Clifton Tower is sited to the West of the A6 as it passes through the village of Clifton, just outside Penrith. The tower is the isolated remains of a larger group of buildings, thought to date from the 1500’s. The building doesn’t possess the normal thick defensive walls of other pele towers and fortified dwellings in the area, so it’s assumed that it was built in less turbulent times.
The tower measures a meagre 33 by 26 feet, however accommodation was split over three floors, each with one or two rooms divided by thin red brick walls. Marks of earlier buildings can still be seen etched into the outer walls, indicating the presence long ago of additional buildings and wings. Indeed, the tower is all that now remains, albeit with the outline of foundations in the surrounding yard. The last of these buildings were demolished in the 1800’s and some new and larger windows inserted.
The tower was plundered by Jacobite troops in 1745 before the battle of Clifton Moor….the last battle to be fought on English soil. They are believed to have lived on this site from about 1365, until the land passed to the Lowthers in 1705 after they had re-mortgaged in the 1650’s.
On the day that I visited (my third visit) the hall was open, and I was able to gain entry to inspect the interior. As far as I can tell, it’s been renovated to the stage where it’s safe to enter, and even to climb the spiral staircase hidden away in the newel tower. A gallery has been created on the first floor, enabling you to look onto the first floor (albeit fragmented) down into the ground floor rooms, and up to the second floor living space.
The hall is situated in the middle of a working farm yard, although a footpath now leads from the main road to the compound that the tower sits within. The English Heritage web site states that the tower is open Monday to Friday, and every day except Christmas day and New Year’s day.
The tower was built by the Wybergh family who are represented by some wall memorials in the nearby church of St Cuthbert.
The above wall memorial tells us of the marriage of Elianor de Engayne to William de Wybergh. The stained glass window below, appears to show us Helynor Ingayne (same person, different spelling!!!)
Across the road lays the church of St Cuthbert, which some sources say is built on the site of an early motte and bailey castle.
The church is definitely built on the summit of a mound, albeit a very low mound, perhaps some three metres at its highest point at the road side, but the mound is higher towards the back of the church. There is a lack of sufficient documentary evidence to support this claim, although given the proliferation of fortifications in this area, it's not beyond belief.