Otterburn Tower

Has been described as a Certain Tower House

There are no visible remains

NameOtterburn Tower
Alternative NamesOtterburn Castle; Otiburne
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishOtterburn

Country house, now hotel. After 1830 for Mr. James incorporating the masonry of an C18 house which may in turn contain earlier work. Extended to rear 1904 by F.W. Rich for Howard Pease. Dressed stone with ashlar dressings, Welsh slate roofs. Castellated Tudor style. Complex and irregular plan. (Listed Building Report)

The tower of Otterburn Castle seems to have been in existence before the middle of the 13C for after the death of Gilbert de Umfreville in 1245, the Escheat mentions the "Manor of Otterburn", and 163 acres of demesne lands which plainly imply a residence, probably a Pele Tower. In 1308, a 'capital messuage' is mentioned, which doubtless was the tower referred to by Froissart, 80 years later, before the Battle of Otterburn. This tower seems to have remained unchanged until the mid-18C, when Reginald Hall added to the old Pele, a square building of the Scots farm house style. In 1830, the estate was sold to Thomas James, who pulled down much of the old building, and rebuilt it in the castellated style. The 20C additions have been chiefly at the back of the Tower (Pease 1924).

The old Pele is built into the east wing of the house. At the rear of it, and now within the servants quarters, is the old well. Formerly there was probably a barmkin on this side. A spot to the north-west of the house and close to a burn which flows on that side is the traditional site of a still older tower, the foundations of which were once unearthed during gardening operations (Hugill 1939).

No remains of the Pele can be seen now, in or around the Hotel. There are no traces of a tower to be seen to the north-west of the hotel. The well lies 9.0m to the north of the known foundations of the Pele

It is about 1.0m in diameter, and from about 5 feet downwards, is constructed of rough-fashioned stone, and is of considerable age.

The remains of the Pele are situated, at approx 520 feet above sea level, upon a level place against a general south-west slope. The site commands the valley of the Otter burn to the north, and the valley of the River Rede to the west, south and east. The Otter provides a natural defence, flowing down a steep-sided ravine to the west (F1 ASP 24.05.57). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

A tower stood on this site from the mid C13 and may have been incorporated into C18 house, most of which was demolished prior to the construction of the present building. Built by the de Umfravilles and the 'capital messuage' mentioned here in 1308 was described as 'very strong' in 1388 when it withstood a Scottish siege. The actual form of the de Umfravilles tower is not known but they were barons and this is likely to have been a sizeable building. The C19 building was built in a castlellated style and it is possible some popular histories of the site include a fanciful element associated with an aggrandisement of this C19 building and its builder.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceNY887931
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  • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 36
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 331-4
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 90
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 200 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 101
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 37, 52
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 352
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 291-3
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 144
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 179-80
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 414-6 online copy
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 312
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 18 (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. 107-15 online copy
  • Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 146-7


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 342
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 63 online copy


  • King, Andy, 2007, 'Fortress and fashion statements: gentry castles in fourteenth-century Northumberland' Journal of Medieval History Vol. 33 p. 376, 377, 380-81
  • Pease, H., 1924, 'Otterburn: The Tower, Hall and Dene and the Lordship or Manor of Redesdale' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser3) Vol. 21 p. 121-2, 131
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 18 online copy

Primary Sources

  • 1415, Nomina Castrorum et Fortaliciorum infra Comitatum Northumbrie online transcription
  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 371