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Arnside Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Arnside.
In the historic county of Westmorland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Westmorland.

OS Map Grid Reference: SD45777684
Latitude 54.18441° Longitude -2.83089°

Arnside Tower has been described 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*.


Fortified Tower House. Probably C15. Burnt 1602, repaired probably mid C17, dismantled C17. Massive limestone rubble walls with roughly dressed stone details. Staircase tower of rectangular plan and projecting garderobe. Formerly 5 storeys. Window openings to all sides, some blocked or extended: surviving openings have square heads. Parapet, projecting on rounded corbels, survives to North-west corner. Interior has remains of cross-wall incorporating newel stair, fireplaces with stone lintels and a niche on the first floor said to have been used as a piscina which suggests that the East corner may have been a chapel. Although ruinous at time of survey it appears to be a unique example in this area of a freestanding tower without a hall block. (Listed Building Report)

Arnside Tower (Plate 73), on the S.E. side of the parish, is a structure of local rubble and rough ashlar, formerly of four and five storeys, but now roofless, floorless and partially ruined. It was built as a large pele-tower probably in the 15th century. It was burnt in 1602, but was later repaired and occupied. It was finally dismantled in 1684–90. In 1884 the S.W. angle and most of the S. wall was blown down in a hurricane.
The ruin is a good example of the larger pele-towers of the district.
The tower was formerly divided by a cross-wall, mostly fallen, into two unequal parts, the N.W. part containing the principal rooms and of four storeys, and the other with the N. tower and garde-robe tower of five storeys. The entrance was in the middle of the N.E. face and had a pointed arch, but this is now fallen and only a gap remains. All the surviving windows and loops are square headed, but some of the windows are now represented only by gaps in the walling. The N. tower retains some part of its parapet, projecting slightly on rounded corbels; a similar parapet remains at a slightly higher level on the surviving part of the N.W. wall. Inside the building, rounded corbels for the support of the wall-plates remain in the N.W. and S.E. walls. The turret-staircase at the end of the cross-wall is still largely complete. The lowest room in the N.W. part, probably the kitchen, has a large fireplace in the N.E. wall; the arch has fallen, but there is a semi-circular niche in one end of the recess, a fire-window in the other and a large oven in the base of the N. tower. The room above perhaps served as the hall and has remains of a large fireplace; above it is a second room retaining a fireplace with a shouldered lintel. The top room also has a fireplace with a plain lintel. The S.E. part of the building has a fireplace in each of its four upper storeys; the two uppermost retain their lintels, but the others are ruined. (RCHME 1936)

Arnside Tower is one of seven towers or fortified houses which exist, or once did so, within a seven-mile square on both sides of the Kent estuary. That district was open to attack by the Scots, either following the coast down to Furness and Cartmel, as Bruce did in 1322, or taking a more inland route down the valley of the Kent. Besides being threatened by the Scots, and thus needing refuges and beacon sites, the North was disturbed by the quarrels and violence of the local nobles and gentry, so that a man might feel safer living in such a fortress as Arnside, Tower. It is also possible that at one time the owner held in it a manorial court for his Arnside tenants.
If of 15th-century date, the Tower was presumably built for some member of the de Bethom family, lords of the manor of Beetham from about 1195 to 1485. The family was probably, like some others in the locality, Yorkist in allegiance. At any rate Roger Bethom was an adherent of the Earl of Warwick in 1459; and after the battle of Bosworth, according to tradition, the estate was forfeited and granted to the Earl of Derby. The devolution of the manor is, however, obscure. Agnes, daughter and heir of Sir Roger Bethom, in the reign of Edward IV married a Robert Middleton, and a Thomas Middleton was in occupation of the manor at his death in 1517. The Stanleys owned it in 1574 and except for a few years about 1655, continued to do so until it was sold to Daniel Wilson of Dallam Tower in 1815.
While in the possession of the Stanleys the Tower was damaged by fire in a high wind in 1602 and dismantled late in the 17th century, though it could still be said in 1777 that the walls were 'not much decayed'. The north and east wall and much of the west wall still stand but the great masses of masonry visible on the south side were brought down by a storm about 1884. (Jones 1965)

While Jones is right in his history of the area (although Arnside is well south of the border), particularly in regard to internecine feuding, this can be over emphasised and it is notably this house was burnt out in 1602 because of accident not violence. Almost certainly the site of the manorial court, with all that implies in terms of status and income.
Sometime called a pele tower but more a towerhouse than a pele tower in the usual sense used in England (a chamber block attached to a hall). Although has small windows and was probably battlemented this is clearly a domestic house, not a fortress.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:31

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