Plans to save historic pele tower

Louise Wright and Mavis Dance are pictured in the ruined pele tower with Barry Mead
Louise Wright and Mavis Dance are pictured in the ruined pele tower with Barry Mead

Plans are being drawn up to restore a centuries-old historic building in the heart of a Northumberland seaside village.

An open day is being held tomorrow to explain the proposals for 600-year-old Cresswell pele tower to local people.

The tower was built by the Cresswell family in the 15th century as a defence against the Border Reivers moving south into England from the Scottish Borders.

At the time it would have been one of around 100 such fortified houses built in Northumberland to defend and protect families and their livestock against attacks by the notorious raiders.

Although now virtually a ruin, the significance of the pele tower has been recognised by Historic England through its designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade II* Listed Building.

Because of its poor state of repair, however, it is also on Historic England’s register of ‘at risk’ structures.

Now Cresswell Parish Council is leading a project, with the support of Greater Morpeth Development Trust and the CELL Big Local regeneration scheme, to restore the building so that it can be re-opened to visitors.

Historian Barry Mead is one of the villagers helping with the project to restore the pele tower, which is currently owned by the proprietors of the nearby Cresswell Towers Holiday Park.

He said: “We are negotiating to transfer ownership to the parish council so that we can seek the necessary funding to restore the tower, remove it from the ‘at risk’ register and open it to visitors.”

The full cost of restoring what is little more than a shell of a building has been estimated at £750,000 including roofing, repairing and re-laying floors, installing lighting, a water supply and a first floor viewing gallery. The cost also includes plans for community archaeology and archive projects which will give local people a great opportunity to learn more about their own heritage.

The parish council was awarded a £10,000 start-up grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2014 to progress the development of its plans.

It is hoping to submit a full heritage grant application in December and, to help with this, has received funding support from county councillor Scott Dickinson and the CELL Big Local regeneration project.

On Sunday from 11am to 3pm, an open day is being held to allow people to visit the pele tower and learn more about the plans.

Visitors are asked to meet at Cresswell Village Hall to be taken on conducted tours to the tower.

A shuttle bus will be running between the village hall and Cresswell Towers Holiday Park. There will also be an exhibition in the village hall displaying the plans.

Barry said: “It is a chance for people to get up close to a little bit of history on their doorsteps that has generally not been open to visitors. Lots of people will have seen the pele tower from a distance but not visited it.

“The open day is a chance to put that right and also learn about how we plan to restore and secure the future of a very historic building.”