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Dunstan Hall

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Proctor Stead; Proctor Steads; Dunston Tower

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

OS Map Grid Reference: NU24822010
Latitude 55.47410° Longitude -1.60890°

Dunstan Hall has been described as a certain Pele Tower.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


Dunstan Hall or Proctors Stead. A quarter of the township of Dunstan was in the hands of Rayner the first Dunstan of whom we have documentary notice, early in the reign of Henry III (1216-1272). There can be little doubt that Dunstan Hall is the site of the home of the Dunstans and the fragments of foundations running parallel with the later S front may have belonged to it. The lower parts of the E S & W sides of the SW turret are prob of 14c date. The house was rebuilt in stone c 1310 and two lancet windows of this rebuilding remain intact, but blocked by a chimney breast. Dunstan was burnt by the Scots in 1385 and repaired c. mid 15c when it measured about 20'6" x 55'0" - it was an unfortified mansion and never was fortified at any time. An extensive reconstruction occurred between 1509 and 1603 when a staircase turret was added N side. In 1598 'Dunstan Hall' is for the first time named - in 1705 John Proctor acquired it and carried on the late 17c reconstruction. The present (1939) name Proctors Stead prob came into use about the time when the first Ordnance Survey was made. Subsequently repaired in 1831 and 1937 (Honeyman 1940; Bates 1891; Bateson 1895).
It is difficult to form a positive opinion, but there appears to have been an eastern tower in addition to the western one. The eastern and larger tower faced the road from Emberton to Craster.
Its eastern wall, containing 2 small lancet slits, has been cut down to form the gable of the 17th. c. residence of the Proctors (Bateson 195).
Certain external constructional features common to the E and W ends of Dunstan Hall, together with blocked fireplaces and doors internally, lends credence to the assumption that there were originally two towers to the hall. The hall, however, has had so many alterations (date stones of 1831 and 1939 are visible) that it is now impossible to be certain. The name Dunstan Hall was confirmed by Mr. J. Dudfield Rose, the owner (F3 ECW 01-JUN-73).
Most Northumberland towers were built as isolated structures and frequently had a comfortable house added at a later time. in a few cases, the reverse applied, but at Dunstan, house and tower were built together. he house was built on on the stone foundations of an earlier timber hallhouse, and the tower was an eastern projection on this (Dodds 1999).
House. Base of turret may be part of pre-1300 house of Dunstans; main block rebuilt in early C14 for Wetwang family; south wall rebuilt and turret raised in C15; C16 or early C17 remodelling when west end of main block rebuilt, east end extended and stair wing built; south front refenestrated and east extension removed mid-C17; alterations including new north-west wing c.1706; restoration 1939 by H.L. Honeyman for Mrs Ursula Merz including rebuilding of north-west wing. Lower part of turret large roughly-shaped whinstone; east and north walls of main block and upper part turret large squared stone; south wall main block heavy rubble; west end main block and stair wing whinstone rubble; north wing squared stone; cut sandstone quoins and dressings. Pantile roofs with stone slates to eaves on stair wing. Plan; main block has south-west turret, central stair wing on north and L-plan north-west wing (Listed Building Report). (PastScape)

The house consists of four main elements: the main block running roughly east-west, the south west turret, the stair wing or turret projecting more or less centrally from the north wall of the main block and the rebuilt north wing.
MAIN BLOCK: This has a south front of four bays, to the east of the projecting south west turret. The two windows in the first bay are cramped up against the turret and in fact the lower has a hoodmould only exposed by the cutting away of part of the turret wall. At first sight this seems to imply that the windows predate the turret, although this is clearly not the case. Possibly, when they were inserted, it was intended to demolish the turret in the near future. The second bay has a doorway with traces of an inscription on the lintel; this has been transcribed in the past both as '1652' and '1669', but is now illegible. The first floor window above the door and those in the third and fourth bays have moulded surrounds and cornices of late 17th century character.
The east end of the wing is of coursed pink sandstone, in large blocks. Set a little south of centre are blocked lancet windows to both ground and first floors (above which Honeyman saw faint traces of a high pitched gable). To the north of these are blocked square headed doorways, all clearly insertions, at three separate floor levels. The lower part of the gable also shows sockets for the roof timbers of either two phases of a single storey outbuilding or of a building with central raised clerestory section to its roof. In the garden north of the gable end are rough footings, interpreted by Honeyman as part of an early medieval house, reused in the 16th century for an extension removed a century later. The north side of the block, east of the stair wing, is largely of coursed pink sandstone, partly rebuilt in rubble. There is a small sash window at ground floor level and a former two-light mullioned window (clearly an insertion) at first floor level above the 19th century porch.
The south end of the block, of whinstone rubble with sandstone quoins and dressings, has a two-light mullioned window to the ground floor, an early 18th century window with a bolection moulded surround above and a three-light mullioned window to the attic.
Internally, the ground floor room at the east end of the block has good 18th century panelling and a bolection moulded fireplace; this disguises a vast chimney stack above, in which a sword was found some years ago (said to have been given to the Society of Antiquaries). The dining room at the west end of the block has a chamfered stone fireplace. A more elaborate fireplace in the central ground floor lobby (from which Honeyman removed a 19th century stair) is an import from Gloster Hill, near Amble. There are remains of more early 18th century panelling on the first floor. The attic over the eastern part of the wing shows several features, including a chamfered fireplace truncated by a rise in the floor level.
SOUTH WEST TURRET: This is in some respects the most puzzling part of the building. Its lower part is a mixture of whinstone and limestone blocks, the upper of similar pink squared sandstone to the east part of the main block; there is a chamfered set back on all four sides at the second floor level. The windows are an assortment of small openings and loops; one in the east wall at first floor level is set in a blocked doorway which has a flattened triangular head within a square frame and the date '1706' on its lintel. At second floor level is another blocked doorway in the same wall, with a larger window inserted; this has a timber lintel and two large whinstone corbels projecting below seem to be the remains of a pendant garderobe. The top of the turret, with a pent roof and crowstepped copings, has in effect been converted into a lectern dovecote.
The masonry of the lower part of the turret was interpreted by some 19th century antiquarians as evidence of a very early date indeed (the rough quoins have been described as 'an approximation to the long and short work of Saxon times') but there seems no real evidence for this, although this part of the building is totally lacking in dateable features.
Internally, the basement of the turret has a vault in the form of a rather distorted segmental arch; Honeyman suggested it may be an insertion. On either side of the southern loop are corbels and above the loop a strange little L-plan recess in the wall. At second floor level there is a strange recess in the south west corner of the turret, 0.6m above the floor and 0.4m high. In the adjacent room, in the main block, there is a chamfered shaft or mullion exposed in the south wall, in line with the east wall of the turret; this defies immediate explanation.
STAIR TURRET: The stair turret, now partly enclosed by an added porch on the east and Honeyman's rebuilt north wing on the west, is built of large sandstone rubble and has one- and two-light windows of typical late 16th or 17th century form. Internally, the turret has a stone winder stair.
NORTH WING: Little remained of the north wing before Honeyman's rebuilding. Two plain early 18th century doorways survived and have been retained, but the majority of the features in the wing - windows, angle quoins, gable coping, two fireplaces and a series of jointed upper
cruck roof trusses - all came from the demolished Gloster Hill at Amble.
STRUCTURAL HISTORY: 13th century: hall house on a linear plan on the site of, but extending further north than, the present main block; possibly built of timber on stone footings. The lower part of the south west turret may date to this phase.
c.1310: main block rebuilt in sandstone ashlar with a steep pitched roof.
1385: house burned by the Scots and afterwards rebuilt, the south front of the main block a little inside its former line. The walls were heightened and the roof pitch lowered. The turret, or at least its upper part, is probably of this period.
16th century: a remodelling in which the main block is raised again, with steep gables and a second floor, the staircase turret is added and the west end and western part of the north wall of the main block rebuilt. The east end of the main block is extended on the foundations of the 13th century house.
Mid 17th century: during ownership by the Wetwang family, the main block is again remodelled and reduced from three full storeys to two with an attic. The eastern annexe built a century earlier is removed.
1706: John Proctor builds the north wing and alters the interior, putting in panelling and inserting a first floor doorway on the east side of the south west turret.
1831: new porch built in the angle of the north wall and stair turret.
1938: alterations by Honeyman. The ruined north range is rebuilt.
CONCLUSIONS: One possible reconstruction of the form of the pre-1385 house is of a rectangular two-storeyed block with a taller turret at its south west corner, the position of the west wall of the main block at this date is not clear. It seems possible that the turret may have been detached (cf Coquet Island tower). The configuration of hall and detached or near-detached tower is interesting and suggests that the tower has the dual function of a look-out and a strongpoint or refuge.
Dunstan Hall can only really be classed as a defensible building on the strength of its south west turret; it is really a 'pre-troubles' house with post-medieval remodelling (Ryder 1994-5). (Northumberland HER)

Rejected by King as not a fortified building, this seems an unjustified dismissal.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:08

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