Alnham : The Vicar’s Pele
The second tower, which still stands today, served from the start as the vicarage. It is first mentioned as a ‘lytle toure’ in Bowes and Ellerker’s survey of 1541. The lack of any reference to it in the 1415 list of Northumbrian strongholds would suggest that it was built at some time after that date, in the 15th or early 16th century. Like the earl’s tower, the vicar’s pele was in need of maintenance by the time of the 1541 survey.
There is no evidence that it received the necessary repairs and probably suffered steady deterioration instead. A terrier of the glebe land (the land endowment of the parish church), cited by Dixon (1895, 43), indicates the ‘vicaridge-house which is an old tower’ was in a ruinous state by 1663, having collapsed c. 1651, while the Rev. Robert Thomson was vicar. Warburton’s description in 1715 shows its condition had not improved by that date (Hodgson 1916, 3) and no significant repair seems to have been attempted during the 18th century:
Near to the church is the ruins of an ancient well-built pile seemingly to have been a building of note, but, at present, claim’d by the parson of the vicaridge.
In 1758 the vicar was recorded as residing at Ilderton (NCH XIV (1935), 572) and this was still the case in 1828 when Archdeacon Singleton described the ‘old tower’ as ‘long uninhabited and uninhabitable’ (cf. NCH XIV (1935), 561).
However it was in use once more by 1844, when the vicarage house and glebe were valued together at £33 (NCH XIV (1935), 561), having been rebuilt in the intervening period with the addition of the current battlements, corner turrets, window openings and a completely new L-plan residential wing in the Tudor style (Grundy 1988, 54: ALN 3). The tower’s appearance prior to the rebuilding is shown in a sketch by John Hodgson in 1821, who described it as ‘rather low and squat’ (NRO ZAN M15/A3*, Journal vol. U).