Preston Tower is considered a masterpiece of 14th century masonry. It is a scheduled ancient monument.
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The tower was constructed sometime after 1392 by Robert Harbottle as a defensive measure to protect inhabitants from the border raids with Scotland. These raids took place until 1603 when Scotland and England were united. Harbottle served as sheriff of Northumberland, having been appointed by Henry IV. He was also constable of Dunstanburgh.
The tower is changed from its original construction. When peace came to the border country, two of the turrets were removed. The stone was put into use for cottages and farm buildings on the same land. Two turrets remained and served as living quarters.
In the grounds a house constructed in 1802 with 7-foot thick stone block walls has Warkworth castle stone mason marks. It was one of the owners of this house, Henry Cresswell, who added the clock to Preston tower. Modern changes are the addition of electric lights and wooden stairs to allow visitors access to the floors and roof of the building.
In 1864 new cottages and farm buildings were constructed on the surrounding land. What was left of the tower was preserved by building a new wall on its north side. At the same time spring water was pumped into tanks that were installed in the tower. A woodland walk through beech trees now leads to the spring.
In the grounds are red squirrels, tulip trees, walnuts, and a gingko biloba. Visitors need to take special care when viewing an unusual cockspur shrub near the car park. Its sideways growing branches have two-inch long thorns.
Today’s visitors to Preston Tower can view the guardroom and prison on the ground floor and the living quarters (bedroom and living room) on the first floor. In the bedroom is a box bed called a ‘lang settle’ and three legged stools known as ‘crackets’. There are rushes on the floor and skins on the bed. The living room has a large spinning wheel, cradle, and fireplace. The second floor contains the Flodden room that gives information about the battle of Flodden field and further border history information. The clock mechanism can be seen on this floor.
At the very top of the tower visitors can go outside for far reaching views over the countryside. A self-catering cottage has been added in the grounds.
On minor road off A1, 20 miles south of Berwick; 7 miles north of Alnwick; follow brown historic property signs
Tel. 01665 589 227
Open: year round, daily, 10am-6pm
Web: Preston Tower
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard