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Simonburn Castle and Tower House

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Turris de Simondburn; Symondburne

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: NY86267373
Latitude 55.05796° Longitude -2.21641°

Simonburn Castle and Tower House has been described as a probable Timber Castle, and also as a certain Tower House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


Despite the fact that the tower house at Simonburn is now a ruined structure, significant archaeological remains survive above and below ground level. The structure and layout of the 13th century tower house and any earlier phases of building survive beneath the subsequent collapse of the upper parts of the tower.
Simonburn Castle stands on a steep promontory formed by the confluence of two deeply incised streams. Although it was repaired in the 18th century and the upper storeys have now collapsed, it includes the remains of an original solitary tower house of 13th century date. The tower, built of small squared ashlar blocks is roughly square in shape measuring 10.5m. Only the ground floor basement of the tower stands today, covered by a plain semicircular barrel vault. Although the basement has become infilled with rubble and masonry from the collapsed upper storey a small window in the south east side is visible. There is a door in the north west wall giving access to a mural chamber which is thought to have housed the foot of a flight of stairs giving access to the upper storey. Also, on the north west side, are the remains of a square projecting turret. The remains of a stone wall rib indicate that the ground floor of the turret was covered by a plain vaulted roof. A door with a pointed arch opens from the turret giving rise to the suggestion that the turret served as an entrance porch to the main tower. The original 13th century tower fell into decay during the 16th century and was almost certainly in ruins by the end of that century. In the second half of the 18th century it was repaired by the Allgood family and the upper end of the north east wall was rebuilt. As late as 1940 this wall at least was still standing to a height of 1.8m. Simonburn Castle is a Grade II Listed Building. (Scheduling Report)

Ruin of tower house. C13, partly reconstructed in 1766 as an eyecatcher from Nunwick Hall. Dressed stone facing to rubble core. Square plan. Fragmentary remains on tree-covered mound. Semicircular barrel-vaulted ground floor (inaccessible at time of survey). East wall is best preserved and stands to c.4.0 metres high in centre: small window opening near south-east corner; open passage leading to pointed, chamfered doorway at north-east corner; section of segmental arch in wall to north of doorway. The remainder has collapsed and any surviving features are hidden by fallen masonry. (Listed Building Report)

The tower at Simonburn is first mentioned in 1415, but the earliest masonry is 13th c. It was built on an unfinished motte and part of a bailey ditch can still be seen. (Hunter Blair 1944).
The tower is now reduced to a grass covered mound of rubble, except for the east wall which is 6.0 m high. There is no sign of a bailey ditch, but a natural hollow, or holloway, to the S.E. may have been mistaken for it (F1 JRF 16-NOV-65).
It is possible that a motte and bailey was built by Simon, half-brother of Prince Henry of Scotland, after 1138. The tower house was built by Henry Graham, being completed in 1291. The tower appears to have been abandoned after 1550, being ruinous in the 1670s. In 1766 the ruin was partly restored as a folly (Dodds 1999). (PastScape)

Hunter Blair did misidentify other sites as medieval timber castles and the identification as this as an 'unfinished' motte and bailey needs to be questioned.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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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 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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