It is a Pele Tower, or more properly a Tower House. In the Middle Ages, whenever the English King’s attention was distracted, the Scots lost no opportunity of invading northern England. Castles and Pele Towers were constructed to provide protection, and in north-west England between the River Lune and the Scottish border over one hundred were built. Peles were smaller, less well fortified, then castles. They were intended to counter lightly armed raiders rather than to withstand a siege by a properly equipped army.
Arnside Tower was built by the De Broughton family around 1340. It was damaged by fire in 1602, but was rebuilt and survived intact until 1690. In 1815 it was sold to Daniel Wilson of Dallam. In 1884 one corner fell in a great storm. Much of it is still standing, although it is gradually disintegrating. Unfortunately, little or nothing is being done to halt the process of decay.
Pele Towers tended to conform to a pattern. They were usually three storeys high, but Arnside had four. The ground floor contained the dairy and store rooms. Stone steps led to a first-floor entrance, with a heavy oak door and a protective iron grille. Fire-places and latrines were built into the walls, which were up to 10 feet thick. A spiral staircase connected the floors.
Arnside Tower occupies an interesting position. It is sited on a saddle, or col, between Arnside Knot to the north and Castlebarrow to the south. To the west the land slopes to the shore, and on the east to the Arnside and Silverdale Mosses. It is within visual or signaling distance of several other Peles in the area, e.g. Hazelslack, Borwick, Beetham, Levens, Sizergh and Allithwaite (across the sands).
from In and Around Silverdale by David Peter
I find it quite astonishing that this piece of history is sitting in a field slowly crumbling. Perhaps, however, it’s better off being benevolently ignored, rather than becoming some kind of tourist attraction.
There are stern signs warning that the tower is not safe, but if you do venture inside, you can see that the remaining walls retain fireplaces, passages, doorways and perhaps even that spiral staircase.
David Peter’s account of the tower’s history is more complete than any other I have seen. However, it’s not entirely satisfactory: what happened in 1690? And between the fire in 1605 and whatever did occur in 1690, was the tower involved in the Civil War?