The Pele Tower, Killington Hall

The History

This is probably the most historic building in the area and is certainly central to the history of Killington. Giving its name to one of the four small hamlets of Killington. Namely Killington Hall, Hallbeck, Beckside and Fellside. Killington Hall and its occupants have also played an important part in English history, from the time when it was anciently known as Chillington.


Killington and Firbank were originally one manor with the river Lune forming a boundary. Killington is tucked away behind the hills immediately to the west of the Lune Valley. It is an ancient site, dating back to Saxon times, the name being a corruption of the old English (Anglo Saxon) ‘Cyllasingatun’ meaning the homestead or farm of one Cylla.

The village lies close to one important historical route. The Old Scotch Road, down which the highland drovers came with their fierce black cattle.


Pele or peel towers are a peculiarity of the Anglo-Scottish borders. They came into existence in a medieval environment, largely during the Scottish Wars of Independence, when the population lived in fear of constant attack. Really and truly none should still be standing as when James VI of Scotland became James I of England he decreed that the borders should henceforth be known as the “Middle Shires” and that pele towers should be torn down.

In essence a pele tower is a mini castle that is easily defendable. The large ones have a barmkin or yard enclosed by a wall or palisade of some description. In wealthier towers this would be stone in other locations it would be more of a thorny hedge like structure. The idea was that cattle could shelter in the barmkin whilst people sheltered in the tower that was usually several stories high and many feet thick. The basement room of a tower would be vaulted and used for storage. Often the original access to the living quarters of the tower would be through a hole in the vaulted ceiling via a ladder which could then be drawn up after the defenders.


In 1259 during the reign of Henry III, the manor of Killington was granted by Peter de Brus to Sir William de Pickering, who was Constable of Kendal Castle, “for the yearly payment of a pair of gilt spurs or the equivalent paid at the feast of Pentecost and the military service of a 20th part of a knight’s fee whenever the occasion should require.”

The Pickering family held Killington for over 300 years, often producing sons who held high office in the land. Sir James de Pickering was sheriff of Westmorland twice and an M.P. four times whilst being M.P. for Yorkshire on five occasions. He was also one of the earliest Speakers of the House of Commons (at the Gloucester Parliament on 20th October 1378) .

Sir James married Mary, daughter of Sir Robert Lowther, by whom he had a son, James. Later he married Margaret, daughter of Sir John Norwood, by whom he had a son Edward who became Controller of The Royal Household.

It was this Sir James who most probably built the original Killington Hall and also the adjacent private chapel, now All Saints Church.

The very last Pickering to live In the Hall was Dame Anne, who carried the manor In marriage to John Vaughan, Esquire. She died in the 1580’s and their son Francis sold the Hall to the tenant, Robert Wadeson, Esquire. The Hall subsequently passed through several families, including the Hebblethwaites who previously farmed at Aikrigg in Killington but later became lawyers. Later it was owned by the Kitson’s, who modified the Hall and left their initials on one of the gables in 1640. Eventually It came into the possession of the Morland family, some of whose deaths are recorded on memorial tablets in the Church. They sold the Hall to John Upton, Esquire of Ingmire Hall with his coat of arms evident above the front door. In 1855, John Schofield, Schoolmaster, recorded that the Hall “ is now the property of his ( John Upton’s ) daughter, Mrs Upton-Cottrell-Dormer, the Lady of the Manor”.

There was a John Upton who was tenant of the Hall in the 18+ century and he was followed by Joseph Hinderson and at some time during this period it is also thought that a private school existed here.

Click here for pictures of the pele tower in its original state.