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Radcliffe Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Radclif; Fair Helen's Tower

In the civil parish of Radcliffe.
In the historic county of Lancashire.
Modern Authority of Bury.
1974 county of Greater Manchester.
Medieval County of Lancashire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD79580751
Latitude 53.56381° Longitude -2.30975°

Radcliffe Tower has been described as a probable Fortified Manor House, and also as a certain Pele Tower.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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

Description

The stone tower of the fortified house at Radcliffe survives well in spite of the loss of the upper storey and the roof. There are sufficient remains to confirm this as an important medieval building with unique features for this region, namely the presence of fireplaces in the ground floor chamber and the design of the timber hall which used to abut the tower on the west side. There are also substantial remains of the early enclosure ditch and rubble wall on the northern side, although the building of cottages in the 19th century on the north eastern sector has obscured and destroyed such remains there.
The monument includes a stone built tower house constructed in the medieval period, together with the buried remains of a timber hall constructed at the same time as the tower and lying to the west of the standing building. The tower, which is a Grade I Listed Building, survives as a roofless rectangular building. The ground floor has a stone tunnel vault, of which substantial parts remain. Internally the building measures 12.2m from north to south and 5.5m from east to west. The walls are 1.5m thick at the base, increased to 1.9m by a plinth surrounding the building at ground level. In the south west corner the wall is reinforced to 1.8m thick to accommodate a staircase in the thickness of the wall. In the eastern wall are two openings with a deep splay for windows, a fireplace in the centre and the flue in the thickness of the wall. In the opposite western wall is a central doorway with a pointed arch of a decorated style with a simple roll moulded surround. Larger windows were set in the north and south walls. Below each of these two windows there is a fireplace 3.2m wide and 2.2m high. The arches above the fires are repeated as a decoration in the outside walls of the tower. Above the ground floor room was an upper room with a fireplace set in the centre of the west wall. The present height of the tower is 8.5m but there is evidence from the 18th century that the original was three storeys high. This tower was built with a timber hall butted onto the west wall. Remains of the slot for the timbers of the hall are visible in the west wall, as is the outline of the hall gable end. This shows that access to the tower was through the hall and that the two buildings were designed as a whole. The timber hall was used as a farm building until it was demolished in about 1830. Excavations in 1979-1980 have revealed that the hall and tower were contained within a ditched enclosure on the northern side and that this was later reinforced by a rubble wall to form a square courtyard. The tower and hall were built by James de Radcliffe in 1403 when he was granted a licence to crenellate, that is, permission from the king to fortify his residence. The hall stands within 100m of the present parish church and this should be viewed as part of the extent of the original manor precinct. (Scheduling Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1403 Aug 15 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated before 1 February 2016

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