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Halton Castle, Whittington

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NY99716784
Latitude 55.00507° Longitude -2.00609°

Halton Castle, Whittington has been described as a certain Tower House.

There are major building remains.

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

Description

A 'fortlet' at Halton is mentioned in 1382, the property of Robert de Lowther, who died in 1383. He probably built the tower which seems to date from the third quarter of the 14th century. The shield on the east wall bears arms which probably belong to him. On the death of Robert de Lowther the Halton estate passed to William Carnaby II, with which family it remained until 1695.
The tower is four storeys high, and has a vaulted basement with an entrance in the north wall. In 15th century a manor house was erected on the north side of the tower, the whole forming a T-shaped building. In the 17th century an addition was made on the east side of the tower. Fragments of walling extending westwards from the tower and some old masonry to the north of the brewhouse probably represent the barmkin enclosure.
In the back wall of the 15th century house is a portion of a Roman funereal stone depicting a figure in an arched recess. Built into a wall west of the south west corner of the tower is a portion of another tombstone showing a man reclining on a couch. Lying in the garden in front of the 17th century house is a diminutive Roman altar (Craster 1914; PSAN-u-T 1921-22; Richmond 1947).
Halton Castle is in excellent condition and in use as a residence.
The fragment of Roman tombstone showing a man on a couch is now lying in the garden south west of the tower. Mr Douglas Blackett (present owner of Halton Castle), states that it was removed from the nearby wall when it collapsed in 1953.
The small Roman altar, lying near the south wall of the tower, is only fifteen inches high. It bears marks probably caused by the plough. There is no inscription visible.
The other tombstone, showing a figure in a semi-circular headed recess, is built into the north end of the east wall of the 15th century manor house.
The provenance of the altar and tombstones was not ascertained, but they probably came from the Roman fort of Hunnum less than half a mile to the north (EG 11-MAY-1956)
Grade I. Halton Castle (Included in Interim Statutory List as Halton Tower) 14th century tower-house, with attached house of 15th and late 17th century. Square four-storeyed tower on south east angle, with battlements, round corner turrets etc, built of Roman stones (stands about 700 yards from a Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall). Fragments of 15th century house on east side. Present house built at end of 17th century, added on east side, two storeys with steeply pitched stone roof, the south front having five four-light 'cross' windows with stone mullions and transom and small panes, and a centre moulded doorway with scroll pediment and cornice. W. front has Roman Doric porch of new stone, and a new balustraded parapet (Listed Building Report Hexham R D Northum Aug 1968 56)
Country house. 13th or early 14th century, 15th and 17th century. Dressed stone with stone slate roofs. Irregular plan. Garden front has
four-storey, late 14th century tower projecting on left. It has several slit windows and a one-light 14th century window with cusped head on second floor; similar window on right return. First floor has 16-pane sash in 17th century roll-moulded surround, and a similar surround to two-light mullioned window on right return with coat of arms of Carnaby over. Corbelled bartizans and original crenellations. Attached to right a two-storey, five-bay house of c.1700. Three steps up to doorway with bolection-moulded surround and scrolled pediment. Stone cross windows with cornices. Gabled roof with kneelers and coping and two tall renewed brick stacks on stone bases.
Left return, i.e. to rear of tower is largely medieval. It is in two sections: first section next to tower predates the tower. Of this period only masonry survives. It has 17th century stepped buttress and large external stack on corbels at first floor level. 17th century two- and three-light mullioned windows. Left of this a projecting cross wing which in part also predates the tower. Of this period masonry and a doorway inside with shouldered lintel. The rest is part of 15th century hall house of which much was demolished in 17th century. It now has 18th and early 19th century door and windows. Gabled roofs with brick stacks on stone bases. Space between these ranges is partly filled in with later building including present entrance on right return, made Georgian in mid 20th century. Interior: Tower has tunnel-vaulted ground floor, doors with four-centred heads and stone newel stair. 17th century house has open-well stair with twisted balusters. Older wings have two stone newel stairs, remains of screens passage with broach-stopped beams and 16th century hall ceiling with finely moulded beams (Listed Building Report District of Tynedale Northum Sept 1985 69-72).
Northern wing shows signs of at least three major building phases. The first stone house represented by the doorway from the cross-
passage into Carnaby's Hall and probably by the thick north and south walls of the north wing. Tentatively dated between 1299 and 1314.
The tower probably dates to late 14th or early 15th century. Tower listed in 1415. Masonry in the present garden walls may be remains of a barmkin; Halton may have been a stone hall within a defensible courtyard c.1382. The tower may have been a reaction to the burning of the manor and capture of William Carnaby by the Scots in 1385. The tower was an addition to the early hall, not a replacement for it. No trace of any 15th or early 16th century work. Rebuilding took place around the late 16th or early 17th century. 'Mansion' constructed c.1700, with overhaul of old buildings (Borne and Dixon 1978).
14th century tower, 31ft 3ins x 24ft 4ins externally. Four storeys including vaulted basement. 15th century mansion added to north and another on the east in 17th century. Remains of very old masonry on the west may have been the barmkin (Long 1967).
Halton Tower. 14th century tower and late 17th century house attached to east. At rear of house are fragments of 13th or early 14th century house - one doorway with shouldered lintel is all that remains. Tower added c.1400; built of Roman stones. In late 15th century house at rear was extensively altered. 17th century house added by John Douglas in 1696. Stretch of medieval wall attached to south front of tower, part of barmkin? (Pevsner 1992).
The house consists of a quite complex assemblage of structures of different periods. The north range is the earliest and appears to comprise the western half of a linear hall house of about 1300. The entrance cross passage survives together with a room to the east which has a fine ceiling of later medieval moulded beams. The eastern half of this range was demolished in the 17th century, though part of its plinth remains. A north-south 'link block' lies at the south end of the cross passage and joins the original house to the medieval tower. East of the tower is a building of c.1690 (the Mansion) with a contemporary stair wing set centrally at its rear. Part of the roof structure of the north range is medieval in date (Ryder 1999).
Observation of work in 2000 provided evidence of an earlier date for the house, possibly before the outbreak of Scottish Wars in the 1200s. An original hall window was revealed, of two trefoil-arched lights. The link block also provided evidence of an earlier building. Its west wall was originally the east wall of a building that must pre-date the north range. It has large blocks at its south east corner laid in the side-alternate fashion characteristic of Anglo-Saxon masonry, although its plinth is medieval in character.
It is speculated that a far older structure than has yet been recognised in the border region may be incorporated into the buildings at Halton, possibly even pre-Conquest in date (Ryder 2001).
The fabric of the castle was examined by P Ryder in 2000 during alterations in the Queen Anne block. A window was revealed which suggests it belonged to a house built before the Scottish Wars in the late 13th century. A re-used cross slab grave cover is built in as a window lintel. Further evidence of a former building was found in the 'link block' ( Med. Arch. 2001).
Sixteen timber samples were taken for tree-ring analysis from three potential roof phases in the north range of Halton Castle. These included a possible early 14th century phase, a possible late medieval phase, and a 16th or 17th century phase. Only 12 samples were analysed. Two site chronologies were produced; the first spanned the period AD1396 to AD1559 and all were probably felled in AD1559. The second chronology could not be dated. The fact that the groups of samples could not be cross-matched with each other lends some support to the archaeological interpretation (Howard et al 2001). (Northumberland HER)
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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. 28
      Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 441-3
      Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 59
      Emery, Anthony, 1996, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 1 Northern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 96-7
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 186
      Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 71
      Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 84, 85
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 334
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 238-9
      Graham, F., 1977, Old Halls, Houses and Inns of Northumberland (Newcastle; Frank Graham) p. 130-3
      Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 180-1
      Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 112-13
      Pevsner, N., 1957, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London, Penguin) p. 161
      Richmond, I.A. (ed.) 1947, Handbook to The Roman Wall (Newcastle) p. 69-70
      Hugill, R.,1939, Borderland Castles and Peles (1970 Reprint by Frank Graham) p. 113-5
      Craster, H.H.E. (ed), 1914, Northumberland County History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) Vol. 10 p. 395-413 online copy
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 390-1 online copy
      Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 18, 311-22 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
      Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 1 p. 138-9 online transcription
  • Periodical Articles
    • King, Andy, 2007, 'Fortress and fashion statements: gentry castles in fourteenth-century Northumberland' Journal of Medieval History Vol. 33 p. 376, 378
      Bradley, J. and Gaimster, M., 2001, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 2000' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 45 p. 308 online copy
      Ryder, P.F., 2001, Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 11 p. 29- (reproduced in 2001-2002, Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 15 p. 46-48 online copy)
      Borne, P. and Dixon, P., 1978, 'Halton Castle reconsidered' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser5) Vol. 6 p. 131-9
      1921, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Vol. 10 p. 100-1
      Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 18, 311-22 online copy
      1889, The Monthly Chronicle of North Country Lore and Legend p. 8 online copy
      Bates, C.J., 1885-6, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (ser2) Vol. 2 p. 197-200
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Howard, R.E., Laxton, R.R. and Litton, C.D., 2001, Tree-Ring Analysis of Timbers from Halton Castle, Near Corbridge, Northumberland. Centre for Archaeology Report 96/2001 (English Heritage)
      Ryder, P F, 1999. Halton Castle. Some archaeological/structural observations, December 1999
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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