Has been described as a Possible Pele Tower

There are no visible remains

Alternative NamesNunykirk
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishNunnykirk

(Approx NY 083934) East Ritton: Grange of Newminster Abbey. ('Ritton' is shown on OS 6", 1924 at NY 08289342) (Hadcock 1939).

Ranulph de Merlay, in the time of Henry I (1100-1135) gave Rittun, consisting of the two townships of East and West Ritton, to the Abbot of Newminster. After the Dissolution East Ritton was in 1568 in the hands of the Crown (Hodgson).

Ritton consists of a farmhouse with outbuildings, of modern construction, situated in open farmland. There are no traces of a Grange to be seen in the area, and no local knowledge of one was encountered. Sir Charles Orde, Nunnykirk, stated that he had never heard of East Ritton, nor of its Grange, but Hadcock evidently identifies East Ritton with this site and West Ritton with Ritton White House (F1 ASP 14-JAN-57).

No evidence of a pele in or around the present farmstead (F2 BHP 17-DEC-70). (PastScape)

Chapel and Grange of Newminster Abbey, and a Tower connected with same at Nunnykirk (Hadcock 1939).

The Font issues from a deep rocky dell, and continues its course on the west side of the haugh and the house (Nunnykirk) in a southern direction. This place was comprised in Ranulph de Merlay's grant of Ritton to Newminster, the abbot of which house built a chapel, tower and other edifices here, all traces of which are now gone. Underground remains of buildings have indeed been found and human bones dug up lately in sinking for new foundations.

A letter patent described Nunnykirk in 1610 as a tower and other buildings, when the crown granted it to Sir Ralph Grey

The present possessor, Mr Orde, is making large additions to the old mansion house (Hodgson 1827).

An ecclesiastical house had existed at Nunnykirk from soon after the founding of Newminster in 1138 until the dissolution of the monasteries (Phillips 1897-8).

Nunnykirk in the manor of Witton was possibly the nunnery of 'Vetadun' mentioned in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, where the abbess's daughter recovered from a serious illness on being blessed by St John, who had been Bishop of Hexham, and was then the Bishop of York (AD705-721AD) (Bates 1897-8).

The only remains of the ecclesiastical occupation at Nunnykirk are the fishponds and the abbess's well (Phillips 1898).

'Nunnykirk was completely rebuilt by my grandfather in 1810. I have never heard of the remains of underground foundations and human bones supposed to have been found on the site. There are no traces of the chapel, grange and tower to be seen anywhere. That the fishponds and the Abbess's Well were ever associated with the monastic site is pure supposition. There appear to be no grounds for the association. My old gamekeeper, incidentally, knew the well as the Monk's Well' (C W Orde (owner) Nunnykirk Morpeth 10.1.57)

The grounds of Nunnykirk were perambulated, but no traces of the monastic site could be found. The fishponds, centred at NZ 08689236, appear to be of comparatively recent construction. Three rectangular shaped depressions have been cut into the ground. The spoil has been spread about and not thrown up into banks. The ponds are filled by several small drains led into them from higher ground to the north west and they are now choked with reeds and disused.

The Abbess's Well or Monk's Well, at NZ 08129251, is small stone-lined cist set into the bed of the River Font, below the bank, its surface just above the water level. There are no signs of a spring. The stones are moss-covered, well-shaped and bonded, but offer no dating evidence (F2 ASP 14-JAN-1957).

In the appendix to the cartulary of Newminster Abbey the editor quotes the assignment of Newminster Abbey and other lands belonging to it, in which Nunnykirk is described as a Grange. From this we have clear evidence that Nunnykirk from soon after 1138 to the dissolution of the monasteries was in ecclesiastical hands.

There is the possibility 'that the name of the place may be taken literally: Nunnykirk, the kirk of the nuns, and that at some very early period...a religious house was established...all traces of which have been entirely lost.' (Phillips 1898)

Tower of the Grange of Newminster at Nunnykirk. Built by an abbot of Newminster, granted to Ralph Grey by the Crown after the dissolution. Nothing remains, (Long 1967). (Northumberland HER)

The cartulary of Newminster abbey has been printed by the Surtees Society. In the appendix the editor quotes the assignment by Richard Tyrrell to sir Thos. Grey of the site of Newminster abbey and other lands belonging to it for a term of years, in which Nunnykirk is described as ' all that Grau'ge called Nonnykyrke together wt a Towre there, and wt all lands, medowes & pastures to the seyd Grau'ge p'teynyng in the seyd co'ntye to the seyd late Monast'y belongyng & p'teynyng.' (Phillips 1898)

Gatehouse Comments

What was the form of this tower? Was it a defensive retreat? It is not mentioned in the surveys of Northumberland fortifications but the tower at Ritton White House also a former grange of Newminster was recorded

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNZ081926
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Calculate Print


  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 115 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 352
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 143
  • Hodgson, J., 1827, History of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Part 2 Vol. 1 p. 322, 328-30 online copy


  • Hadcock, R.N., 1939, 'A map of mediaeval Northumberland and Durham' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser4) Vol. 16 p. 148-218 esp 69-70
  • Phillips, M., 1898, 'A Pre-Conquest Cross Shaft at Nunnykirk, Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 19 p. 195-6 online copy
  • Phillips, M., 1897-8, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle (ser2) Vol. 8 p. 86
  • Bates. C.J., 1897-8, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle (ser2) 211-12

Primary Sources

  • Fowler, J.T. (ed), 1878, Chartularium Abbathiae de Novo Monasterio, Ordinis Cisterciensis, fundatae anno mcxxxvii (Surtees Society 66) p. 311
  • Dugdale, Wm, 1825, Monastican Anglicanum (London) Vol. 5 p. 399-402