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Embleton Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Old Vicarage; Turris de Emyldon; Emildon

In the civil parish of Embleton.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of Northumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NU23052244
Latitude 55.49518° Longitude -1.63654°

Embleton Tower has been described as a certain Pele Tower.

There are major building remains.

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


The Old Vicarage at Embleton incorporates a medieval tower. The building was probably constructed in the early C14 as a house and was converted into a tower in the 1390s. The tower is unusual in two ways; firstly, it has two vaulted rooms in the basement where other examples usually have only one and, secondly, it is very long. The building stands three storeys high and is built in a mixture of rubble stonework and squared stone. The south end of the tower was refaced in C19 by John Dobson when major extensions were added to it. (Keys to the Past)

Early C14 house or solar wing reconstructed c.1390 as tower; kitchen wing mid-C18; major extensions by John Dobson 1828 for Rev. George Grimes. Tower squared stone and rubble, with south end refaced in squared tooled stone; C18 wing brick, rendered and colourwashed; C19 parts squared whinstone with sandstone ashlar plinth and dressings. Welsh slate roofs. C18/19 parts form irregular H-plan, with link to tower at east end and conservatory, of stretched octagon plan, at south end of west range. C19 parts in Tudor style.
South (entrance) front 2 + 3 storeys, 5 irregular bays. Chamfered plinth. Porch bay in centre has double-chamfered arch with hoodmould, under canted oriel with embattled parapet; plain panel under gable above. Set back to left a bay with large 4-light mullioned-and-transomed window and 3-light window above. Set further back to right a lower bay with 2-light transomed window under single-light window; embattled parapet with small gable in centre. Slightly-projecting left end bay has single-light 1st-floor window above attached conservatory. Right end bay is tower; C19 two-light windows on upper floors are flanked by older chamfered loops, probably re-set. Embattled parapet with gable of cap-house behind. C19 parts have sash windows, mostly of 8 panes, in chamfered surrounds under hoodmoulds; coped gables with moulded kneelers and finials; tall stacks with multiple diagonal corniced shafts.
Right return: Tower 3 storeys, 2 wide bays. Broad central stack projection, corbelled out at eaves level. Square-headed 2- and 3-light windows, some blocked, those to ground floor C20 but in same style. 16-pane casement in C18 stone surround to 2nd floor right; some blocked medieval loops; embattled parapet with truncated old brick stacks.
Left return 2 storeys, 3 bays. Central two single-light windows on 1st floor. Flanking flat-topped canted bays, with 12-pane sashes, under 2-light windows in slightly-raised panels carried up as gables. Attached conservatory at right has 12-pane sashes in recessed and hollow-chamfered surrounds; swept and hipped glazed roof; roof ribs descend to integral cast-iron gutter.
Rear elevation: Tower at left shows 16-pane casement on 2nd floor and various blocked loops. C18 wing in centre shows two 12-pane 1st floor sashes and hipped roof.
Interior: Entrance porch has groined vault on moulded corbels, and half-glazed Gothick door. Tower: ground floor divided into two segmental-vaulted chambers; north chamber has old chamfered fireplace and pair of pointed doorways. 1st floor has C18 octagon room with moulded fireplace and domed niches; remains of old stair in cupboard at north end. 2nd floor has another moulded early C18 fireplace and stone roof corbels. Cap-house has unusual roof trusses with saddles and additional outer principals carrying purlins. Kitchen wing has 1st-floor room with acanthus frieze, and contemporary fireplace with fluted pilasters and scroll cornice. Early C19 part: Open-well stair with stick balusters; coffered ceiling to hall. Drawing room has elaborate vine-scroll frieze, cornice and floral ceiling rose; dining room has coffered ceiling. Doors of 6 vertical panels; folding panelled shutters; Gothick and Tudor fireplaces, with ornamental cast-iron grates.
Historical Notes: Merton College, who held the patronage of Embleton, agreed in 1332 to provide quarters where the vicar might "live suitably and entertain visitors decently"; reconstruction seems to have taken place after the parish was laid waste by the Scots in 1385. (Listed Building Report)

The western part of the house is a medieval tower, the section of the house adjoining the tower is partly of 18th century date, but the majority of the building dates from a remodelling c.1828 by John Dobson.
The tower is of unusually elongate plan, measuring 12.4m by 6m externally and is of three storeys with an embattled parapet. The walls of the basement are of rubble, but above this squared sandstone. Externally, the south end of the tower has been largely refaced by Dobson and the large Tudor windows set centrally at first and second floors levels are his; the smaller chamfered openings flanking these openings, square at first floor level and narrower above, may be genuine medieval features.
The east wall of the tower has a central chimney breast, like a broad but shallow buttress. The two- and three-light mullioned windows at basement level are of mid-20th century date, replacing plain openings of the 18th or 19th century. At first floor level are a two-light window, its surround reusing old material, north of the stack and a blocked mullioned window to the south. South again is a small blocked loop which Honeyman suggested may have a trefoiled head, but the stonework is really too eroded to tell. The second floor has a 19th century sash north of the stack and a two-light mullioned window to the south. Above this are a pair of tiny loops immediately below and perhaps truncated by, the projecting course at the base of the parapet.
The north wall is partly and the west wall almost entirely, obscured by adjacent buildings. The former has remains of several earlier openings and the latter a blocked first floor loop near the south end and a chamfered opening that may have been a doorway at the north end, set strangely between basement and first floor levels.
Internally, the basement of the tower is divided into two separate chambers, each with an east-west barrel vault. Since Honeyman wrote a number of secondary partitions have been removed from the southern chamber.
The only access into the basement of the wing is through the west wall of the northern chamber. The present doorway seems to be a mere hole cut through the wall, but immediately within, on the south, is what appears to be the western jamb of an opening in a removed cross wall (with remnants of metal fittings); this is a little difficult to explain as there is an ancient cross wall only a short distance to the south. The jamb rises to a projecting corbel-like feature which is similarly difficult to explain. The chamber has an old fireplace on the north, with a chamfered square-headed surround set slightly proud of the wall; the outer edge of the projection has a broad hollow chamfer, on either side is a small wall cupboard. The south side of the chamber is divided into two by a short length of wall, projecting at a rather strange angle; at first sight this looks like the remains of an inserted subdivision, but on closer inspection the wall face west of the projecting wall is seen to be set further south than that to the east and the vault is accommodated to both sections. In the western section of wall are two doorways with two-centred arches: the western opens into what is now a cupboard, although its roof of stone lintels stepping upward to the south strongly suggests that it was originally a stair; the eastern archway is back-to-front, ie its chamfered face is to the south, showing that the northern chamber was entered from the southern, not vice versa.
A section of the vault at the west end of the chamber has been cut away and there is now a timber ceiling at a higher level. This corresponds with the position of what is now a bathroom on the first floor and also to the strange opening set between the floors at the north end of the west wall.
This southern chamber is now cleared of partitions, except for a closet or cupboard on the west. Its walls are largely of brick, although above its doorway and extending south over an adjacent recess, is a segmental stone arch. This, together with an apparent springing of an arch on the south side of the recess, suggests that this was the position of the original entry into the chamber. A recess in the centre of the south wall shows remains of what seems to have been a shouldered rear arch, suggesting that this was an original window or loop, concealed externally by the refacing of the wall.
At first floor level the southern portion of the tower is occupied by an elegant octagonal room with 18th century fittings; a cupboard at the south end of the east wall occupied the recess of a blocked doorway, set directly above the presumed original entry to the basement.
The northern portion is divided into two rooms. The western the bathroom mentioned above, in its north wall and only visible from within a toilet set within an added projection, are remains of a 16th or 17th century mullioned window. The eastern room has a small fireplace set beneath a moulded stone string which is probably associated with a larger predecessor, north of this is a timber wall-post of uncertain age, carrying a transverse ceiling beam, then north again, a pair of corbels probably associated with an earlier ceiling. At the east end of the north wall is a small stair (now blocked off at second floor level) starting well above the present floor; the projection to the west of this, which puzzled Honeyman, is the flue of the ground floor fireplace.
The second floor of the tower has corbels at ceiling level all round. Some, especially those on the north side of the southern room, are clearly of plaster and probably of no great age.
The tower is topped by a gabled cap-house with a narrow wall-walk all round. Honeyman's reconstruction of an earlier 'platform roof or fighting deck' here, based on projecting masonry on the north and east walls, may not be justified; the projections may simply mark one of several rebuildings of the parapet. There is a blocked window in the south gable of the cap-house, which must predate a parapet of the present height. The roof within the cap-house is of five bays, the trusses varying in detail. All have their principals rising to a cruck-like saddle, on which the square-set ridge rests; additional principals at a shallow angle, pegged to the backs of the first, are probably the result of a later remodelling of the roof, for which Honeyman suggests an early 19th century date (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)

It has been incorrectly suggested that a Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1385 (Click on the date for details of this supposed licence.).

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

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