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Peel towers (also spelt pele) are small fortified keeps or tower houses, built along the English and Scottish Bordersmarker in the Scottish Marchesmarker and North of England, intended as watch towers where signal fire could be lit by the garrison to warn of approaching danger. By an Act of Parliament in 1455 each of these towers was required to have an iron basket on its summit and a smoke or fire signal, for day or night use, ready at hand.

A line of these towers was built in the 1430s across the Tweed valley from Berwickmarker to its source, as a response to the dangers of invasion from the Marches. Others were built in Cumberlandmarker, Westmorlandmarker and Northumberlandmarker, and as far south as Lancashiremarker, in response to the threat of attack from the Scots and the Border Reivers of both nationalities.

Apart from their primary purpose as a warning system, these towers were also the homes of the Lairds and landlords of the area, who dwelt in them with their families and retainers, while their followers lived in simple huts outside the walls. The towers also provide a refuge so that, when cross-border raiding parties arrived, the whole population of a village could take to the tower and wait for the marauders to depart.

In the upper Tweed valley, going downstream from its source, they were as follows: Fruid, Hawkshawmarker, Olivermarker, Polmoodmarker, Kingledoors, Mossfennan, Wrae Towermarker, Quarter, Stanhope, Drumelziermarker, Tinnies, Dreva, Stobo, Dawyck, Easter Happrew, Lyne, Barnes, Caverhill, Neidpathmarker, Peeblesmarker, Horsburgh, Nether Horsburgh, Cardrona.

Peel towers are not usually found in larger places which have a castle, but in smaller settlement. They are often associated with a church: for example Embleton Towermarker in Embleton, Northumberlandmarker is a fine example of a so-called vicar's pele and the one at Hulne Priorymarker is in the grounds of the priory. Hawkshawmarker, ancestral home of the Porteous family at Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire, a peel tower dating from at least 1439, no longer stands but its site is marked by a cairn.

Nowadays some towers are derelict while others have been converted for use in peacetime; Embleton Towermarker is now part of the (former) vicarage and that on the Inner Farnemarker is a home to bird wardens. The most obvious conversion needs will include access, which was originally difficult, and the provision of more and larger windows. A Peel tower featured in an episode of Grand Designs (Series 7 / 2007) showing the conversion from a derelict state to a home and bed and breakfast business.

See also

[[Image:Embleton Vicarage 1.png|thumb|righ|Embleton Tower(formerly Embleton Vicarage), Late 19th Century]]

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