Newbiggin Hall in Cumberland

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower

There are major building remains

NameNewbiggin Hall in Cumberland
Alternative Names
Historic CountryCumberland
Modern AuthorityCumbria
1974 AuthorityCumbria
Civil ParishSt Cuthbert Without

House incorporating medieval tower house. C14 for the Priory of St Mary's, Carlisle, with c1690 facade and early C19 additions. Red sandstone ashlar walls with white freestone dressings, graduated slate roof and 4 ashlar ridge chimney stacks, 2½ storeys, 7 bays: large rectangular tower approximately 8.3 metres wide by 19.5 metres long with walls 2 metres thick, encased entirely within the later house, but front wall for full length and one and a half storeys high, is original building. Entrance has freestone moulded surround, with moulded entablature, swan neck pediment and scrolled console brackets. Ground floor tripartite windows, with red sandstone moulded surrounds, swan neck pediments and scrolled console brackets on pilaster strips, probably date from early C19. String course to first floor and raised panel joining central upstairs window to entrance: first floor windows with c1690 freestone moulded surrounds, central window with scrolled console brackets. Raised quoins to first floor, chamfered plinth course of original tower can also be seen on side wall and internally, now forming dividing wall between rooms. Moulded cornice, prominent cast-iron gutter, one gable with plain coping the other crow-stepped with pinnacles to front and back: chimney stacks have drip moulds and cornice. Sash windows with glazing bars and oak iron-studded door with leaded fanlight. 2 extensions of 2 storeys, 2 bays, to left, of coursed sandstone rubble, have plain surrounds to entrances and windows: slate roof and brick chimney stacks, early C19 sash windows with glazing bars, plank doors. Facade has terrace wall of 3 courses of red sandstone ashlar, with steps to entrance. Internal features include vaulted 2-chamber cellar, beneath entrance hall: medieval barrel vaulting to entrance hall, with oval early C19 staircase and rib-vaulted plasterwork to ceiling and staircase arch

Medieval vaulting continues in principal room left, which has oak dado panelling and plaster ceiling of c1930 by Harrods of London, for the Carr family, fireplace has C16 re-used lintel stone found in the garden and inserted in 1982, with wood panelling above, from Eaton Hall, Cheshire, inserted at same date: remnant of internal spiral staircase with re-moulded entrance arch. Evidence on left of entrance of filled arch, now window and third storey small filled window in gable. Country retreat and grange of the Priors of St Marys, converted to country house c1690 (see Thomas Denton, Manuscript History of Cumberland) and sold by the Church Commissioners in the early 1920's. Probably by Thomas Machell, with stonework probably by Edward Addison. Pevsner (Buildings of England, Cumberland section), wrongly dates facade to c1720. (Listed Building Report)

14th century tower of which only the lower part survives, modified into a house.

Denton says 'an ancient grange belonging to the Dean and Chapter, where they built a strong tower, for the security of their farmers...'

Lysons says 'the hall was probably an occasional residence of the prior, (of St Mary's Carlisle), who built there a tower of defence against the Scots. The walls of this mansion are nearly eight feet thick.' Pevsner describes it as a 'pele tower with basement vault and spiral staircase, even if is now hidden by a symmetrical seven bay facade.' Confirmation that the building kept its crenellation into the 17th century is given in the Parliamentary Survey of 1650 which describes 'the tower with a battlement above it' (CRO Carlisle, D&C, EM/3/1). It seems that as the tower was large it was divided into smaller units and these divisions are given in 16th and 17th century Dean and Chapter rentals (E2/1-2).

It seems that this was one of the largest ground floor plan of any tower in Cumbria. (Perriam and Robinson 1998)

Gatehouse Comments

Was this ever a three storey building? Was it initially intended as a private retreat for the Prior of St Mary's? Although a high status building in initial form it seems to actually functioned for most of it's medieval existence as a terrace of tenements similar to a row of pele-house bastles.

- 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 ReferenceNY433508
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  • Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (Kendal: CWAAS Extra Series 29) p. 211 (plan)
  • Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 78
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 48 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 89
  • Hugill, Robert, 1977, Castles and Peles of Cumberland and Westmorland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 149-150
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1967, Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland (Harmondsworth) p. 170
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1816, Magna Britannia ... Volume 4 Cumberland (London) online transcription


  • Winchester, A.J.L and Wane, M. (eds), 2003, Thomas Denton: A Perambulation of Cumberland, 1687-8, including descriptions of Westmorland, the Isle of Man and Ireland (Cumbria Record Office MS D/Lons/L12/4/2/2) (Surtees Society)