Askham Hall

Has been described as a Possible Pele Tower

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameAskham Hall
Alternative NamesAscum; Ascom
Historic CountryWestmorland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishAskham

Large house. Pele tower forming south wing C14 with alterations c1700, north wing C14, hall between C16. Kitchen wing C16 incorporating medieval part to north end and north range of c1700. Service ranges to north and west of court- yard to west of house C16, datestone records Thomas and Anne Sandford 1574. Some C20 alterations to east side and to west side of kitchen wing. 3-storey south wing has 5-bay south elevation; embattled parapet with angle turrets. Windows have recessed flat-arched cross-mullions, 2-light windows to 2nd floor. Central entrance has architrave and rusticated surround, pulvinated frieze and broken segmental pediment, consoled key. Blocked trefoil-headed window to west elevation, garderobe loops to north-east angle. Hall range has gabled porch to west with C20 extension to south, and hall window of 5 elliptical-headed lights; east elevation has 2-bay C20 extension and 3-light window. North wing has single storey elevation with hipped roof and 5-light C20 window. Kitchen range has 2-bay C20 extension to west and varied fenestration to east including 3-light C20 window and early C18 1st floor windows with flat-faced mullions. North range has sashed windows with glazing bars. 1st floor connection to north service range, converted to cottage 1930s with many inserted windows. West range has segmental-arched through passage; west elevation has cable-moulded head and stops and datestone with armorial bearing over; lateral stack. Varied fenestration. (Listed Building Report)

Askham Hall (Plate 70), house and outbuildings, 200 yards W.N.W. of the church. The house is partly of two and partly of three storeys; the walls are of rubble partly ashlar-faced and the roofs are slate-covered. The house belonged to the Sandford family from 1375 and the main block of the house dates probably from the last quarter of that century

It appears to have been of the normal mediæval plan with a hall-block, a S. wing carried up as a tower and a N. wing which is said to have contained a chapel. The middle portion of the wing N. of the house appears also to be of mediæval date. Much rebuilding was done from 1575 onwards by Thomas Sandford and his executors; this probably included a porch to the hall-block and an enlargement and perhaps rebuilding of the hall-block; the kitchen may also be of this date. Various alterations were made c. 1700; the S. front and interior of the S. wing were remodelled, a large staircase built on part of the site of the early hall and the 16th-century wall on its W. side heightened; the N. end of the N. wing was probably added at the same time. Modern alterations include the addition of a porch to the old hall-block and some rebuilding of the N. wing. The building forming the W. and N. sides of the courtyard seems to be substantially a work of the latter part of the 16th century, considerably altered in the 17th century and more modern times.

The tower-wing is an interesting example of a semi-fortified building, and the great staircase of c. 1700 is noteworthy.

The S. or tower-wing is of three storeys, ashlar-faced and with a restored embattled parapet and pseudo turrets at the angles projecting slightly on corbelling. The S.W. part rests on a foundation of large boulders. The windows of c. 1700 have each a stone mullion and transom on the two lower floors but no transom on the top floor; the central doorway, of the same date, has a moulded architrave, key-block, rusticated side-pilasters, a cornice and a curved and broken pediment. Traces of the earlier windows remain in the wall. The E. end retains a small original window, now blocked, and a loop, lighting the garde-robe on the second floor. The W. end has an original window on the ground floor of one trefoiled ogee light; there is a small blocked window on the floor above. The N. side is partly covered by buildings, but retains some original square-headed windows, a 16th-century window of four transomed lights and a two-light 17th-century window. In the same wall, within the house, is an original doorway with jambs and two-centred arch of two chamfered orders with a moulded label. The tower contains several fireplaces of c. 1700 with moulded surrounds and some panelling of the same date. In the N. wall, on the first floor, is the head of a 14th-century window of two trefoiled lights with tracery in a square head; on the same floor is a fireplace (Plate 25) with a flat joggled head and rounded angles. The garde-robe in the N.W. angle has been partly destroyed. There are garde-robes in the N.W. and N.E. angles of the second floor. The W. side of the former hall-block has a two-storeyed 16th-century porch; the former doorway has a flat four-centred arch in a square head and has now been converted into a window; above it is a three-light window with a moulded label. Farther S. beyond the modern porch is a 16th-century window of five elliptical-headed lights. Inside the range is the great staircase (Plate 56) of c. 1700; it has square newels, heavy twisted balusters and moulded rails and strings; it extends to the first floor only, a secondary staircase leading to the second floor; this is also of c. 1700 and has turned balusters. The original N. or chapel wing was formerly gabled at the W. end but is now roofed from N. to S. together with the adjoining porch. The ground and first floors have each a late 16th-century three-light window, replacing an earlier window of which the S. jamb and part of a trefoiled head remain. The E. end of the wing is modern, but in the return walls are some mediæval square-headed windows and in the S. wall a doorway with chamfered jambs and four-centred head. Within the house, the N. wall of this wing retains an original window of two trefoiled ogee lights in a square head and a doorway probably of the same date with a square head. In the S. wall are two original doorways from the former hall; the western has a two-centred head and the eastern a square head, cut later to a segmental form; between them is an original staircase to the floor above. The dining-room in this wing is partly lined with 17th-century panelling, and in the W. room is a 16th-century fireplace with a flat triangular arch in a square head. The E. part of the wing is now of one storey only. There are remains of the king-post trusses of the roof which are probably mediæval. The N. range has no ancient external features except part of a 16th-century window in the E. wall of the kitchen. Re-set in a modern addition W. of the kitchen is a panel carved with two shields and a crest. Inside the range, the middle portion has thick walls and retains parts of a mediæval roof. The W. range of the courtyard is of two storeys with rubble walls and dates from late in the 16th century. In the W. front is an archway (Plate 74) with moulded jambs and altered segmental head with a cable-moulded label and stops; above it is a panel with an achievement of the Sandford arms, the initials T.S. and A.S. (for Thomas Sandford and Anne his wife) and the inscription "Thomas Sandford Esquyr for this payd meat and hyr The year of our Savyore xv hundreth seventy-four"; above the panel is a second round panel with the initials H.M. Further N. are two windows, the lower with a trefoiled ogee head and the upper with two round arches on the head or lintel; both are probably of the 16th or 17th century. There are also two oval windows probably of the 17th century. The E. face of this range has an original window on the ground floor of three transomed lights and four original four-light windows on the upper floor, all with moulded labels. The original inner archway of the entrance has been widened and the arch cut back; above a late 17th-century doorway farther S. is a partly defaced cartouche-of-arms. Inside the range are some early 16th-century moulded ceiling-beams and an original tie-beam roof. In the W. wall of the upper floor is an original fireplace with moulded jambs and lintel. The N. range of the courtyard is of similar character to the W. range, but has been much altered. It retains an original window of two round-headed lights with a moulded label; other smaller windows are perhaps also original. On the S. side are four original doorways with triangular heads; there is another doorway on the first floor. Inside the range is a fireplace with chamfered jambs and a three-centred arch. (RCHME 1936)

Gatehouse Comments

Possible C14 tower/fortified hall block (Curwen though tower was C15). Alterations were carried out during C16 - C17 and later. Site of capital messuage of the Robert de Swynburn burnt by the Scots in 1326. Probably some form of fortification here since C13 or earlier. Directly opposite Lowther Castlesteads on other side of River Lowther. The Swynburn's were top end of the gentry, with many holdings across England, much wealth and numerous offices but were not baronial. Askham was not their main holding, although it was one of their residential manors. The building itself is not easy to classify, but does seem to be a chamber block attached to a hall. Recently (September 2013) opened as a small country hotel.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceNY516239
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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 256-7 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 17
  • Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 188
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 265
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 490
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 35-37
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (Harmondsworth) p. 222
  • RCHME, 1936, An inventory of the historical monuments in Westmorland (HMSO) p. 21-2 no. 5 plan [online transcription >]
  • Curwen, J.F., 1932, 'Parishes (West Ward): St Peter, Askham' The Later Records relating to North Westmorland: or the Barony of Appleby p. 237-44 online transcription
  • Curwen, J.F., 1913, Castles and Fortified Towers of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 13) p. 347-9
  • Taylor, M.W., 1892, Old Manorial Halls of Westmorland and Cumberland (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 8) p. 88-93 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 208 online copy


  • McIntire, W.T., 1937, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 37 p. 183-5 online copy
  • 1922, 'Proceedings' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 22 p. 436-9 online copy
  • Ragg, F.W., 1921, 'Helton Flechan, Askham and Sandford of Askham' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 21 p. 200-1, 223-7 online copy
  • Taylor, M.W., 1876, 'An Account of Sockbridge Hall, and of Askham Hall, Westmorland' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 2 p. 38-43 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1910, Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, Edward II Vol. 6 p. 424 no. 693 online copy


  • Clare, T., 1982, A Report on Medieval Fortified Sites in Cumbria (Cumbria CC)