Prior Castell's Tower, Inner Farne Island

Has been described as a Certain Pele Tower, and also as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are major building remains

NamePrior Castell's Tower, Inner Farne Island
Alternative NamesFarne Island Tower; Prior Castel's Tower
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishNorth Sunderland

Tower house, built for Robert Castell, Prior of Durham between 1494-1519, but appearing to incorporate earlier work. Originally a 4-storey building, now 3-storeyed. Random rubble with chamfered plinth. Used as a fort between 1559 and 1637. Repaired in 1848 and 1927-8. (PastScape)

The tower, to the west of the chapels, is said by Leland (c.1838){sic 1538 meant} to have been built c.1500 by Thomas Castell, Prior of Durham (1494-1519), but it appears to contain some earlier work, including small lancet windows on the stairs and a trefoiled piscina on the first floor. The piscina is reportedly from St Cuthbert's Chapel. The tower measures 12.3m north-south by 7.3m east- west with walls 1.4m-1.8m thick. It originally stood to four storeys but is now only three storeys. It is constructed of rubble masonry with ashlar quoins and a chamfered plinth course. The entrance is in the the east wall through a low round headed doorway. The ground floor is tunnel vaulted and originally contained a well, sometimes called St Cuthbert's Well, which has now been covered over and is no longer visible. The first floor contains a garderobe or latrine and two 18th century fireplaces, one incorporating earlier masonry. The original room has been divided in two by a mid-18th century panelled screen with cupboards. The upper floors are reached by a staircase in the thickness of the wall which ends in a spiral staircase to the roof at the south east corner. The handrail and balusters were installed in the early 18th century. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the tower was used as a fort and is documented in 1559 and 1637. Later in the 17th century Charles II authorised the first official lighthouse on Inner Farne which comprised a beacon on top of the tower. The tower was restored in 1848 by the Venerable Charles Thorp, Archdeacon of Durham (1831-62). He inserted new windows in the north wall and refitted the interior

Repairs have also been made by the National Trust in 1927-28. The original entrance into the monastic complex was through the north court. The court is irregular in shape and defined by a stone wall standing up to 1.5m high and 0.9m wide. It measures 24m east-west by a maximum 20.5m north- south. The area enclosed is level but outside the north wall of the court the ground falls away steeply for 2m-3m. The west wall of the court, which has fallen since 1848, originally crossed an inlet called St Cuthbert's Gut and joined the north wall of the tower. The present west wall, built before 1848, is curved around the head of the inlet and joins a modern wall between the tower and St Cuthbert's Chapel. The south side of the court is formed by the north walls of St Cuthbert's Chapel and the tower respectively, with the gap in between filled by a wall built in 1930. (Scheduling Report)

Prior Castell's Tower. Said (by Leland) to be for Robert Castell, Prior of Durham 1494-1519, but appears to incorporate earlier work. Random rubble with chamfered plinth. 3 storeys. Round-headed doorway on south side. Offset above 1st floor. Castellated parapet with higher stair turret in south-west corner which has 2 very small lancets to the stairs. On north side 3 scattered early C19 windows with pointed-arched heads and intersecting glazing bars. Interior: keeled tunnel-vaulted ground floor with well in the corner. Mural stair to 2nd floor given handrail, splat balusters and newels with incised Gothick decoration. 1st floor room has trefoiled piscina. Garderobe with seat. 2 C18 segmental-arched fireplaces, one incorporating earlier stonework. The original room divided in two by screen of mid C18 panelling with 2 segmental-arched cupboards. (Listed Building Report)

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 ReferenceNU217359
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Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image (Panoramic images open in a new window)
Photo by Matthew Emmott All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Philip Davis. All Rights Reserved

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Latitude 55° 37' 1.15" Longitude -1° 39' 20.21"

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Copyright Trevor Littlewood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image

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Guide Books

  • Farne Islands Guide Book (National Trust)