Carlisle Priors Tower

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameCarlisle Priors Tower
Alternative NamesCarlisle Deanery
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishCarlisle

Central pele tower in red sandstone ashlar, with a hall range to the right and stables adjoining the wing to the left. The tower and hall were probably built in the 1490s. Extensions were added in the 17th century and again in 1853. Further alterations were made in 1949-51. The tower is three storeyed, with a stone vault on the ground floor and a large open fireplace and contemporary painted timber ceiling and wall panelling. (PastScape)

Prior's tower with hall range, extension and adjoining stables; now Deanery, museum and flats. For the Priory of St Mary, Carlisle. Late C15 tower and hall with C17 extensions and alterations; further 1853 extensions by James Stewart (internal alterations now partly removed, 1882 by CJ Ferguson); 1949-51 alterations dated 1950 on rainwater head. Red sandstone ashlar, some of the extensions are of squared red sandstone, on chamfered plinth, with string courses on tower and battlemented parapet. Flat lead roof on tower; otherwise greenslate roofs with coped gables and kneelers; full and half-gabled dormers; ashlar ridge and end chimney stacks. Stable range has sandstone flag roof. The main facade faces towards the Cathedral. Central square tower of 2 storeys over basement; the hall range at the right is 2-storey, 3 bays with projecting 2-storey extension; left 3-storey, 3-bay extension and beyond is the single storey, 4-bay stables. Tower has a central 2-light cusped headed oriel window, corbelled out, in a deeply chamfered surround under hoodmould and pent roof. Other small irregular casement windows; upper floor 2-light mullioned window with diamond leaded panes. The right return has a high crease for the original roof on the hall range. Rear has similar oriel and other windows. INTERIOR has rib-vaulted basement, contemporary with the tower; panelled upper floor room with panelled doors; painted wooden ceiling has decorative and heraldic devices, applied during Prior Senhouse's term of office c1494 - 1521

Angle newel stair to top storey and roof. The Deanery has a 1950 right doorway with projecting stone porch, in a single-storey 3-bay pent extension of 1853. First floor is C17 with 2-light mullioned windows and late C17 carved panel of Bishop's arms. 2-light gabled 1/2 dormers (appear on a view of 1715). The projecting facing double gable extension at right is of 1853 with 2- and 3-light mullioned and cross-mullioned windows. The rear wall of the hall range is probably C15 stonework but now with sash and mullioned windows. INTERIOR has ground floor C16 segmental-arched stone fireplaces; an upper floor fireplace is on corbels. Now internal front wall has former C17 doorway. Wooden staircase is probably of 1882 by CJ Ferguson; C19 panelled doors. Extensive repairs in 1988-9 required the gutting of the hall range. No.5 (the left extension) was formerly part of the Deanery but now a flat. Central panelled door in stone architrave with segmental pediment and flanking windows in stone architraves were all inserted in 1950 when an 1853 pent extension was removed; left blocked opening has a double chamfered surround; a right projecting stone porch (added since 1950) gives access to tower. Above are sash windows with glazing bars in C17 stone architraves with hood cornices. The V-jointed quoining at the left of calciferous sandstone is 2-storey and above it changes to red sandstone; the third storey was added in C19 with 1/2 gabled dormers. Rear 2- and 3-light mullioned and cross-mullioned windows. INTERIOR altered. Prior's Stables, Nos 5A and 5B, have a left recessed doorway now with C20 door, the C15 flattened arch with the initials TG (for Prior Thomas Gondibour, prior c1464-1494). Further right C15 doorway has segmental chamfered arch with hoodmould. Between the doors are a small and larger sash window with glazing bars in chamfered surrounds; further left C20 window in C20 opening. Left return has C20 double plank doors in C20 former garage opening. The roof had to be rebuilt in the 1960s. INTERIORS not inspected. It is now thought that the tower was built in the 1490s, not c1507 as previously thought. (Listed Building Report)

Tower and hall range, part of the Deanery of Carlisle Cathedral.

Curwen considered that 'an early tower here... was mostly rebuilt with additional wings' c. 1507.

Todd considered that the Bishop's Tower and the Prior's Tower were one and the same, and this mistake has been repeated by other historians. The Bishop's Tower survived long after the Prior's Tower was built. Dating the Prior's Tower was based on when Prior Senhouse was in office {his badge is on the Prior's Chamber ceiling} and we know he was there before 1500, (probably as early as 1494); so his tower could be of the 1490s.

Important for dating features in other towers. (Perriam and Robinson 1998)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceNY398559
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Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow All Rights Reserved

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  • Harrison, Peter, 2004, Castles of God (Woodbridge; Boydell Press) p. 67
  • Brooke, C.J., 2000, Safe Sanctuaries (Edinburgh; John Donald) p. 276
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 37
  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 79 (plan)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 38
  • Cope, Jean, 1991, Castles in Cumbria (Cicerone Press) p. 98-9
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 63-4
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (Harmondsworth) p. 95-6


  • Perriam, D.R., 1987, 'The demolition of the Priory of St Mary, Carlisle' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 87 p. 127-58 online copy
  • Martindale, J.H, 1907, 'Notes on the Deanery' Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society Vol. 7 p. 185-201 (plans - "need updating" (Perriam and Robinson 1998)) online copy


  • Todd, H., n.d. (early C18), History of the Bishopric of Carlisle (St Edmund's Hall MS 7/2, Bodleian Library)