Simonburn Castle and Tower House

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Possible Tower House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameSimonburn Castle and Tower House
Alternative NamesTurris de Simondburn; Symondburne
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishSimonburn

Despite the fact that the tower house at Simonburn is now a ruined structure, significant archaeological remains survive above and below ground level. The structure and layout of the 13th century tower house and any earlier phases of building survive beneath the subsequent collapse of the upper parts of the tower.

Simonburn Castle stands on a steep promontory formed by the confluence of two deeply incised streams. Although it was repaired in the 18th century and the upper storeys have now collapsed, it includes the remains of an original solitary tower house of 13th century date. The tower, built of small squared ashlar blocks is roughly square in shape measuring 10.5m. Only the ground floor basement of the tower stands today, covered by a plain semicircular barrel vault. Although the basement has become infilled with rubble and masonry from the collapsed upper storey a small window in the south east side is visible. There is a door in the north west wall giving access to a mural chamber which is thought to have housed the foot of a flight of stairs giving access to the upper storey. Also, on the north west side, are the remains of a square projecting turret. The remains of a stone wall rib indicate that the ground floor of the turret was covered by a plain vaulted roof. A door with a pointed arch opens from the turret giving rise to the suggestion that the turret served as an entrance porch to the main tower. The original 13th century tower fell into decay during the 16th century and was almost certainly in ruins by the end of that century. In the second half of the 18th century it was repaired by the Allgood family and the upper end of the north east wall was rebuilt. As late as 1940 this wall at least was still standing to a height of 1.8m. Simonburn Castle is a Grade II Listed Building. (Scheduling Report)

Ruin of tower house. C13, partly reconstructed in 1766 as an eyecatcher from Nunwick Hall. Dressed stone facing to rubble core

Square plan. Fragmentary remains on tree-covered mound. Semicircular barrel-vaulted ground floor (inaccessible at time of survey). East wall is best preserved and stands to c.4.0 metres high in centre: small window opening near south-east corner; open passage leading to pointed, chamfered doorway at north-east corner; section of segmental arch in wall to north of doorway. The remainder has collapsed and any surviving features are hidden by fallen masonry. (Listed Building Report)

The tower at Simonburn is first mentioned in 1415, but the earliest masonry is 13th c. It was built on an unfinished motte and part of a bailey ditch can still be seen. (Hunter Blair 1944).

The tower is now reduced to a grass covered mound of rubble, except for the east wall which is 6.0 m high. There is no sign of a bailey ditch, but a natural hollow, or holloway, to the S.E. may have been mistaken for it (F1 JRF 16-NOV-65).

It is possible that a motte and bailey was built by Simon, half-brother of Prince Henry of Scotland, after 1138. The tower house was built by Henry Graham, being completed in 1291. The tower appears to have been abandoned after 1550, being ruinous in the 1670s. In 1766 the ruin was partly restored as a folly (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

Hunter Blair did misidentify other sites as medieval timber castles and the identification as this as an 'unfinished' motte and bailey needs to be questioned.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceNY862737
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Calculate Print


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 359-60
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 96
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 200 (slight)
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 111-2
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 11, 43
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 341
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 318-9
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle) p. 158
  • Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 292
  • Dodds, Madeleine Hope (ed), 1940, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 15 p. 155,191-4
  • Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 200
  • Hodgson, J.C. (ed), 1914, North Country Diaries. Vol. II (Surtees Society 124) p. 232 online copy
  • 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. 421-2 online copy
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 203
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. xvii, 18, 47 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • White, W., 1859, Northumberland and the Border p. 369-70 online copy
  • Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 137
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 1 p. 215 (slight) online transcription


  • Hunter Blair, C.H., 1944, 'The Early Castles of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 22 p. 116-70 esp 166-8
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. xvii, 18, 47 online copy

Primary Sources


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 16 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 17 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 17 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 18 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 33 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 32 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 30 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 39 online copy