The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Little Harle Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
East Harle

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NZ01368347
Latitude 55.14560° Longitude -1.98010°

Little Harle Tower has been described as a certain Pele Tower.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


An elaborately modernised tower at the west end of the present Victorian house (Pevsner 1957).
Mentioned in a survey of 1541 (Bates).
Littleharle Tower. House. Medieval, early 18th century and 1861-2. Medieval work rubble, early 18th century work dressed stone, 19th century work ashlar. Welsh slate roofs. Irregular plan. Garden front has 3-storey medieval tower on left; 2-storey, 5-bay early 18th century centre and large externally Victorian tower on right.
Medieval tower has slit windows on ground floor and a blocked pointed-arched doorway on right return. 1st floor has 12-pane sash with thick glazing bars in architrave. Similar 9-pane sash on 2nd floor. Crenellated parapet.
Centre section has part-glazed Victorian door under hood mould and 15-pane sashes with thick glazing bars in architraves; except 3 central first floor windows which are later 12-pane sashes. Plain parapet.
Tower on right has Georgian core (cf. interior) with rusticated quoins and bands, but was altered and extended 1861-2. Two bays. Left bay has mullioned and mullion-and-transom windows. Right bay has 2-storey canted bay window with mullions and hoodmould on ground floor. 1st floor has tall Gothic windows with cinquefoil heads, and blank, pointed-arched panel of Geometric tracery above. Roofs not visible. 18th century section has tall stone conjoined corniced ridge stack. Octagonal corniced stacks elsewhere.
Entrance front is entirely mid 19th century. Gothic doorway behind large crenellated porte-cochere. Irregular fenestration with similar Gothic detail to Victorian tower on garden front.
Interior of medieval tower has walls 6 ft thick, vaulted ground floor and a stone newel stair which is actually in 18th century section and evidence of medieval house adjoining tower. The section of Victorian appearance has 18th century open-well stair. Drawing room in same part has Rococo plaster ceiling of 1740-50; carved mid 18th century fireplace with broken semi-circular lintel framing bust, and side terms; also 2 elaborate Palladian pedimented doorcases.
Other rooms Victorian, especially library, and hall with screen of 3 pointed arches (Listed Building Report). (PastScape)

The tower is mentioned in the 1541 survey but not in the 1415 list; the house originally belonged to the De Harles, later passing to the Fenwicks and Aynsleys.
The house is extensive and complex, although reduced in size c.1980. The earlier part of the building consists of a main (hall) block of two storeys and five bays, with the medieval tower at its western end, projecting to the south, and a balancing block at its east end; extending east and north from this are a series of extensions, mid-18th century in parts but heavily remodelled in the 1860s and now partly demolished.
THE TOWER: The old tower is of three storeys and is roughly 8m square, being built of large squared stone. There is a chamfered plinth exposed on the east and south, but cut away on the west. The northern part of the east wall is covered by the hall block, and the entire north wall by a three storeyed 19th century extension.
At basement level there is a blocked opening, presumably a doorway, in the west wall, just to the south of the main block. This has a chamfered segmental pointed arch (the chamfer dying away briefly to simulate an impost), and is set rather strangely some courses above the plinth. Internally there are said to be remains of a north-south barrel vault, and a central splayed recess (presumably a loop) in the north wall. Old photographs show a blocked window in the centre of the south wall, now obscured by vegetation.
At first floor level there are central sash windows on the south and west (the latter within the jambs of a wider window); at the east end of the south wall is a chamfered loop, and at the south end of the west wall two similar loops; the first lights an L-plan mural chamber, the second a mural recess with a shelf/recess on the south; both may have been garderobes. At second floor it is clear that the sash windows on south and west are set within larger openings; there is a similar broad recess, probably originally a window, at the south end of the east wall; to the east of the window in the south wall is another small chamfered loop, now blocked. In the north wall is a fireplace with a wave moulded surround and a triangular head within a square frame, perhaps of early 17th century date; a straight joint immediately east of the fireplace may be part of an earlier window. Access to the upper floors of the tower is by a newel stair occupying the southern half of the western bay of the main block. This is entered from the hall by a square headed doorway with a chamfered surround, the chamfer curving round the angles of the doorhead; there is also a second doorway, opening north out of the foot of the stair well, which has a flat pointed chamfered arch. The treads of the stair all have a prominent notch adjacent to the centre newel; the stair now ends in a rather indeterminate manner in the present attic of the main block, from which a doorway with a timber lintel gives access to the second floor of the tower.
The present roof of the hall is pitched, within a wall walk; although this is of recent date (except for some old beams) it probably reproduces an earlier form.
THE HALL BLOCK AND EAST WING: The sash windows of the hall block look of mid 18th century date, but the central doorway is clearly Victorian; the south wall of the block, of no great thickness, has a chamfered plinth, but of different section (with a step above the
chamfer) to that of the medieval tower. The north wall of the block has been largely removed at ground floor level by the insertion of a Gothic arcade.
The east wing is shown in an old engraving (of late 18th century date?) as being of very similar appearance to the tower; it was considerably altered in the 19th century, but on the west 18th century stonework survives, above a few courses which appear considerably older. Once again there is a plinth, but its exact character was not determined.
CONCLUSIONS: Littleharle Tower seems likely to have originated as a medieval hall house with the surviving tower serving as a cross wing; the situation of the newel stair within the central block shows that this is earlier than its 18th century exterior indicates. The apparent survival of pre-18th century fabric in the east wing is interesting, hinting that the late medieval house may have had a hall with a tower at each end, or at least a solar tower and a storeyed service wing. The position of the blocked doorway in the east wall of the tower, the only clearly pre-16th century feature seen, is interesting being raised well above the plinth. One explanation might be that this doorway originally opened within an adjacent hall, from the dais platform - which would explain its positioning. The hall may have been rebuilt as a rather narrower block, perhaps in the 16th century, leaving the original doorway in an external wall. The present newel stair may date from this phase; the tower certainly seems to have been thoroughly remodelled in the later 16th or 17th century.
The development of the house might be:
i) medieval house with solar tower; the tower perhaps of later 15th century date, is perhaps built onto an earlier hall, possibly aisled;
ii) the medieval hall is replaced by a hall block of the present dimensions, perhaps in the later 16th century; the tower is remodelled and refenestrated. There is also a storeyed cross wing (or possibly a second tower) at the east end of the hall;
iii) the hall block and western wing are recast, or virtually rebuilt, in the mid 18th century, when considerable extensions are built to the east;
iv) Thomas Anderson's remodelling of 1860-1, with a rambling north east wing incorporating a lofty tower. The present north front, with its porte-cochere, is all of this period;
v) c.1980 much of the 1860s wing is demolished, some lower walls being retained (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER       Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

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 Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. 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 26/07/2017 09:20:10

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact