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Norton Tower, Rylstone

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Rylston; Rylestone

In the civil parish of Rylstone.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire West Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD97605703
Latitude 54.00929° Longitude -2.03810°

Norton Tower, Rylstone has been described as a probable Pele Tower.

There are masonry footings remains.

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


Remains of tower. Probably C16 for Richard Norton. Coursed gritstone. A square structure, approximately 10m x 15m, the corners standing approximately 3m high but the walls slighted. Original entrance probably on the south side, remains of a fireplace and stone newel stair on east side, no windows survive. The ruin stands among extensive earthworks and is only one part of an important archaeological site which includes rabbit warrens (pillow mounds) and probably prehistoric field clearance cairns to the south. The building was a hunting lodge of the Nortons of Rylstone and Norton Conyers and was slighted after the family's involvement in the Rising of the North, 1569. (Listed Building Report)

Norton Tower stands on the strongest point of a natural ridge, and is flanked on the east side by a slight bank and ditch. The Tower is ascribed to Richard Norton circa 1540, and was probably erected to house watchers following a dispute with Clifford of Skipton over hunting rights in Rylstone. The bank and ditch is the obstructive part of a probable palisaded enclosure, later walled, which covered the summit of the ridge, and was primarily designed for herding deer. The Tower is 9.5m by 7.5m with walls 1.2m thick standing to a maximum height of 5.0m, see photograph. Villy's deer enclosure is best preserved for some 150m between 'C' and 'N', where the footings of a substantial wall are set on top of a bank 3.5m overall, with a shallow external ditch of the same width. The remainder of the east side as far as 'E' is represented by a modern wall with a stream on the outside. Between 'E' and 'F' water action has eroded the bank and ditch into a ragged and ill-defined feature. Solid wall footings continue across the north side passing the Tower, but these deteriorate, and all the stones of the west side have been grubbed out leaving the wall traceable as a slight robber trench. The small ditched feature at 'N' also appears to be the result of water action rather than an original construction. (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority)

HIGH on a point of rugged ground
Among the wastes of Rylstone Fell,
Above the loftiest ridge or mound
Where foresters or shepherds dwell,
An edifice of warlike frame
Stands single,—Norton Tower its name;
It fronts all quarters, and looks round
O'er path and road, and plain and dell,
Dark moor, and gleam of pool and stream,
Upon a prospect without bound. (William Wordsworth The White Doe of Rylstone )

On the other side of the valley from the lost New Hall Tower which it was inter-visible with. The Cliffords and Norton appeared to have been local rivals, in dispute over the deer hunting. Neither of these towers would be military although if an argument between hunting parties armed with hunting weapons got out of hand either or both might be safe refuges. Clearly their main function was as symbolic markers of territory and as leisure retreats for hunting parties.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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