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Elsdon Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Vicars Pele; Parsonage; Elsden; Elsdon Castle; Turris de Ellysden

In the civil parish of Elsdon.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY93609339
Latitude 55.23482° Longitude -2.10193°

Elsdon Tower has been described as a certain Tower House, and also as a probable Pele Tower.

There are major building remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

Towerhouse. Recorded as a 'Vicar's Pele' in 1415 but probably rebuilt C16. Lower additions to west and north early C19 by Archdeacon Singleton; the windows remodelled c.1840.
South side: originally 4 storeys but redivided internally to make 3 storeys. C19 door on ground floor. On 1st floor 2 C19 mullion-and-transom cross windows break through an earlier string course. 2 similar windows on 2nd floor. High embattled parapet, the high centre part C18 with the shield of the Umfravilles. Behind the parapet a steeply-pitched stone-slate roof with raised coping and stone end stacks.
Right return (east side) has large early C19 segment-headed mullion-and-transom window on ground floor. Above a chamfered recess with a shield bearing five fusilles, the early arms of the Percys. Above 3 blocked slit windows. In the parapet the Percy crest.
North side has castellated porch and single-storey, lean-to entrance hall of early C19. Above are 3 C18 lancets lighting the staircase.
Above the original entrance a short stretch of machicolation on 4 large corbels. In the parapet the C18 shield of the Howards of Overacre.
Attached to right 2-storey, 2-bay early C19 additions with 3- and 4-light mullioned windows. 4-light bay window with stone pent roof on right. Irregular C18 and early C19 additions to rear.
Interior: Tower walls 8 ft. thick. C16 hollow-chamfered round-headed doorway on ground floor. In south-east corner a short straight mural stair leads to a fine ashlar newel stair. Tunnel-vaulted ground floor given early C19 plaster rib vault; Gothick fireplace and door. On 1st floor, original entrance from stair has chamfered 4-centred arch. On 1st floor large corbels to support floor above. C18 or early C19 friezes in entrance hall and study have Percy, Lucy and Howard shields. Frieze of trefoiled hanging arches on 2nd floor. Early C19 roof timbers.
In the C19 addition a staircase with slender turned balusters. (Listed Building Report)

Elsdon Tower, 'the finest of all the existing rectorial tower-houses of Northumberland' (Morris 1916, 152), stands on the summit of a detached spur of land formed by an acute turn in the valley of the Elsdon Burn, which from running south-eastward turns to flow west. This spur, on the opposite side of the valley to the early earthwork castle (Castle Hills), provides a naturally strong site; on the east is a steep drop to the Burn, with gentler slopes on the other three sides; to the south is the broad village green of Elsdon, with the parish church at its centre.
Historical Notes
Although some 19th-century antiquaries believed the tower at Elsdon to have originally been built by the Umfraville family, the earliest reference to a tower here occurs in the 1415 list of castles, fortalices and towers in the county, when the 'Turris de Ellysden' is listed as being in the possession of the rector (Bates 1891, 19). A number of authorities have taken the evidence of the heraldic panel on the south of the parapet as relating to Sir Robert Umfraville, lord of Redesdale 1421-1436. No mention of any fortification at Elsdon is made in the more detailed survey of 1541.
The Lordship of Elsdon was purchased from the Howards by the First Duke of Northumberland c 1760, after which it became home to a series of noteworthy rectors. The Rev C.Dodgson (1762-1765) wrote letters, including some often-quoted lines describing his vicissitudes at Elsdon; he states 'the vestibule of the castle is a low stable, and above it is the kitchen'; he also refers to the 'parlour' (where he slept) which was presumably on the second floor. There followed the long rectorship of Lewis Dutens (1765-1812), who was succeeded by Thomas Singleton (1812-1842); Hodgson (1827, 96/7) states that at the time of Dutens' death the stone-flagged first floor served as a kitchen and servants' apartments, whilst the second floor was fitted up as a lodging room and study, with closets on either side of the bed, one serving as a wardrobe and the other 'for more general purposes'; he also refers to the former existence of 'two low rooms above, each containing four chambers'.
Singleton had remodelled the house, (before 1825; a drawing of this date shows the northern additions) converting the vaulted basement into a comfortable drawing room, the first floor into two bedrooms, and the second floor into a bedroom, dressing room and library; he had also made considerable additions to the tower, namely 'a vestibule and kitchen; a dining-room, 26 feet by 14; and bed-rooms above these: besides a back kitchen, pantry and other offices'.
An account of the house, after Singleton's remodelling, is contained in an undated letter surviving in the Northumberland County Record Office (ref (97) NRO 2471/15); addressed 'to My Dear Aunt' it describes the house from the point of view of observing it window-by-window; the two upper windows in the tower were of the 'library' out of which two small rooms ('my aunts and my cousins') opened, looking westwards; the lower windows (ie on the first floor) were of bedrooms'. The lower windows of the 'new part' were of the dining room, with over it a 'most delightful sleeping room which my father and mother occupy'. At the back of the 'porch' were two very good kitchens and other offices with three bedrooms over (one for women servants, one for men)'.
There seems to be no record of later 19th-century alterations, although it is clear that more than one phase of work is present in Singleton's extensions. The 1st edition O.S. 25":1 mile map of c 1860 shows an outline plan of the building as it stands at present.
The Tower ceased to be a rectory in 1961, when the parish went into plurality and the rector moved to Otterburn. A programme of restoration was carried out from 1995 and 1998, during which a considerable amount of archaeological recording was carried out. The following account is based on a study carried out in 1994, altered and amended to take into account this subsequent recording.
Elsdon Tower : Description of The Exterior
The tower is a rectangular structure 13.15 m by 9.4 m, with its longer axis running east-south-east to west-north-west  (hereafter east-west); the walls are 2.6 m thick at ground level. Later buildings adjoin on the north and west.
The walls of the tower are of coursed rubble, with massive elongate quoins, and cut dressings, all of local sandstone or grit. The building is of three storeys, with a gabled cap-house within a parapet. There is a chamfered plinth (roughly hacked into on the south and west), and a projecting string-course at mid-height of rather unusual section, square below and chamfered above. The walls are capped by a slightly-projecting parapet, with a chamfered base course.
Elsdon Tower : Description of The North Wall
The entrance to the Tower is set a little east of centre on the north side, and is now covered by a 19th century vestibule or lobby. The doorway is now quite a wide round-headed arch, with a continuous broad hollow chamfer, but it is formed entirely in plaster, and carries various heraldic shields; its original form is uncertain.
Above the roof of the present porch is a plain lancet-shaped window lighting the newel stair; this and two similar ones above look to be of late 18th or early 19th-century date. Between the upper two is a blocked square-headed loop, formed simply out of four stones, its jambs inclining inwards towards the top. This looks an original feature; its present situation, midway between two turns of the present stair, suggests there have been internal alterations (see below).
Above the roof of the lobby, but below the string course, are a pair of square-headed windows with recessed and chamfered surrounds; they have ashlar dressings, and look to be of mid or late 19th century date.
Immediately above the string course, and set west of centre, is a blocked square-headed window with a chamfered surround, partly hidden by the roof of the adjacent wing. There has been a similar window above and a little to the west; the chamfered jambs are original but the head and sill are recent restoration.
Below the parapet (and breaking its chamfered base course), positioned directly above the entrance door, is a machicolated projection set on four corbels, between which fire could be directed or objects dropped on unwelcome visitors attempting to gain admission.
The parapet of the tower (but not of the machicolated projection) has clearly been heightened, except for a small section at each end; the heightened sections have a 'battlement' of triangular-section blocks. There is a slightly-raised section above the projection, containing a square panel with the arms of the Howards of Overacre.
The section of the external face of the north wall seen within the roof space of the vestibule seems to have been rendered or harled, in the manner of many Scottish towers. It may be worthwhile removing samples of this render for analysis.
Elsdon Tower : Description of The East End
In the centre of the wall at basement level is a large segmental-headed window of four lights, with a transom just below the head, and a hoodmould with turned-back ends; its ashlar dressings look to be of mid- or late 19th century date. Directly above the window is a small rectangular window with a chamfered surround; prior to 1995 this was blocked by a slab bearing the five fusils of old Percy. The positioning of this opening at first seemed somewhat puzzling, as it appeared to be set too high to light the basement, and too low for the first floor. The 1995 RCHME report considered that this was evidence of the basement vault being an insertion.
The removal of the heraldic slab showed that this was not the case, and revealed that the internal splay of the window dropped like a steeply-inclined tunnel through the thickness of the wall; it was not blocked by the basement vault as the RCHME thought, but only sealed by the plaster rear arch of the 19th century east window of the basement.
The splay was topped by an series of large inclined slabs; a small hole in its side wall broke through the internal splay of the first-floor window above; it would appear that when the internal sill of this was lowered to form a full-height recess (in the 18th century?) it cut into the internal splay of the lower loop, and forced the north side of the splay to be rebuilt, or at least re-faced, somewhat inside the original line, in rough masonry. The later insertion of the large 19th century basement window has removed most of the sill/floor of the inclined tunnel/splay of its predecessor, and prompted a rather precarious structural situation.
Directly above the string course, and a little north of centre, is a square-headed window, with a chamfered surround; there is a second very similar window above, set a little further south (and more or less in line with the present chimney stack). This had been blocked but in 1995  was completely opened out; the external opening showed square sockets for iron bars, a vertical one set centrally, and two horizontal, set a little nearer the top than the bottom.
The parapet has not been heightened. Several accounts (including the list description of c 1985) refer to another heraldic panel, with the later Percy crest, built into the parapet here; either it has been removed, or the reference is to a slab with the Percy crescent in the parapet of the 19th century porch.
Elsdon Tower : Description of The South Wall
Here there are a number of features which the heavy pointing renders difficult to interpret. At basement level, towards the west end of the wall, is a plain square-headed doorway, with a timber lintel, of relatively recent date; above it are traces of the gabled roof of a porch or conservatory, and above again, close to the west end, faint traces of the roof line of a taller adjacent structure.
During the 1995-8 works this doorway was cleared of plaster, showing that an area of roughly-squared stone formed the inner part of each jamb, but did not extend down to the floor; below this the jambs are of rough rubble wall core. These areas are probably patching - possibly infilled earlier openings - coeval with the insertion of the doorway. In the top of the opening, but overlapping its west wall, was a near-vertical flue-like feature.
This was a trapezoidal shaft sloping towards the external face of the wall and communicated with the floor of the recess of the western of the two first-floor windows. This opening  was initially thought to be a murder hole in the roof of an original entrance lobby (cf the Blackbird Inn, Ponteland), but there was no real evidence of there being an original doorway in this position; such a doorway could hardly have been entirely removed by its successor. Its function remains a mystery; it may have some link with similar vertical flues or channels seen above slit vents in the basements of bastles at The Raw and High Shaw. A pencilled 'Sept 8th 1884' on the stud (carrying the plaster wall) adjacent to the east end of the inner opening of the doorway may date its insertion.
East of the doorway and set quite low in the wall is a plain elongate slab, slightly recessed, that appears to be the blocking of an opening; the positioning of some smaller stones in the course above hint at a simple relieving arch. This would appear to relate to the base of the shaft descrinding from the first-floor garderobe. Further to the east, and only a little higher in level, is an upright slab in the wall which may be the blocking of a small loop of more conventional type. Higher again, and immediately to the east of the doorway, is a vertical area of disturbance with vertical alignments of stones suggesting the cutting away of the side walls of some sort of projection, which may again relate to garderobe arrangements.
The two first-floor windows both break the string-course; both are wooden cross-casements, with timber lintels, and are probably of later 18th or early 19th century date, replacing smaller square-headed windows, the blocked upper sections of which survive. Internally, above the sash window in the eastern room, the flattened four-centred head and the topmost stone of each jamb of the rear arch of its medieval predecessor were exposed.
Two similar windows, set closer together (and with their lintels directly beneath the parapet), light the second floor; to the west of these two reddish stones mark the blocking a small loop which lit the garderobe at the south-west corner of this floor.
Just above the projecting base course of the parapet is an old projecting stone spout, just west of the western second floor window. As on the north the parapet has had its central section raised and 'embattled', with a further raised block at the centre above an armorial panel; the arms, illustrated by Hodgson are interpreted by him to be those of Sir Robert Tailbois, but are more generally thought to be those of Umfraville; beneath the shield is the raised text, in black letter 'R DDREDE' which Hodgson expands to 'Robertus dominus de Rede'. Sir Robert Umfraville was lord of Redesdale 1421 - 1436.
Elsdon Tower : Description of The West End
The lower part of the northern half of the west end of the tower is concealed by later additions. Set centrally in the wall, but partly concealed by an added brick stack, is a blocked square-headed window with a chamfered surround; this would appear to have opened just beneath the basement vault.
A rectangular block of stone near the south end of the west wall, c 1 m above the plinth, is fitted with an iron handle; this had been thought to be a cleaning door to the flue of the inserted basement fireplace, but proved to open into the base of a chute serving the second-floor garderobe. The shaft , c 0.50 by 0.38 m, extended upwards and possibly downwards as well; it contained a dry deposit, possibly including human waste - Sara Rushden of the County Archaeology Service took samples.
The only other old features in the wall (apart from the string course) are a pair of second-floor windows, one towards each end of the wall. Both are 12-pane sashes, with timber lintels immediately below the parapet. Above the north jamb of the northern a boldly-projecting stone spout breaks the base course of the parapet. Once again the central section of the parapet has been raised.
Elsdon Tower : Description of The Caphouse
The caphouse, set within the parapet (there is a narrow walkway all round, although for some reason the west end of the northern walk is divided off from the north end of the western), has gabled ends with a flat coping of square-section slabs, and simple concave-section kneelers; stylistically these seem of late 18th or even early 19th-century date. The gable ends have projecting stacks, in each case with a brick extension.
At the west end an external brick stack steps in to link with that on the caphouse gable, leaving only a narrow gap behind for access to the northern section of the western walkway; there has been a similar arrangement at the east end, but the 'flying buttress' section linking the outer stack (which in this case is incorporated in the parapet wall, rather than housed in an external projection) has been removed.
The only access into the caphouse roof is by a small hatch at the west end, on the south of the stack; on the north of the stack, one or two large triangular-shaped stones set in the wall look as if they could be in situ survivals from the coping of an earlier lower gable, but it is difficult to be certain.
The side walls of the caphouse are heavily pointed, and show no features except for sections of timber lintels on the south, which probably relate to the high-level recesses, possibly former windows, in the main second-floor room. On the north the external face of the wall is very irregular, with large bulges, hinting at the survival of earlier masonry. The caphouse is roofed by stone slates.
Elsdon Tower Interior : The Basement
The entrance doorway into the tower leads, via a lobby, into the basement, which shows no ancient features; the attractive ribbed Gothick plaster ceiling is of early 19th century date, and presumably follows the approximate section of the stone vault above. At the west end is a 19th century marble fireplace. The walls are concealed by stoothing partitions and plaster.
From the entrance lobby, a mural passage extends eastward, with steps rising to the foot of the newel stair. Its internal walls are all plastered, but what stonework is exposed seems relatively unweathered. The stair turns anticlockwise, an unusual feature in medieval buildings (which would facilitate a right-handed swordsman ascending rather than descending). The blocked loop set in between two of the 'Gothick' loops that presently light the stair, set between two turns of the present stair, suggests that the present stair may be a complete replacement (of early 19th century date?) within the old well.
Elsdon Tower Interior : The First Floor
At first floor level a square-headed opening, with a narrow chamfer to jambs and head, cut in the curve of the wall of the stair well, opens from the stair into a slab-roofed lobby stepping up westwards to where further steps lead up south through a segmental-headed plaster arch, apparently of post-medieval date, into the first floor.
On the west of the lobby was a small closet formed within the thickness of the wall. In 1995 a blocked doorway was re-opened between the western of the two first-floor rooms and this closet was re-opened. This has a two-centred arch moulded with a continuous swelled chamfer, an architectural feature of earlier character than anything else in the building. Two of its voussoirs have been cut into at some time, to insert a timber lintel, but the dressings are otherwise intact.
The doorway faces into the room; the rear (north) side of its opening is rebated for a door, and a stub of a hinge was found low on the western jamb.  There was also a stub of cut-back walling on the east of the door, indicating that it bore no relationship to the present stair and lobby. One puzzle is that there is not enough room for the door to open fully in the closet - a modern hole in the external wall shows no evidence of internal thickening or re-facing.
The first floor of the tower is now divided by secondary partitions (perhaps of early 19th-century date) into two major rooms, and a small entrance lobby with a relatively recent bathroom opening eastward off it. In the eastern room a walk-in cupboard on the south has clearly been a garderobe at one time, although no old features survive other than the head of the chute, recently exposed in the floor.
A 1957 account (County Ancient Monuments and Sites Record) refers to mural steps leading downwards to the basement from this cupboard, but is probably in error. In the east wall plaster removal in 1995 exposed remains of two fireplaces, the earlier with a segmental arch carrying a narrow chamfer, broken into by the lintel of a later and smaller successor of 18th or 19th century date. The original fireplace was restored in1995, new north jambs and northern half of the lintel being constructed, modelled from the extant section. The back of the hearth is segmental in plan, the total depth of the recess being 1 m.
To the north of these was the rear arch of the original first-floor window visible externally, with a shallow four-centred head. This rear arch has dressed stonework to the upper section of its jambs, but from c 1.5 m above the floor their lower sections are cut in rubble, indicative of the recess being extended downwards, and breaking through into the side of the high-set basement window..
The whole north wall of the room was stripped of plaster in 1995, exposing the internal projection of the stair turret; there was no sign of any earlier doorway here, except for an area of rougher rubble masonry in the centre of the lower part of the wall, which might have resulted from an opening being removed, dressings and all. The fact that the corbels which carry the ceiling beams are of timber on this side of the room might point to this wall, or wall-face, being a reconstruction, although its upper part  does appear to course in with, and be of similar material to, the adjacent part of the east wall. There are four stone corbels on the south.
The western room at this level has a plaster frieze with alternating Percy crests (the five fusils and the crescent), with further Percy arms (the three lucies and the rampant lion) on the sloping panels provided by boxed-in corbels on the north and south. There is a 19th-century Gothick fireplace on the west wall, and a simple ogee-arched canopy, in plaster, over the doorway that gives access to a flight of steps dropping through the wall to communicate with the stair hall in the north wing.
Above this stair the internal splay of an original window was exposed in 1995; this shows similar features to that of the window in the east wall. The opening taking this stair was enlarged, exposing in its base the top of an infilled vertical flue or channel, of slightly trapezoidal plan, exactly like that seen above the inserted doorway in the south wall, and placed opposite to it.
Unfortunately the insertion of the stair, probably in the 19th century, had destroyed any evidence for the relationship between this shaft and the window above. Overhanging rubble showed that the shaft could not have continued vertically upward for any distance; it may have inclined westwards.
Elsdon Tower Interior : The Second Floor
Returning to the newel stair, this rises to another square-headed opening of the same type as that giving access to the first-floor lobby, which opens into a small lobby giving access to the second floor. Here there is a single large room, its ceiling at a much higher level than the lobby, with two separate small chambers or closets opening off its west end. Prior to 1995 this large room had a small sealed-off 19th-century Gothick fireplace on the east; this was removed, along with the  late 18th century plaster frieze of pendant arches above (although the contemporary cornice was retained.
Behind the  fireplace the remains of the segmental rear arch of the original second floor window (visible externally) were exposed, part having been cut away to allow for the flue of the 19th century fireplace; the inner parts of the opening, with a flat slab top, were intact, although the internal sill appeared to be a reconstruction. This opening has now been restored and re-opened.  Above it was second fireplace, which served a former third floor. This had a triangular arch with sunk spandrels, and a raised letter 'M' in a sunk panel on its lintel; the lintel is rather damaged, and may have had further carving.
A second fireplace at the same level was discovered in the north wall in 1995, but later covered over again. This was 1.85 m wide within the chamfer, and 1.30 m high; its head was of shallow Tudor-arched form, with a four-petalled flower, a length of cable moulding in the exposed eastern spandrel, and an ‘hour-glass’ stop at the base of the exposed eastern jamb. Rather puzzlingly, the lintel was jointed at the centre, and in addition there was a secondary crack near the east end. The extrados of the lintel was concealed by the 18th century plaster cornice.
At the same level as this fireplace there are two shallow recesses with four-centred heads in the south wall, which may represent former windows. Also at this level a blocked opening  1.4 m wide and 0.87 m high was exposed in 1998 at the south end of the west wall. It had cut blocks forming its north jamb and a timber lintel.  This was presumably once a window, although like the putative south windows, it opens directly behind the present parapet.  The timber lintel is presumably secondary to the opening, as above it an upper section of the same opening  remains open, as an access hatch into the attic from the parapet walk.
In the partition wall are two doorways with shallow four-centred arches of the same form as that opening into the main room from the entrance lobby; in the small rooms beyond, the southern had a cupboard at the west end of the south wall, formed in a former garderobe. This was opened up in 1995 to expose a square-headed doorway with chamfered and rebated jambs,  which is slightly distorted through secondary structural movements.  It had a chamfered surround; its dressings are large blocks of sandstone, five to each jamb.  The lowermost block of the western jamb bore what is presumably a mason’s mark, of rather unusual form, an incised cross with bifurcate terminals approximating to the heraldic Cross Moline.
The L-plan garderobe chamber, curving round the south-west corner of the tower, has its floor c 0.12 m above that of the present second floor. The passage walls retained old plaster, although not original as a small loop window on the south, visible externally, was concealed. The plaster continues onto the internal jamb of a former window , of uncertain date, opening westwards; this is now infilled by masonry that is presumably contemporary with the adjacent 18th century (?) sash, the insertion of which has destroyed the end of the garderobe chamber. The shaft of the garderobe  was exposed in the floor below this inserted window, and remained open for the full height of the wall.
Stripping of plaster from the wall face in May 1998 revealed a blocked opening 0.57 m wide and 0.86 m high, immediately to the north of the northern jamb of the window that cuts through the garderobe.  Its sill was 0.94m above the present floor.  The northern jamb was composed of large roughly-squared blocks.  The southern jamb, only 0.20 m from the window reveal, was of smaller roughly-shaped stones, and seems almost certain to be secondary, reconstructed when the window was inserted.  The lintel was a single large block, with a chamfer which, oddly, correlated with the secondary southern jamb but continued 0.18 m beyond the line of the northern.  Beyond the large blocks of the northern jamb was an area of walling that appeared disturbed, although its actual extent was difficult to ascertain.
It is not clear what this feature represented; it would seem most likely to have been a locker or wall cupboard of some form It may have been retained, but reduced in width, when the adjacent window was inserted; it is possible that the builders found it easier to displace the lintel laterally rather than cut its southern end away, which would explain the present discrepancy between the north jamb and the lintel chamfer.
The northern of the two sash windows in this wall, unlike the southern, has some large stone slabs above its timber lintel; it is not clear whether these represented the internal lintels of an earlier opening in the same position.
The northern room has a cupboard in the north wall, formed from the internal splay of the blocked window seen externally,  its head and sill cut away by an inserted flue. Internally the splayed recess of the window accommodated a cupboard, but in 1998 it was restored, the damaged head and sill being replaced in new stone.  As a new window had already been fitted, it was not possible to inspect the jambs for evidence of iron bars etc, although a drilled hole 25mm in diameter on the internal face of the east jamb may be associated with some sort of shutter arrangement.
Elsdon Tower : The Caphouse and Roof Structure
The internal face of the east gable wall shows two rough infilled openings of uncertain function, possibly for earlier purlins; below the northern is a re-used block with a chamfered edge. Although the RCHME saw ‘scarring indicating at least two earlier roof lines’ here, nothing is very clear. The adjacent stair well is capped off at the level of the attic floor.
The internal face of the west gable wall is heavily pointed, and contains a small hatch  which until recently provided the only access to the roof from the parapet walk; its blocked lower section has already been described. There are two sockets, low down, towards the centre, and above them a recently-blocked opening (under a timber lintel, apparently an old piece re-used) which communicated with the flue to the chimney which caps the gable (information from Robin Dower). RCHME interpret this as a blocked loop window, sealed by the addition of the stack
The tower roof is of five bays. The principal rafter trusses have two levels of collars, halved and nailed in from the east, the lower accompanied by vertical struts at each end dropping to the tie beam; all the collars and struts, and small yoke-like pieces providing additional support to the ridge (carried diagonally between the ends of the principals) all appear relatively recent. There are two levels of purlins on each roof slope, secured by tusk tenons. The trusses are numbered I, II, III and IV, from the west end; the purlins also carry numbering; figures as high as XXV were noted. The stone slates of the roof are held in place by sheep bones ('a sheepshank roof'), an increasingly rare survival of a vernacular tradition.
Elsdon Tower : The House
The added ranges to the north and west of the tower incorporate work of a number of different dates. They consist of:
A pent-roofed single-storeyed vestibule or lobby set against the north wall of the tower, built of squared and tooled stone with ashlar dressings.
An embattled ashlar porch, with a double-chamfered four-centred arch, a later addition to the east end of the vestibule.
The north wing, containing the stair hall and the sitting room, with a large bedroom above. Its east front, with Tudor detailing, is clearly of the same build (c 1825?) as the vestibule; in style it is very similar to some near-contemporary work by John Dobson (cf Embleton Vicarage of 1828). The north and west walls show that it is a remodelling of an earlier single-storeyed structure, possibly of later 18th-century date. In the otherwise blank upper section of the west wall a medieval spout or gargoyle, somewhat damaged, has been re-set.
The northern of two parallel gabled east-west wings (containing the dining room) appears to be the earlier, although it seems to post-date the lower part of the north wing. Its openings have diagonally-tooled ashlar dressings. It may be of late 18th or early 19th century date. The southern wall of this wing is of some thickness, which might indicate that it contains earlier (17th century?) fabric, although incorporated chimney stacks might be a more plausible explanation.
The southern of the two wings, containing the kitchen, is an addition, built of squared tooled stone. The return of its gable coping is characteristic of c 1820 - 30.
A wing extending southwards from the west end of the kitchen wing may be contemporary with it; although sometimes said to be of c1700 there is no clear evidence of pre 19th century date.
It is worth noting that the north wing, the northern of the east-west wings, and the wing extending south from the kitchen all have kneelers of the same type; this seems more likely to result from a general 'tidying up' when the north wing was built, rather than all three parts of the building being of contemporary build. (Northumberland National Park - probably by Peter Ryder)

Despite being well preserved and well described this is a difficult building to categorise as it lies on the cusp between baronial status tower house and gentry status pele towers. Both types of building often had attached buildings but for the tower house these are secondary buildings and for pele towers they are the main hall and service buildings. Elsdon Tower, certainly in its later history, could function as an integral building and, therefore, probably best called a tower house.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of English Heritage, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, September 20, 2014

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