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Sewingshields Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Sewyngeshealles; Sewing Shields; Sewyngsheles; Shewenshall; Sewenshild

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY81177055
Latitude 55.02914° Longitude -2.29624°

Sewingshields Castle has been described as a probable Tower House, and also as a probable Pele Tower.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Site of Sewingshields Castle, which belonged to Sir Robert Ogle, who died in 1437. It was probably only a simple tower. There are no visible remains, though it appears to have been defended on the west side by a single ditch. (Keys to the Past)

The Castle belonged to Sir Robert Ogle, who died in 1437. A tower in decay was recorded in 1542, and the size of the ruins suggests that it was never more than this. There are traces of ditches near it (Hodgson 1840).
There are no visible remains of the tower at NY 81177055. It appears to have been defended on the west side by a single ditch, the remains of which are now discernible only as a very slight unsurveyable ground depression. (F1 RWE 09-NOV-65).
Founded in the 14th or early 15th century, last documented in 1541 when it was ruinous, the site now ploughed over. (PastScape)

Recorded in the 1541 survey as ”At Sewyngeshealles is an old towre of thinherytaunce of John Heron of Chypchase esquier in great decaye in the rooffe & flores & lyeth waste & unplenyshed.”

The fishponds at Sewingshields survive well and retain significant archaeological remains. They are of particular importance as well preserved examples are not common in this area and because of their association with the medieval manor of Sewingshields.
The monument includes a set of fishponds of medieval date, situated immediately to the north of the site of Sewingshields Castle. The fishponds are of linear form, comprising three rectangular ponds orientated north-south with each long side abutting onto the next. They are all 33m long, and 10m, 7.5m and 12.5m wide with flat bottoms. The spoil dug from each pond has been used to form banks on three sides of each; these banks still stand to a maximum height of 1.5m and are an average of 7.5m wide. The area of the fishponds is also delimited by a substantial earthen bank 5m across and 1.3m high placed at a distance of 3m and 13m from the ponds on the west and south sides respectively. These ponds must have been constructed by the occupants of Sewingshields Castle which lay to the immediate south; however, the exact location, form and extent of the castle itself are not precisely known and it is not included in the scheduling. (Scheduling Report)

The exact form of this 'towre' is not known. The proximity to Hadrian's Wall would suggest it was of reused Roman masonry - as reported by Sir John Clerk in 1741 - (c.f. Thirlwall Castle and it may have been a similar tower to Thirlwall. However Thirlwall was a baronial house while Sewingshields seems always to be a secondary house, often inhabited by high gentry tenants. Also arguing against Sewingshield being a substantial tower house is its fairly rapid disappearance in an area where the drive to rob stone will have been slight (some robbing for field walls and road repair certainly but not the sort of robbing that occurs in urban areas). On the other hand it is unambiguously called a castrum in the 1415 list and described as 'pretty large' by Sir John Clerk. The site can not have very intensively ploughed and some geophysics may add to the understanding of the castle.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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