have not appreciated the difference between pele-houses (now usual called bastles) and pele towers. A rereading of the excavation reports with a wider appreciation of the use of the term 'peel' may be informative (It should be noted that while most of the site was excavated the houses nearest the cock-pit were not excavated. The village was made of long houses showing later modification to separate the byre and living room. A pele-house bastle could be seen as another way to achieve this separation.)

- 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 ReferenceNY975838
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. 244-5
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 115 (slight)
  • Pevsner, N., 1992 (revised by Grundy, John et al), Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 369
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 51
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 355
  • Beresford, M.W. and St Joseph, J.K, 1979, Medieval England an Aerial Survey (Cambridge) p. 129-32
  • Wilson, D.M., (ed), 1976, The Archaeology of Anglo-Saxon England (London) p. 305-6
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 349
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 171
  • Hodgson, J., 1827, History of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Part 2 Vol. 1 p. 197-8 online copy


  • Jobey, G., 1992, 'Cock-fighting in Northumberland and Durham during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 20 p. 24
  • Jarrett, M.G., et al, 1988, 'The Deserted Village of West Whelpington, Northumberland: Third Report, Part Two' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 16 p. 173 and 188
  • Jarrett, Michael G. and Wrathmell, Stuart, 1977, 'Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-century Farmsteads: West Whelpington, Northumberland' The Agricultural History Review Vol. 25.2 p. 108-19 online copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1977, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 21 p. 257 download copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1976, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 20 p. 199 download copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1975, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 19 p. 256 download copy


  • Kent, C.L., 2016, Beyond the defensible threshold: the house-building culture of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the East March, 1550-1603 (PhD Thesis, Durham University) online copy