Pele Tower. Vicar’s Pele.
Embleton Tower is a three storey pele tower. It includes two vaulted rooms in its basement, some windows which have been blocked in, and an embattled parapet.
The site is situated near Dunstanburgh Castle and legend states that there is an underground passage between Embleton Tower and the Castle.
It is believed that the tower may have been built on the site of an earlier structure but was reinforced following the Scots raid in 1385. See timeline for more details.
The following statement comes from An Architectural Survey of the Churches in the Archdeaconry of Lindisfarne, and gives a description as to the role some of the pele towers played in the Border battles,
‘I conceive that many of them were used during border forays, as retreats into which the females of the village were received and kept out of sight, the priest, meantime, keeping watch over them, parlaying with the enemy, pleading the respect of the Sanctuary, and arranging the peaceful cession of the village cattle, or other property, by way of ransom of the people in the tower’. (Wilson 1870).
As with a large number of these sites, there is little recorded history relating to them. I have pieced together the following timeline from the material sourced.
Timeline for Embleton Tower.
1100-1135 The Manor of Embleton held by the Visconte family.
1244 John le Visconte died and his daughter, Romet, inherited. She married Everard Teutonicus.
* Everard Teutonicus died and Ramet married Hereward de Marisco. The lands were passed through marriage.
* Hereward de Marisco sold the manor to Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester.
1265 The Barony became Crown property after the death of Simon de Montfort.
c1265 Henry III granted the Barony to Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster.
1274 Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster granted the Advowson of the church to Merton College, Oxford.
c1330 The Patronage of Embleton was held by Merton College, Oxford.
1331 Merton College, Oxford, finally received the Advowson promised in 1274, due to disputes over the patronage of the church.
1384/5 Area ravaged by the Scots. The vicarage and church were ransacked.
1385 Licence to crenelate granted. Although there is some doubt regarding this.
1395 Tower built at a cost of £40 to protect the church from Scottish raids.
1415 Property of the vicar. Recorded as being a fortified vicarage.
16th C Remodeled.
C1600 Large windows inserted into the tower.
1828 A new vicarage was built against the tower by architect John Dobson.
1875-1884 Mandell Creighton was the vicar.
1876 Mandell Creighton completed his book The Life of Simon de Montfort. His first son was born at the site.
1877 Mandell Creighton was elected Chairman of the School Attendance Committee in Alnwick.
1877 Mandell and his wife Louise visited Rome as a research trip for one of his books.
1878 Mandell Creighton’s second son was born at the site.
1879 Mandell and his wife Louise visited Rome again for research.
1880 Creighton was elected Chairman of the Alnwick Board of Guardians and Sanitary Authority.
1881 Mandell Creighton spoke at the Northern Poor Law Conference. He and his wife, Louisa, visited Rome for a third time for research purposes.
1882 Mandell Creighton’s popular book The History of the Papacy in the Period of Reformation was first published.
1884 Mandell Creighton moved to Cambridge University to become a Professor.
1898 The tower was repaired and updated with little concern for its history.
19th C A pupil of Mandell Creighton was staying at the tower.
1978 The tower was restored and improved.
2018 Planning permission was sought for alterations within the tower.
The tower is a stunning example of a pele tower. It is private property but can be viewed from the road.
More in-depth information can be sourced from the Historic England entry below in the References.
My final words on this site go to Louise Creighton (1904) ,
It was with no light heart that Creighton decided to give up his life at Embleton. We both felt that the ten years we had spent there must remain the happiest of our life…. Our children had had for their early years an ideal country home, which gave them every opportunity for a free and healthy life. The strange charm of Northumberland had won us all, and henceforth no other part of the world could hold our affections in the same way. (Creighton 1904).
References & Bibliography
Bates. C. J. 1891. The Border Holds of Northumberland. Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle. Archaeologia Aeliana. Volume 14., Series 2. pp. 167-194.
Bates. C. J. 1895. The History of Northumberland. E. Stock.
Covert. J. 2010. A Victorian Marriage: Mandell and Louise Creighton. Bloomsbury Publishing.
Cristen. C. 2014. Murder & Mystery Trails of Northumberland & The Borders. Andrews UK Limited.
Creighton. L. 1904. Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton, sometime Bishop of London. Volume 1. Longmans.
Creighton. L. 1905. Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton, sometime Bishop of London. Volume 2. Longmans.
Davis. P. 2006. English Licences to Crenellate: 1199-1567. The Castle Studies Group Journal, Number 20., pp. 226–245. Available at http://www.castlestudiesgroup.org.uk/Licences%20to%20Crenellate%20-%20Philip%20Davis.pdf.
Godwin. G. (ed.).1863. Northumbrian Peles. The Builder. Volume 21., No. 1050. pp. 198-200.
Hartshorne. The Rev. C. H. 1858. Feudal and Military Antiquities of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. Bell & Dawdy.
Historic England. 2021. The Old Vicarage. Available at https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1041824.
Hodges. C. C. 1891. The Pele Towers of Northumberland. The Reliquary and Illustrated Archaeologist: A Quarterly Journal and Review Devoted to the Study of Early Pagan and Christian Antiquities of Great Britain. Volume 5, (New Series), pp. 1-13.
Jennings. A. 2018. The Old Rectory: The Story of the English Parsonage. Sacristy Press.
Pettifer. A. 2002. English Castles: A Guide by Counties. Boydell Press.
Society of Antiquaries. 1885. The Second County Meeting of the Society of Antiquaries at Dunstanburgh. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries, Vol. 2., No. 10., (1885), pp. 71-73.
Wilson. F. R. 1870. An Architectural Survey of the Churches in the Archdeaconry of Lindisfarne. M. & M. W. Lambert.