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Wark on Tyne Pele Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Wark in Tyndale; Warke; Turris de Werke in Tyndall

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY860770
Latitude 55.08807° Longitude -2.21954°

Wark on Tyne Pele Tower has been described as a certain Pele Tower.

There are no visible remains.


A prison is mentioned in the Wark bailiff s roll for 1263-4. A later roll for 1286-90 includes the expenses of repairs to its fabric (Dodds 1940, 282-3). In 1293 the jailer forfeited a messuage and eight acres of land for letting a prisoner escape (Dodds 1940, 283). The prison will have functioned within the administrative role of the caput and will have held convicts and felons waiting for trial at the assizes. No location for the prison is given. There is no evidence to suggest it was on Mote Hill. In 1399, a pele at Wark (HER 7815) is mentioned and a tower there was held by Sir Thomas Grey in 1415. The “apparance” of an old mansion and fortress is also mentioned by the Commissioners of 1541 (Dodds 1940, 282). It is thought unlikely that this tower stood on the same site as the castle (Hunter Blair 1944, 143). In 1804, when land was being levelled “in front of some building in the village”, workmen reportedly came across a buried building, 30 feet square with walls 8 feet thick, 14 feet deep, with no windows or doors and a flagged floor (Mackenzie 1825, 244). Although Mackenzie does not give a specific location for the levelling activity, he later discusses Mote Hill as a clearly different location. A local belief was that a tower stood in the north-west corner of the green, where a heap of stone reused for building was found (Bleay 1977, 14). Whether the ruins represented a prison or a tower is unknown (it may of course have been both). In a rather difficult comment, Dodds considered that the ruins may have been a combination of prison and judge s lodgings but abandoned before completion as, if such a substantial building had been completed and used, it could not have passed without record (1940, 283). (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey)

The pele of Wark on Tyne is mentioned in 1399/1400; a tower there was held by Sir Thomas Grey in 1415, and the 'appearance' of an old mansion and fortress there is mentioned by the Commissioners of 1541, but in 1538 the Council of the North reported that 'Wark has no standing stone, though so necessary to bridle Tynedale.'(Dodds 1940).
A stone tower would probably have arisen some time in the following century (thirteenth) but it is not mentioned until the first year of Henry IV when he granted the manor with its tower to Edmund Duke of York as part of the Lordship of Tynedale (Hunter Blair 1994).
In 1804 as some work men were levelling the ground in front of a building in the village, they discovered a row of hewn stones and on digging further came to a room 14 feet square, the walls of which were 8 feet thick, forming a square on the outside of 30 feet thick. It was 14 or 15 feet to the bottom, which was covered with thick flags. It had neither door, window nor any outlet. The stones had the appearance of being burnt (Mackenzie 1825).
It was said that in 1804 evidence was unearthed of an immensely strong building. From its size it is possible that this could have been a prison or a tower of some sort possibly the pele tower mentioned in the 1415 survey. Nowhere is it exactly stated where the men were digging, nor what they subsequently did with the remains. But it is held that the north west corner of the green was the site (Bleary 1977). (Northumberland HER)

There is some confabulation in sources between this certain C15-C16 tower and the possible C12 motte castle which may, or may not, have been on the same site. Was Mote Hill so distant from the building reported by Mackenzie to exclude that building being within an attached bailey? Normally one would expect a continuity of site use but most important castle building were in the castle bailey and not on the top of inconvenient mottes and it is bailey buildings which are reused and rebuilt. However it should be noted it is generally though it was on a separate site and the given map location here is the traditional site in the NW corner of the Green.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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