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Rock Hall, Rennington

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NU20082026
Latitude 55.47589° Longitude -1.68368°

Rock Hall, Rennington has been described as a certain Pele Tower.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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

Description

The tower at Rock must, in default of documentary evidence be attributed to the 15th cent (Bates 1891).
The nucleus of the present house is an oblong tower divided by modern partition into an inner and outer hall. The walls are from 3'7" to 4'10" thick and the structure may be assigned to the later part of the 15th century. There are traces of what appears to be gable lines a the east end of the main tower.
Adjoining this tower to the south is another smaller one, the lower part of which appears to be of the same period. The NW angle of the main tower is acute, and the west wall of both towers and the east wall of the smaller one are built to correspond to it, instead of being parallel to the east wall of the main tower. The original entrance was probably on the north side. Attached to the main tower to the NW is a third small tower about 20 feet square, with walls 2-3 feet thick. It may have been added in the 16th cent. A large manor house was added to the N side of the tower in the 17th cent. The entrance doorway is now blocked but some of the windows of this period remain. There are three sundials on the house - one bears the date '1671' and the other two' 1690'.
The house was allowed to go to ruin after a fire in 1752; in the restoration begun in 1819 the south front was enlarged, and the NE end was not rebuilt. In 1359 leave was obtained from Bishop Hatfield for divine service to be performed in the Oratory at Rock. In an outbuilding used as a bakehouse is a blocked doorway which appears to be of mid 14th century date and was probably the entrance to this oratory (Bateson 1895).
Description correct except that the gable lines on the east wall are not visible (possibly concealed by ivy) and only 2 of the 3 sundials could be located (see plan). The three towers are embedded in the modern Rock Hall. All architectural features are of 17th c or imitation 17th c date.
The 17th c front is situated on the east side of the building with hood moulded mullioned windows typical of the period.
NU 20082028 The blocked doorway with pointed arch referred to as being the probable remains of the oratory, forms part of the wall of an outbuilding. In the same wall are two 17th c windows.
Rock Hall is in good condition and is at present used as a youth hostel (F1 EG 24-MAR-55).
Built into the south face of Rock village hall at NU 20302022 is a weatherworn sundial of similar shape & contemporary design to the two seen at Rock Hall. No inscription is visible.
A date stone on the village hall certifies building in 1855 but later construction and refacing has been carried out, and it appears likely that this is the third 17th c sundial (F2 FC 28-MAR-55).
"It is now pretty certain that the Dial on Village Hall is the one which you expected was on Rock Hall at one time". (PastScape)

House. C13 or early C14; south wing converted into a tower in late C14 or C15; remodelled in early C17 for the Salkeld family; partly ruined after serious fire in 1752; C19 restorations and extensions for Bosanquet family include south front c.1820 by John Dobson and north-west wing of mid C19 by F.R. Wilson. Medieval parts squared stone and rubble; C17 parts large rubble; early C19 parts tooled stone with tooled ashlar dressings; north-west wing rubble with ashlar dressings. Welsh slates on north-west wing; C20 waterproof covering on main block roof; flat leaded roofs on early C19 parts. Complicated plan; early medieval house probably H-plan; south wing converted into tower with additional turret on south; C17 extensions to west of hall block; north wing of original H-plan largely destroyed in C18 fire; two semi-octagonal 2- storey blocks added to south front flanking turret c.1820. Mid-C19 wing attached to north-west corner of extended hall block.
East elevation: Main part 3 storeys, 1 + 3 + 1 bays. Slightly-recessed centre is hall block; central blocked doorway in moulded flat-pointed arch within square frame, with Salkeld arms and cable-moulded sundial above. Castellated bay window with wooden mullions and transoms on left is probably early C19; other windows C17, mullioned and transomed, of 3 or 4 lights, under hoodmoulds. Ground floor of left bay shows large squared stonework of earliest phase, with chamfered set-back above. Inserted doorway, with vertical-panelled double doors in bolection-moulded eared surround, flanked by small loops; straight joint near left end shows thickening of original wall when tower constructed. Outline of early medieval gable visible above, with inserted C17 3-light windows to 1st and 2nd floors; embattled parapet. Right bay is largely ruined above first floor level, but shows similar masonry and outline of early medieval gable, with gunloop above suggesting that this wing was also raised into a tower.
South elevation: 2 + 3 storeys, 3 irregular bays. Recessed centre is turret of late medieval tower, with blocked loop window and old corbelled-out parapet. Inserted C19 windows and embattled porch with flat-pointed doorway. To either side are projecting semi-octagonal 2-storey bays with 2- and 3-light mullioned-and-transomed windows under hoodmoulds, and embattled parapets now partly fallen.
West elevation: 2 + 3 storeys, 5 irregular bays. Centre part is C17 wing with original windows, with west wall of tower set back on right; in front of these parts are castellated early C19 single-storey offices. To left of C17 wing is early C19 three-storey part with an embattled turret; left end is north-west wing with mullioned-and-transomed windows and a crow-stepped gable; similar gable on left return.
Interior: No medieval or C17 features exposed, but wall thicknesses up to 1.7 metres. Entrance lobby has early C19 groined plaster ceiling; some early C19 fireplaces with Bosanquet arms.
Historical notes. Robert de Tuggal obtained permission to conduct divine service in his chapel here in 1359. In 1549 the hall was the headquarters of a band of Spanish mercenaries, engaged against the Scots, under Sir Julian Romero. It was held by the Salkelds from 1620 to 1705, who played a prominent part in the Civil War in the area.
In use as a youth hostel at the time of survey. An important building difficult to interpret without a full measured survey. (Listed Building Report)

Rock Hall is an extensive and complicated house, standing at the west end of Rock village.
In the early 13th century the manor was held by William de Rok under William de Vescy. It later passed to the Tuggal family and Robert de Tuggal obtained permission to hold services in his oratory here in 1359. In 1549 the house was the headquarters of a band of Spanish mercenaries under Sir Julian Romero. Between 1620 and 1705 it was held by the Salkeld family (whose arms occur in the east front); in 1752 there was a serious fire. Restoration of the ruined building was commenced in the early 19th century by Charles Bosanquet, the manor having passed to the Bosanquet family in 1804; in 1819 John Dobson was employed as an architect. A new block of building at the north west corner of the house was added in the mid-19th century, designed by F R Wilson of Alnwick. It is now a school.
The earliest structure recognisable in the present complex appears to have been a house with a north-south hall block and a transverse wing at each end, projecting slightly to the east. The steeply gabled east end of the southern wing is still visible, incorporated in the east wall of the present tower (now the entrance block); the earlier walling is of squared stone and the later of rubble. Only a fragment of the northern wing survives; further walling of the early house is probably incorporated in the three-bay hall block between the wings. The south wing of the early manor house was converted into a tower, perhaps in the 15th century; the external thickening of its south wall is very obvious. The west wall of the wing is set at a rather oblique angle and this is followed by the alignment of a south western wing or turret, suggesting that this may also be a heightening of a pre-existing part of the building.
It is not clear how the hall block was handled at this period; certainly by the time of a mid-17th century remodelling, under the Salkelds, both hall and the north cross-wing had been carried up to three storeys and a square block (possibly a stair wing) had been built on the west side of the hall. A suggestion that the north wing had been heightened prior to this is seen in a blocked gun loop (contrasting with the large 17th century windows elsewhere at this level) seen in the remaining section of the east wall of the north wing, just above the line of the earlier medieval gable. The older architectural features mostly seem to date from this remodelling under the Salkelds - a central doorway (now blocked) on the east side of the hall, with the Salkeld arms above and various mullion-and-transom cross windows under hoodmoulds with turned-back ends. A surviving drawing of 1743 shows the entire house as of three storeys, with an embattled parapet.
To the north of the north wing is a detached two storeyed east-west range (also shown on the 1743 drawing) known as 'The Oratory', presumably because of its surviving medieval two-centred doorway. Its other pre-19th century features are of 17th century date and include a massive fireplace (blocking the medieval doorway) suggesting that it served as a detached kitchen.
Further alterations may have taken place between the 17th century remodelling and the 1752 fire. The 1753 drawing room shows an inserted doorway in the tower (perhaps the present front door, which has a lugged moulded surround of early 18th century character) hinting that the old hall had been subdivided by then and its doorway already blocked.
The north wing was never rebuilt after the 1752 fire. Old illustrations in the Hall show that the building had been reroofed and restored before the Dobson extensions of 1819; the north end of the building had castellated turrets at its angles and a single storey extension beyond. Dobson added a pair of octagonal two storey bays on the front, on either side of the south west turret of the medieval tower. There are also the ruins of a similar octagon at the north east corner of the building, attached to the remnant of the north wing. An octagon here (in addition to those at the south end) is lightly sketched on to the 1753 drawing and the present ruin is shown on an 1826 print; it can only be assumed that this was left unfinished or deliberately built as a folly-cum-ruin.
The north west block, by F R Wilson, has crow-stepped gables; it incorporates older masonry in its lower walls, presumably part of the single storey extension shown on the 1819 drawings.
The interior has stoothing and plaster covering all wall faces. There appear to be no pre-19th century features.
The medieval building, now called the 'Oratory', has been part of a more extensive group (medieval masonry extends a short distance north and south of its west wall) which seem more likely to have been outbuildings (perhaps always a kitchen) than a chapel. Following the conventional layout of a medieval house, the solar would appear to have been in the south wing (with any private chapel either on an upper floor of the wing or perhaps in the south west 'turret') and service apartments in the north wing, through which a passage may well have given access to the separate kitchen. (Ryder 1994-5)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Geldard, Ed, 2009, Northumberland Strongholds (London: Frances Lincoln) p. 85
      Salter, Mike, 2002, Index and Amendments to Mike Salter's English Castles Books (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 4
      Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 121-2
      Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 94
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 200 (slight)
      Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 26
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 340
      Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 307-9
      Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 150-1
      Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 281
      Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 189-90
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Bateson, Edward (ed), 1895, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 2 p. 122-4 online copy
      Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 22 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Periodical Articles
    • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 22 online copy
      Bosanquet, R.W., 1869-72, 'Rock Hall' History of the Berwickshire Naturalist Club Vol. 6 p. 57-71 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Ryder, P.F., 1994-5, Towers and Bastles in Northumberland Part 1 Alnwick District p. 40-1
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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