Castle Learning Center Pele Towers
Castles of Britain

Pele Towers

pele tower © 1998-2016 by Marvin Hull
The pele tower was a strongly built tower, less grand than a tower keep, used for a place of refuge and look-out. They were built between 1200-1700s or after, and sometimes are difficult to date.

Most English pele towers were built in the 1500-1600s, while the Scottish ones were built in the 1600-1700s. There are around 78 surviving pele towers left in Wales, England, and Scotland.

Pele is cognate with "pale" and means enclosure. The northern pele towers were surrounded by a simple enclosing stone wall, or barmkin, with no flanking towers or gatehouse. The entrance could be a simple break in the wall, or an arched doorway.

Sometimes, pele towers were referred to as a "poormans castle". The reason for this is that ordinary people built peles to protect their goods and cattle. Pele towers were especially common in the border country between Scotland and England.

Some pele towers were constructed quickly, and some were made of wood due to the lack of funding or wages. They were generally three storeys, but could be two or four storeys. Some had stone stairs leading up to upper levels, while others only had a wooden ladder. These could be lifted out of reach of attackers very quickly. The ground floors were often vaulted.