Newcastle University appointed heritage restoration specialists MGM Ltd to renovate a 16th century, Grade I listed building situated on the University’s research and teaching farm near Morpeth, Northumberland.
The Pele Tower in Cockle Park is thought to have been built circa 1520 for Sir William, 4th Lord Ogle, as a defensive dwelling and formed part of the Bothal Estate, owned by the Dukes of Portland. It was converted into residential accommodation in the 18th century.
In the 19th century, Cockle Park became the Duke’s experimental farm and in 1902 the Tower passed to the County Council and later into the ownership of Newcastle University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development as part of Cockle Park Farm.
The Pele Tower was in a state of collapse and was on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register. The stone slab roof coverings and oak trusses had broken down allowing rainwater to cascade through the building, resulting in decay. MGM’s brief was to fully restore the external envelope.
The Tower has circular bartizans at its northeast and northwest corners, a machicolated parapet and south windows in Gothic surrounds, all requiring rebuilding. The walls are approximately 1.5 metres thick.
The University obtained a grant from English Heritage towards restoration of the exterior of the Tower. The Country Houses Foundation then made a grant to restore one of the Tower’s most important architectural features, the Bothal Window, which had originally graced the upper chamber of the Tower and had been removed in 1830 and installed in nearby Bothal Castle.
The original window was located and carefully surveyed before an accurate replacement was crafted and reinstated. All the stone components were made out of sandstone and samples of several suitable quarried sandstones were examined before a quarry in Cumbria was chosen.
The sill, jambs, mullions, transom and tracery plate are all single stones the full depth of the wall; the eight hood stones half the depth of the wall. The tracery plate is a single stone pierced seven times.